Prince William arrived in Wellington today, kicking off an 11-day visit to New Zealand during which the royal rugby fan will add his support to the British Lions tour.

It is the 23-year-old future king's first solo engagement acting on the Queen's behalf.

British reporters in Wellington for the Lions' tour joined their New Zealand counterparts to form a 50-strong media contingent at the city's airport when Prince William touched down on a commercial flight from Auckland about 8.15am.

He was greeted by Prime Minister Helen Clark, acting Governor-General Dame Sian Elias and up to 100 well-wishers, although most confessed to being at the airport for other reasons.

Three students from Christchurch's St Andrew's College managed to get the prince's attention as he walked past -- Prince William graduated last week from Scotland's St Andrew's University with an arts degree.

Bryony Gibson-Cornish said the prince said "awesome" as he walked past the students who shouted out the name of their college.

The 12-year-old said the students had arrived in Wellington this morning for a senior choir exchange.

Seeing the prince -- who was dressed in a blue suit with a light blue shirt -- was "really cool", she told NZPA.

Welsh couple, and Barmy Army members, Andrew and Jackie Roberts were stunned to find the prince at Wellington Airport when they arrived from Auckland.

"We didn't know Prince William was on our flight," Mr Roberts said.

While in New Zealand, Prince William will meet the Lions and coach Sir Clive Woodward before attending the second test at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday night.

He will also be cheering on his team when they take on Auckland and attend the third test there.

The prince will attend an All Blacks' public training session on Monday at Western Springs in Auckland and will have lunch with the team on Tuesday.

Also on the schedule is a visit to a primary school in Arrowtown, the opening of the New Zealand Junior Men's Water Polo competition at the Waitakere Aquatic Centre in west Auckland and two wreath-laying ceremonies to mark the contribution made by New Zealand soldiers during World War 2.

It is the prince's second visit to New Zealand. He last visited in 1983 as a nine-month-old with his mother, the late Princess Diana, and father Prince Charles.- NZPA