Prince William is to visit New Zealand and Australia to tour areas devastated by recent natural disasters, St James Palace has announced.
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 travel to Australia where he will visit Queensland and Victoria which have both been recently hit by devastating flooding.
A St James's Palace spokesman said: "The Prince's visit comes after an invitation from the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia. 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. Precise details of the royal's itinerary will be made known in due course by the Prime Minister's Office of New Zealand, and the Prime Minister's Office of Australia.
Prince William last visited New Zealand in January 2010, when he paid a visit on behalf of the Queen to Auckland and the capital Wellington, where he officially opened the country's Supreme Court building.