12 May 2015

Volunteer Army impresses Prince Harry

5:21 pm on 12 May 2015

Prince Harry had a message for the students who mucked in to help after the Christchurch quakes: "Community comes first."

SVA president Sam Johnson (second from right), and members Lucy McLeod and Alex Cheesebrough with Prince Harry.

SVA president Sam Johnson (second from right), and members Lucy McLeod and Alex Cheesebrough with Prince Harry. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Photo Gallery - Prince Harry's NZ trip

The prince was in Christchurch today and visited Christchurch University's Student Volunteer Army (SVA), which shot to prominence when they mucked in to help with such things as clearing liquefaction following the Christchurch quakes in 2010 and 2011.

He was escorted into the Matariki building to speak directly with SVA members, including co-founder Sam Johnson, and invited to sit in a green wheelbarrow as they explained how the group was formed.

Prince Harry spoke of how people were often more familiar with what was happening on social media sites such as Facebook than what was going on in their own communities.

"Everyone seems to be more connected with the world than with their own community," he said.

"Community comes first."

Prince Harry at Canterbury University with the Student Volunteer Army.

Prince Harry at Canterbury University with members of the Student Volunteer Army. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

SVA members told the prince about their idea for a national service day, encouraging people around the country to give back to their communities.

Prince Harry said he believed the SVA model should be "replicated across the world".

"It's little things like that that make such a difference," he said.

Prince Harry was taken to various activity stations set up to show some of the initiatives the SVA was involved with in Christchurch after the city's earthquakes, including bicycle repairs, painting and vegetable gardening.

Prince Harry checks out his new bike, gifted by the Student Volunteer Army.

Prince Harry checks out his new bike, gifted by the Student Volunteer Army. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Student Florence Hinder showed Harry the SVA's bike restoration project.

"It's about getting old bikes from the university that are left around, restoring them with students and giving them out to people who've had their bikes stolen," she said.

Harry told her he "needed a bike" and was presented with a special gold-coloured model the SVA had restored especially for him.

"If he is willing to take it we'll happily give it to him, otherwise we'll auction it for Vanuatu," Ms Hinder said.

Prince Harry checked out a few other displays, including a food bank project involving Cobham Intermediate pupils and the SVA, and one from university students supporting Nepal following that country's magnitude-7.8 earthquake on April 25.

Prince Harry meets the public.

Prince Harry meets the public. Photo: Pool

Prince Harry was then able to meet more members of the crowd, shaking hands and offering them cupcakes baked by students.

Hannah Frauenstein cheekily asked for the flowers Harry was holding, instead of a cupcake.

"He was the first boy to give me flowers," she said. "It's love - definitely worth the hail."

As the prince left the university, Sophie Smith said the visit had been "divine".

"I didn't care about him before, but I do now."

Prince Harry shook hands and was photographed with several people waiting patiently at the barricade, wearing ponchos due to the bad weather, and was invited to write his own message on a shed set up in the quad.

"Thanks for having me! Sorry about the weather!" He wrote.

Prince Harry looking up at thunderous clouds about to downpour.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Earlier today, Prince Harry took a tram ride with Prime Minister John Key and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee before visiting the Quake City exhibition.

He met Defence Force artist Matt Gauldie at the exhibition and asked him about a painting representing the service people who helped the the immediate cleanup of the Canterbury quakes, known as the Earthquake Patrol painting.

He asked the artist about his career - "Have you been all over the place?" - and told him his trip to New Zealand had been "fantastic".

Prince Harry arriving at New Regent Street.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Prince Harry also chatted to senior firefighter Scott Shadbolt, who won a bravery medal for his post-earthquake work.

Outside the exhibition, 11-year-old Milly Dobson and her mother, Jo, presented the prince with a quilt cover for his new niece, Princess Charlotte; he joked he was disappointed it wasn't for him.

Prince Harry had his photo taken with Queenstown woman Elle McCannon, who had travelled to Christchurch to meet him. She had a book with her that was as "old as the hills" and included photos of Prince Harry and Princess Diana.

Prince Harry greeting fans at Cashel Mall, Christchurch.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Another woman brought her puppy to see the prince and could not understand why he appeared a bit afraid of it.

"He's been to Afghanistan - why would he be worried?"

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Prime Minister John Key, left, and Christchurch Rebuild Minister Gerry Brownlee in front of TPPA protesters. Photo: Pool

Prince Harry also spent time in the city's ReStart Mall, talking to the public and shop owners as vocal protesters made their point over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Prince Harry meets fans during a walkabout in Christchurch.

Prince Harry meets fans during a walkabout in Christchurch. Photo: Pool

Wizards and a fairy get ready to cast a spell on Prince Harry in Christchurch.

Wizards and a fairy get ready to cast a spell on Prince Harry in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

going past Cathedral

Prince Harry's tram makes its way past the devastated ChristChurch Cathedral. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Going past Cathedral Sq

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Prince Harry's tram leaving the tram station opposite new regent street as a eager fan races to get in the next position to see Harry.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Christchurch crowds gather to welcome Prince Harry.

Christchurch crowds gather to welcome Prince Harry. Photo: RNZ / Georgina Stylianou

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