'Hugely significant loss for New Zealand': Jacinda Ardern reacts to Prince Philip's death

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the death of Prince Philip is a "hugely significant loss" for New Zealand and the organisations he supported.

The Duke of Edinburgh has died at the age of 99, Buckingham Palace confirmed late last night (NZ time).

Speaking to media in Auckland this morning, Ardern said the Prince had a strong connection to local organisations, including the New Zealand Defence Force.

She said the groups will want to acknowledge the sad news in their own way.

"It is fair to say, it will be a hugely significant loss for New Zealand, and those organisations that were supported by Prince Philip."

She confirmed a memorial will be held in New Zealand for Prince Philip after his funeral in the UK.

She said New Zealand will be guided by the wishes of the Queen, when it came to planning the memorial.

The prime minister has directed flags on all government buildings and naval vessels to be flown at half-mast.

The National and ACT Party leaders have joined the prime minister in paying tribute to Prince Philip.

National's Judith Collins said the Duke's dedication to the people of the Commonwealth through many decades of service and charitable endeavours was truly impressive.

ACT's David Seymour said the Prince had selflessly contributed to a long period of stability for the Monarchy and the Commonwealth.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy said she received notification from Buckingham Palace that his Royal Highness Prince Philip had died with great sadness.

She said she heard the news late last night just before it was officially announced.

Dame Patsy said he had clearly been in ill health recently so the news was not a shock, but she received it with great sadness.

She said she met Prince Philip in 2016, lunching with him and the Queen.

"I was very impressed and I think the thing we most remarked on afterwards was just how charming and engaged he was.

"He was an interesting dining companion and interested as well particularly in New Zealand and certainly sporting pursuits."

Dame Patsy said Prince Philip was an environmentalist who was probably before his time. He was World Wildlife Fund president from its foundation in 1961 up until 1982.

"He was very interested to know how New Zealand was doing on environmental issues and we found him very witty."

The Duke of Edinburgh was the senior most officer in New Zealand's Navy, Army and Air Force, and an Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand - his links to his country span decades.

During his lifetime Prince Philip was a patron or member of a large number of New Zealand organisations and Dame Patsy said although he retired from public life in 2017 he did maintain a connection with a few groups.

"Particularly I think involved with the services and his great love of the marine life and naval tradition ... he did keep those connections with organisations and services that he loved."

In a statement Dame Patsy said she had written the following message to the Queen on behalf of all New Zealanders expressing the condolences of the nation.

"On behalf of the people of New Zealand, I convey our deepest condolences on the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip. Our thoughts are with the members of the Royal Family at this time of great sorrow.

"New Zealand shares with the people of Her Majesty's Realms a tremendous sense of sadness at the great personal loss you have suffered.

"We have fond memories of His Royal Highness's visits to New Zealand, and will remember his commitment to Commonwealth nations and his dedication to raise awareness of threats to the world's wildlife."

The Queen and Duke.
The Queen and Duke. Photo credit: Getty

Dame Patsy said it is likely there will be a book where New Zealanders can record their condolences and this is already happening via social media.

She said Prince Philip had always wanted a smaller funeral event, but the arrangements will likely also be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prince Philip will be fondly remembered by many for the encouragement he gave to so many young New Zealanders through The Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award.

The award was established here in 1963 and has since been awarded to thousands of young people.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award national director in New Zealand, Karen Ross, said Prince Philip showed true passion and enthusiasm for the programme and will be greatly missed.