They're just wild about Harry

Neave Cameron (7), of Queenstown gets Prince Harry to pose for a photograph at the Stewart Island...
Neave Cameron (7), of Queenstown gets Prince Harry to pose for a photograph at the Stewart Island Community Centre yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The small Stewart Island township of Oban was abuzz with royal fever, saturated with media, and apparently won over by Prince Harry yesterday.

The prince had an audience with some of his southernmost subjects, not all of whom were staunch supporters of the monarchy, and they came away calling him ''down to earth'', and ''a good bloke'' who was keen to listen.

The normally quiet Halfmoon Bay township was crawling with police late in the morning before Prince Harry arrived.

A sniffer dog patrolled the beachfront, checking every nook and cranny of the seawall, while police stood at every corner, and tough looking men with earpieces kept a sharp eye on the locals.

A crowd of about 100 gathered outside the Stewart Island Community Centre, some jibing at others for being ''royal watchers''. Just a little after the expected midday arrival time, two military helicopters roared in from Foveaux Strait.

Minutes later Prince Harry emerged from a silver four wheel drive, smiling and looking slightly shy in the face of cheers and applause, then stopped for a chat with members of the public.

''Sorry we're late; we got held up,'' the prince told them.

Those he talked to included Stewart Islanders Sue Munro and Donna Goomes.

''He was walking past and I put my hand out,'' Ms Munro said.

''He's very much a gentleman,'' Ms Goomes added.

Inside the community hall, where rules were relaxed and media welcomed in, the prince spent a lot of time talking to locals who hosted community group stands featuring information on everything from the work of Victim Support on the island, to the Stewart Island Bowling Club.

Club members came complete with ice cream containers full of sand and other material used to make up their all weather turf.

''I'll never wash my hands again,'' joked one stall holder, fresh from a royal handshake.

''He's a very pleasant young man,'' said Victim Support's Beverley Osborn.

Stewart Island Oysters' Jim Maass Barrett said the prince did ''damned well'' shucking an oyster.

He did not, however, take the plunge and try the seafood in its raw state.

Prince Harry was ''a nice guy'' who was able to put people at ease.

Fisherman Heath Allan said the prince ''seemed quite interested'' in the blue cod, paua and oysters on display.

''He seemed like a genuine, down to earth sort of guy.''

Outside the hall, as Prince Harry left, two sisters from Winton managed to talk him into posing with them for a photo.

Lucy Carrick and her sister Isabella got the picture just before Harry drove away.

''He hesitated, then said yes,'' Lucy said.

''I wouldn't want to miss it,'' she said of the visit.

''He's a royal. Nothing like this ever happens over here.''

Another fan to score a special photo with the prince was Neave Cameron (7), of Queenstown. Neave was on the island with her mother to visit her grandmother for a special Mother's Day.

Neave filmed the prince going into the community centre and was among a handful of people waiting outside when he left, the prince bending down to pose for a photo with her.


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