Rotorua's Turanga Merito was only a youngster when he watched the televised funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Now he's getting ready to perform for her son.

"I cried with the rest of the world as this wonderful woman, who had given so much, had done so much in making the royal family real, was laid to rest," Merito said.

"So to be given the opportunity to perform in front of her son and his bride is a way for me to give back."

As part of the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on October 31, Merito will be singing for the royal couple.


Unable to contain his excitement about the opportunity, Merito said keeping the secret had been so hard.

"I got a call from [councillor] Trevor Maxwell about a week ago and was expecting it to be a request for a night market performance or to rent out my studio. When he explained what it was, I dropped the phone."

As well as being excited, Merito said he was humbled by the opportunity.

"It's bigger than just performing. It's about showcasing our town and making my whānau, my iwi [Ngāti Pikiao] and all of Rotorua proud. Do I know what I'm going to sing? No, but I've been busy writing and have three or four options I'm considering."

Turanga Merito will be part of the entertainment for the royal couple. Photo / File
Turanga Merito will be part of the entertainment for the royal couple. Photo / File

As choreographer for Coca Cola Christmas in the Park, a job he said took up about eight months of the year, while also teaching and looking after performing arts students, Merito said he often took a back seat when it came to being on stage.

"I haven't really sung since being on tour with Marcia Hines so I'm really looking forward to this."

And although no stranger to "big gigs" Merito - who played The Lion King's Simba in Australia and China and also backed Beyonce with Stan Walker - admits singing in front of the royals is on another level.

"It's an absolute honour and a memory I will treasure for a lifetime."


While Merito confirmed his performance, local organisers said the rest of Rotorua would have to wait for a Government announcement to learn the couple's itinerary for the day.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are set to visit Rotorua. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are set to visit Rotorua. Photo / Getty Images

Mayor Steve Chadwick said October 31 would be a proud day for Rotorua.

"To be showcased on an international stage is an incredible opportunity. People will catch a glimpse of the country's heartland of Māoridom."

Chadwick said Rotorua had played host to royalty for 150 years, many who came to see the pink and white terraces.

Chadwick said because the couple was young, the "exciting" Rotorua programme for the royals was being collaborated on by Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Arawa and would be a mix of fun and culture.

"We'll do it well and it will give them a real insight into our destination. They'll undoubtedly leave with a strong impression of Rotorua."

Appearing on breakfast television yesterday morning, Chadwick alluded to the visit to Rotorua being a request from the royal couple and one of the things they were interested in is how things are cooked in Rotorua.

"Once a Government announcement had been made, Rotorua residents will then know where they are able to catch a glimpse of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle."

Monarchy New Zealand executive member and royal enthusiast Caleb Watson was already planning a trip home to Rotorua when the royals visit.

"I live in Auckland now and, if they're out and about there too, I'll be hoping to catch them at both places," Watson said.

"Any royal visit is a great thing for any country, for tourism, for local business and even for local designers who visiting royals will often showcase. Whatever they do or wherever they go, the exposure will be huge."

While Watson took an interest in what the visits did for the country, he admitted a friend was equally as excited about the visit simply because it's Meghan.