Warm Wellington welcome for visiting King and Queen of Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima prepare to lay ferns at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Photo/Pool.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima prepare to lay ferns at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Photo/Pool.

A state dinner, wreath-laying, meetings with political leaders and a visit to a film production company marked the first official day of a royal tour by the King and Queen of the Netherlands.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima arrived on Friday for their first visit to New Zealand as King and Queen - they had previously honeymooned here - but had no official appointments over the weekend.

Prime Minister John Key speaks to King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima. Photo/Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Prime Minister John Key speaks to King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima. Photo/Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Yesterday, the couple met with Prime Minister John Key and Opposition leader Andrew Little.

Afterwards, Key said trade was high on the agenda, with the Netherlands a strong supporter of a New Zealand-European Union free trade agreement.

The Dutch are New Zealand's fourth largest trading partners in the EU, and Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra has its European headquarters in Amsterdam.

The couple also laid a wreath at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and visited the Great War exhibition.

The Royal couple visit Sir Peter Jackson's Great War Exhibition, hosted by Lieutenant General Rhys Jones. Photo/Pool/AFP/ Marty Melville.
The Royal couple visit Sir Peter Jackson's Great War Exhibition, hosted by Lieutenant General Rhys Jones. Photo/Pool/AFP/ Marty Melville.

In the afternoon, they toured Wellington's Park Road Post, the film production
company which helped make The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.

Last night, they were hosted at a state dinner in the ballroom of Government House.

There, they entered the dinner to the sound of trumpets, with the Queen wearing a sparkling tiara and a dark orange gown.

The menu included heirloom tomato consommé, Meyer vintage Gouda twice baked soufflé, brill fillets, smoked eel and horseradish, watercress mayonnaise and spring vegetables.

Guests also enjoyed buffalo yoghurt panna cotta, elderflower jelly and new season berries.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy said the Netherlands remained a "crucial entry point" for New Zealand exports.

"The Netherlands is often our first port of call as we seek to understand and respond to what is happening in Europe, thanks to your readiness to speak freely and frankly to us, and your superlative English language ability."

She also paid tribute to the two countries' shared history. About 150,000 people of Dutch descent live in New Zealand.

"The first European visitors to New Zealand came from the Netherlands, and your countryman Abel Tasman's visit in 1642 is etched into our national history."

Queen Maxima greets fans. Photo/Mark Mitchell.
Queen Maxima greets fans. Photo/Mark Mitchell.

The King also spoke, voicing his gratitude at how he and his wife had been "welcomed with open arms".

King Willem-Alexander began his speech in te reo, before speaking about how the Dutch migrants that came to New Zealand after the war found "endless space to build new lives", and became "true Kiwis helping to build modern day Aotearoa".

"I know Kiwis came in lovely shades of brown and grey, but if you look carefully you might see an orange feather here or there."

The couple leave New Zealand tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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