ROYALTOUR

Prince Charles has spoken of the work put into Treaty of Waitangi settlements to fix mistakes made during "painful periods" in New Zealand's past.

The comments came during a speech yesterday at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, last visited by the royal family 25 years ago.

That time it was Charles too. This time, he was accompanied by his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

More than 500 people came see the couple and hear Charles' speech, delivered from Te Whare Rūnanga on the Treaty Grounds.

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Prince Charles watches a pōwhiri during the royal couple's visit to Waitangi yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Charles watches a pōwhiri during the royal couple's visit to Waitangi yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

It was a day of sun, of humour and of tikanga. The couple were welcomed by challenge and by speech, with Ngati Hine's Hirini Henare directing the royal to the historical significance of Waitangi.

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Henare talked of the promises made when the Treaty was signed in 1840.

It was a theme to which Charles turned in his 13-minute speech.

"As long as I have known this country I have been struck by the commitment of her people to what is right, even when it is not easy," he told the crowd.

"New Zealand has faced up to the most painful periods of her past in a way that offers an example to the rest of the world.

"She has done so with courage, compassion and tolerance, qualities which, it seems to me, define the New Zealand character and were displayed so conspicuously following the recent atrocity in Christchurch.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in korowai at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo / John Stone
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in korowai at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo / John Stone

"The Treaty settlements do not, and cannot, right all the wrongs of the past. They can only go so far in easing the pain that has been felt by so many people."

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The formal part of the visit concluded, Charles and Camilla planted a tree, met and embraced the great waka Ngatokimatawhaorua and strolled the Treaty Grounds to meet and chat with the hundreds of people who had come for the day.

About 10 elderly residents from Baycare rest home in Paihia had waited eagerly to see the royal couple.

Activities co-ordinator Pauline Ferris said Baycare's oldest resident, Lena Walker, 107, got to sit behind Prince Charles and Camilla during the speeches. Lena is believed to be the oldest person in Northland.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at Te Whare Runanga on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, flanked by Titewhai Harawira and Dame Naida Glavish. Photo / John Stone
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at Te Whare Runanga on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, flanked by Titewhai Harawira and Dame Naida Glavish. Photo / John Stone

"It's the icing on the cake for the residents to see Prince Charles," Ferris said.

Youngsters from the Paihia Early Childhood Centre were thrilled to meet the Prince and the Duchess.

Atahai, 3, said the Prince had told her "I had a really pretty name".

The centre's head teacher, Sammy Caldwell, said it was amazing to see the couple up close.

"It doesn't happen every day. It's really special and I think our children will remember it for the rest of their lives."

Lily Morgan and Cordelia Edwards, 12, Kerikeri, waiting to give flowers to the royal couple. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Lily Morgan and Cordelia Edwards, 12, Kerikeri, waiting to give flowers to the royal couple. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The Prince heard from young entrepreneurs about their business plans and their hopes for the future, before crossing the road to visit Paihia Fire Station and meet some of its volunteers.

Meanwhile, the Duchess headed to Kerikeri Primary School to learn about its Enviroschools programme and Garden to Table, a parent-run scheme in which children grow vegetables and fruit then learn how to prepare them.

The couple are having a day off today before they head to Christchurch.