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Friday, March 11, 2011

Mixed feelings about Christchurch royal visit

Mixed feelings about Christchurch royal visit

NZPA March 10, 2011, 6:14 am
 
 

The announcement that Prince William would visit to Christchurch next week to pay tribute to the victims of last month's devastating earthquake was greeted with mixed feelings in the earthquake-damaged city yesterday.

Mayor Bob Parker said the announcement sent a message of optimism, and Prime Minister John Key said the visit was "a heartwarming gesture".

But resident Craig Miller wasn't convinced.

"Christchurch has more important things to worry about like getting businesses up and running -- that's our concern, putting food on the table each day," he said.

"If he is going to visit, good on him. I don't know where he is going to stay."

Mr Key said the prince would address the March 18 national memorial service in Christchurch's Hagley Park.

Earlier St James' Palace confirmed the prince would attend the service on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, and would also visit Greymouth to talk to the families of those killed in November's Pike River Coal mine disaster.

Mr Parker said the visit was "absolutely brilliant" and would show the international community that Christchurch was still standing and had a great future ahead.

"For this journey to be made sends a message of real optimism about our city because His Royal Highness who has a very important engagement just four weeks later (his wedding) would not be coming here if it was considered to be injurious to his health, life and wellbeing."

Christchurch resident Jill O'Connell said the prince's visit showed the royal family cared.

The city was weakened by every aftershock, yet Prince William was "prepared to risk his life".

"I think it would probably make more people think about the memorial service," she said.

Mr Key said he thought all New Zealanders will appreciate the gesture from The Queen to ask Prince William to come down.

"It's a very important step that he's taking because it shows you the international feeling for Christchurch and Cantabrians."

Mr Key said it would mean "an awful lot" for the prince to make the long trek from Britain to take part in the service."

The prince will arrive in New Zealand the day before the service before flying to Australia on March 19, where he will visit parts of Queensland hit by the recent cyclone and flooding.

Meanwhile searchers have completed checking the wrecked Forsyth Barr building in central Christchurch without finding bodies.

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) spokesman Russell Wood told a media briefing crews finished the operation in the building's collapsed stairwell on Tuesday night.

USAR teams had believed bodies could be buried beneath the rubble after a search dog signalled people were in the building after the quake, but they had found no trace of anyone.

The death toll remains at 166 and police yesterday released the names of eight more victims.

They have so far named 65 of the dead, and said post-mortem examinations on the victims were expected to be completed this week.

More cordons in the CBD are to be lifted for business owners and residents today from 8am, and for the public on Friday from 9am.

Business owners needing essential belongings from the most seriously damaged "red zone" could register at recovercanterbury.co.nz to enter from Monday.

Civil Defence controller John Hamilton said people would be permitted "controlled access" if they met specific criteria.

Aftershocks continued overnight with the largest being a magnitude 4 at 2.48am today. It was within 5km of Lyttelton.

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