Prince William will visits disaster-hit New Zealand and Australia
Representing the Queen, William will travel without fiancee Kate Middleton, making his first stop in Christchurch, New Zealand, which is recovering from the recent earthquake that has killed more than 160 people.
He will also visit the town of Greymouth, which saw 29 people die in an explosion at the Pike River Mine last November.
The Prince will then
A St James's Palace spokesman said: "The Prince's visit comes after an
"William will be travelling on behalf of the Queen and the wider royal family."
He added: "The royal family have been watching the natural disasters with the same shock and sadness as everyone else.
"They wanted to show their solidarity with the people of New Zealand and Australia, and the decision was taken with the Prime Ministers' offices and the royal household that Prince William should attend and visit the countries."
The unexpected tour of the Southern Hemisphere countries, which will begin next week, will see the Prince represent the Queen abroad for only the second time.
He will spend two days from Thursday March 17 in Christchurch, undertaking engagements in the area and attending a National Memorial Service on the second day.
He will arrive in Australia on Saturday March 19, where he will, over two days, visit a number of areas and towns affected by the recent cyclone and flooding in Queensland.
On March 21, the Prince will visit north-west Victoria to view the area recently affected by flooding.