Prince William will visit Australia and New Zealand – without his bride-to-be Kate Middleton – to show solidarity with the people who have suffered terrible disasters in recent months.

The Prince is putting his Royal wedding preparations aside to visit towns in Queensland, Australia which were affected by cyclones and flooding, and then Victoria, which was also ravaged by floods.

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Two days earlier, on March 17, he will have visited Christchurch, New Zealand, which has been devastated by a deadly earthquake.

The trip comes six weeks before Prince William’s much-anticipated April 29 Royal wedding to Kate Middleton at London’s Westminster Abbey.

A Clarence House spokesman, representing the Prince, confirmed the 29-year-old Middleton would not make the trip.

“The two discussed the issue and felt that because Prince William would be representing the Queen that he should visit alone,” the spokesman said.

“Catherine looks forward to visiting on another occasion.”

During his time in New Zealand, William will visit Christchurch, which is recovering from a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 166 people when it struck the South Island city last month.

The prince will attend a national memorial service for the quake victims in Christchurch on March 18, where he will be addressing the crowd.

“This is a heart-warming gesture that will mean a lot to the thousands of people whose lives have been forever changed by these events,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Wednesday.

William will also visit the South Island town of Greymouth to speak to the families of the men killed in the Pike River coal mine disaster.
A gas explosion in the underground mine in November last year killed 29 men.

“The reason for the visit was that the royal family wanted to show solidarity with the Australian and New Zealand people at this time of devastating natural disasters,” the Clarence House spokesman said.

“They’ve watched the unfolding tragedies, first in Australia and then in New Zealand, with great sadness and disbelief.

While it’s not known which towns the prince will visit in Australia, he’s certain to get a welcome reception.

“I’d shake Will’s hand if he popped in. I’d shout him a beer,” publican Steve Sutcliffe said from flood-affected Lake Boga in Victoria.

In Tully Heads, a Queensland town ravaged by category five Cyclone Yasi last month, local woman Norma Eadie said the prospect of a princely visit was “cool” but it was a shame he’d be alone.

“But someone might ask him about the dress. We’ve got a few cheeky ones down here,” she said.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu welcomed Prince William’s visit to flood-affected communities in the state’s northwest.

“The prince’s visit will provide immense support and comfort to communities and families stricken by these floods,” Mr Baillieu said.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the visit would do wonders for her state’s struggling tourism industry.

“I hope that he sends the message back to his friends and colleagues in the UK that Queensland is open for business and that while he’s here he gets an opportunity to see that himself,” she told parliament.

Australian Republican Movement (ARM) deputy chairman John Warhurst said the prince’s visit, like all royal visits, would reignite the debate about the move to a republic.

“We respect the visit and we hope it achieves its objectives and is successful,” Prof Warhurst said.

“But the ARM will take every appropriate opportunity to make the point that Australia should become a republic well before Will gets anywhere near the throne.”

The trip will be Prince William’s third to Australia but his first in an independent, official capacity.

As a baby, William accompanied his parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana on an official visit to New Zealand and Australia in March 1983.

And in January 2010 William paid a private visit to Sydney and Melbourne.