"I don't understand the celebrity attraction of people who basically do charity work with public money."

Ah, the encouraging words of a republican pal on the eve of my second royal visit.

My enthusiasm was not dampened.

According to unsubstantiated rumours in our newsroom, I, known royal tragic, had willed a fellow reporter sick so I could - gallantly, I say - come over from Tauranga and help with the coverage.


So I had no problem batting away the pesky politics of it all and allowing myself to enjoy a spot of royal watching on my home turf.

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I was in Wellington in 2014 when William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited.

That time I dragged a sceptical friend along to the public walkthrough so at least we could pretend to just be out for a lark - in the freezing cold rain - if I saw anyone I knew.

Not this time. For Harry and Meghan's visit, I was a serious journalist with a legitimate reason to loiter, and Rotorua had produced a stunning day.

Still, there was a bit of that feeling I had in Wellington - that liking the royals is a bit naff, a bit embarrassing - hanging in the air when I took a walk through the early bird royal watchers lining up in Rotorua's Government Gardens hours in advance.

Anna Solich from Tauranga, wearing a Union Jack skirt and with two kids in handmade British flag get-ups having arrived early to secure a spot right at the entrance to the gardens, was suddenly shy when I asked to photograph her earrings - one of which bore Harry's face, the other Meghan's.

It was all just nerves, though, because when the glamorous couple actually arrived, people shed their sheepishness instantly to whoop and holler and wave signs with the hope of, at the very least, a little royal eye contact and a story to tell the kids.