At a memorial service for those killed in the Christchurch earthquake, Prince William has paid tribute to the courage and determination of New Zealanders and “of Cantabrians”.
Speaking on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, Prince William hailed the Cantabrians as an inspiration for the way they had coped.
While New Zealanders were noted for courage and determination “to see them so starkly demonstrated over these terrible few months is inspirational”.
He ended with the simple message “Kia Kaha”, Maori for “Be Strong”. It was a message that brought tears to the eyes of some of the tens of thousands of mourners at Hagley Park.
Prince William spoke after two minutes’ silence during the memorial service, 24 days after the quake ripped through the city.
The Dean of Christchurch, the Very Reverend Dean Beck, asked the crowd to be silent at 12.51pm (10.51am AEDT), the time the magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck on September 22, killing an estimated 182 people.
As the mourners stood for the silence, two balloons in Canterbury’s famous sporting colours – one red, one black – floated up from the crowd.
Mayor Bob Parker was first to speak after the silence, talking of a city struggling to understand the tragedy, suffering such losses, and battling to see a future.
He said Christchurch owed it to those who died to rebuild a safe city where such devastation could never be repeated, a city where businesses had a future, and where the names of those who died were commemorated.
“To give meaning to this terrible event we have to have faith in ourselves.”
The park was teeming with people, many of them wearing the Canterbury red and black.
As teams of emergency workers, including Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), arrived before the service, people stood up and applauded.
Family members of those killed in the quake are in 400 seats specially laid out in front of the main stage, which is adorned with flowers. A pile of broken bricks and rubble sits in front of the stage, which is lined on each side by New Zealand flags.
A conch shell was sounded to begin the service.
Henare Rahiihia Tua, from the South Island’s Ngai Tahu tribe, opened the service with prayers of thanksgiving and a welcome.
Among those with Prince William in the official party were New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh, Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand and his wife Susan, Lady Satyanand, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and his wife Jo Nicholls-Parker, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson, Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce and her husband Michael Bryce, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his wife Margaret.
Mr Parker introduced a video showing the devastation caused by the quake.
As scenes of collapsed buildings, crushed cars and mounds of rubble were shown, people looked on with solemn expressions.
Services were also taking place in other New Zealand centres, including Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Dunedin.