Dutch royal couple's first NZ visit as heads of state

King Willem-Alexander And Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (AAP)
King Willem-Alexander And Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (AAP)

Opening the door to a brocade and gold-laden meeting room at his palace at The Hague, the King of the Netherlands shook my hand and welcomed me inside. 

"G'day," he said with a grin, probably thinking I was Australian. 

I was there with six Australasian journalists ahead of King Willem-Alexander's first trip here as head of state. 

We didn't have to call him your majesty, he said, as he gestured toward a table so shiny I thought it was made of water for a second, and recommended the most sugar-laden biscuit I've ever seen. 

He and the glamorous and wildly popular Queen Maxima will begin their state visit here on Monday. Their three daughters will stay in their state school at home. 

The couple have been to New Zealand before. They spent their honeymoon here in 2002. 

The King joked he wouldn't be able to share exactly what he did on that holiday - but in the peals of ensuing laughter, blushingly followed up with a description of his deep love for New Zealand mountains and beaches, particularly at the Abel Tasman National Park. 

But royals are mainly here to help bolster economic ties with New Zealand. The Dutch always look to improve, and as just our 21st trading partner, as far as they're concerned there's room to climb higher up that ladder. 

Brexit is also of concern; the UK is one of Netherland's top trading partners. The Dutch business leaders I spoke to are worried about what economic divorce will mean for their exporters. 

They're intentionally diversifying. New Zealand is a natural ally, says the King - we're both too large to be ignored, too small to be a threat - and we're strong in similar industries. 

Sixty Dutch companies are here with the royals for a trade mission. They're looking to co-operate with our businesses and researchers, mainly in the areas of food, agriculture, horticulture, water management, smart cities and sport. 

They've got a bit of a head-start: 150,000 thousand people of Dutch descent live in New Zealand.

My grandfather was one of many who immigrated in the 1950s: a ship's engineer who stopped travelling the world when he fell in love with our casual way of life, our beautiful bush and rivers - and then, my Kiwi grandmother. 

Almost 400 years after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman came upon our shores, the King hopes those connections can be reawakened, and that it'll make both our nations better off. 

Newshub / NZN