'One of the best moments of my life'

An emotional Huirapa Upoko David Ellison says meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was ''one of the best moments of my life''.

But he hopes the ''perfect hongi'' he shared with Catherine - images of which were flashed around the world - will be repeated if the couple accept an invitation to return to the South.

Mr Ellison, of Karitane, was among the welcoming party to greet the Royal couple at Dunedin International Airport yesterday with gifts including a pounamu teething ring on a plaited cord and set inside a carved box.

However, one thing not leaving Mr Ellison's grasp yesterday was the royal cane presented to his grandfather, John Matapura Ellison, by the then-Prince of Wales - later to be King Edward VIII - during a previous visit.

The gift was in recognition of the service of Mr Ellison's grandfather, who acted as a translator between royal tour parties and South Island Maori beginning at the turn of the 20th century.

Mr Ellison was considering returning the cane, but said it was not the right time to hand it back to Prince William yesterday.

Instead, he hoped the prince would accept an invitation to return to New Zealand to receive it at Puketeraki marae - perhaps after becoming Prince of Wales himself.

''It's going to take quite a bit of sorting out with the royal protocols and the whole thing. But when it does happen, I hope it will happen at our marae at Puketeraki, with all our grandfather's descendants around.''

Prince William had shown his interest in the cane by asking about it during his arrival at Dunedin airport, Mr Ellison said.

''I told him the story of it. He said, 'Any particular plans for it in the future?' I said, 'Yes I do, Sir ... hopefully, it will involve you, Sir'.

''He just gave me that very lovely smile he's got.''

Mr Ellison, his voice cracking with emotion, said the welcoming reception was wonderful and he was ''still trying to believe it was me that was there''.

''I feel so humble about it all ...They were a breath of fresh air.

''My grandchildren and your grandchildren are going to be well served in a different kind of way ... I just got the feeling they're going to be a wonderful King and Queen of New Zealand eventually.''

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