William receives traditional Maori greeting from New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern

By Ellie Cullen, Press Association, in Auckland

The Duke of Cambridge was greeted with a traditional Maori nose rub from New Zealand’s prime minister as he visited a country still coming terms with the devastating mosque shootings.

William, visiting the country on behalf of the Queen, performed the intimate greeting – known as a hongi – as he was warmly welcomed in Auckland by Jacinda Ardern.

He began his two-day visit by attending an Anzac Day memorial service and will complete his trip in Christchurch to honour those affected by last month’s terrorist attack.

Ms Ardern has said his visit will “bring comfort” to the people of New Zealand.

The devastation of the shootings at two mosques during Friday prayers is still keenly felt in the country and was reflected on during the service at Auckland’s war memorial.

“As a nation, we are still grieving for the loss,” said Rear Admiral James Gilmour, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand.

Describing the attacks as a “cruel nightmare”, he offered up prayers for the Christchurch community.

The Duke of Cambridge at the Auckland Anzac Day Civic Service with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Mark Tantrum/New Zealand Government/PA)

William, dressed in a navy blue suit and wearing medals, joined dignitaries and a crowd of invited guests for the ceremony on the country’s national day of remembrance.

After arriving at the city’s war memorial, he was greeted with a traditional karanga, an exchange of calls that forms part of a powhiri, a Maori welcoming ceremony.

He joined in a poignant rendition of hymn Abide With Me, with parts of it sung in the Maori language, before listening to a performance of Requiem for a Soldier.

The duke laid a wreath at the cenotaph on behalf of the Queen, before Ms Ardern and Auckland mayor Phil Goff did the same.

He joined the crowd in pausing for a minute’s silence ahead of the national anthems of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

William, travelling without the Duchess of Cambridge or his three children, is visiting New Zealand at the request of Ms Ardern after 50 people were killed and dozens others wounded in the mosque attacks on March 15.

He is expected to meet survivors and their families, the first responders who dealt with the aftermath and Muslim community leaders during his short trip.

William lays a wreath during the Anzac Day service in Auckland (Brett Phibbs/SNPA via AP)

It is not the first time William has visited Christchurch in the wake of a tragedy, with the duke also travelling to the country following a devastating earthquake in 2011.

Ms Ardern, who has been praised worldwide for her handling of the mosque attacks, said the duke had a “close connection” with New Zealand and Christchurch in particular.

“His visit provides the opportunity to pay tribute to those affected by the mosque terrorist attacks and show support to the local and national community,” she said.

“We welcome this visit by His Royal Highness and know it will bring comfort to those affected.”