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The Soap Box: Do we get value from royal tour?

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 29 October 2018, 7:23a.m.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle meet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Photo / Pool
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle meet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Photo / Pool

COMMENT:

Not in her wildest dreams could Meghan Markle ever have imagined, when she was campervanning around the South Island four years ago, that she would return as a duchess to the country she described as undoubtedly spectacular, magical and one of the most beautiful places in the world.

But that's what she did yesterday to be met by another woman, Jacinda Ardern, who four years ago never could have imagined she'd be welcoming Prince Harry and Meghan to the country she leads.

Life certainly moves quickly in the fast lane - and that lane over the next four days will be clogged with Kiwis agog, trying to catch a glimpse of the Prince and his wife, the newly created Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a title which had lain dormant for almost 200 years.

 

Both are paying their second visit to New Zealand, with Prince Harry last fawned over here a year after the Duchess made her campervan tour.

Now not wanting to sound like the Grinch who stole what is a right royal rave, but does the long-suffering taxpayer get value for money? And there's plenty of it spent squiring them around the country.

The last time Harry was here on his own we didn't get much change out of half a million. And when his dad, the Prince of Wales, came a few months later with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, it cost us almost one and a half million bucks.

Keeping Prince Charles in the style he's accustomed to saw almost half a million dollars spent on personnel, a quarter of a million on international travel, well over $300,000 on vehicle hire with around the same amount spent on domestic travel, accommodation, meals and other travel-related costs.

Looking at the medals and happy faces turning up at Government House last night for a meet and greet, spending taxpayers' money was the last thing on their minds. Ardern reckons the royals are value for money. With a travelling media pack of around 80, worldwide attention will be focused on God's Own.

Prince Harry meets guests at a reception hosted by the Governor-General celebrating the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand at Government House in Wellington. Photo / AP
Prince Harry meets guests at a reception hosted by the Governor-General celebrating the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand at Government House in Wellington. Photo / AP

In theory that all sounds well and good - but in practice that rarely happens with the royal watchers.

The two stories dominating their flit to Fiji and Tonga weren't of the scenery but more of the Markle debacle family fallout.

In her first speech as a royal, to the Suva campus of the University of the South Pacific, the Duchess spoke of the challenges of funding tertiary education, saying she relied on scholarships and financial aid programmes. Balderdash, or words to that effect, said her half sister Samantha, her daddy paid for her tuition. That was confirmed by him in an earlier interview.

And that tag hanging from the bottom of her designer dress in Tonga was the focus of attention. It said: Returns will only be accepted if this tag remains attached. Well the dress has had its one and only outing.

So now it's New Zealand's turn to be put on the map!

ON AIR: Andrew Dickens Afternoons

12p.m. - 4p.m.