Wellington, New Zealand

Posted on May 26, 2008
Filed Under Commentary, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

            From Napier, we drove down to Wellington, New Zealand’s capitol, at the bottom of the South Island.

            On the way, we got further reminders of just how empty most of New Zealand is. Like Canada, it is getting emptier. People are abandoning the smallest communities. We stopped in one rusting, rotting, flaking little crossroads community where almost half the commercial buildings seemed empty. In a combination general store and ice cream stand, there were three employees on hand although I don’t think they were all on duty.

            None of them had any idea what the population of the community might be. On the upside, they had maple walnut ice cream, my favourite and hard to find in these days of neon-coloured flavours.

            Wellington is a delightful city although already getting far enough south to make us summer pilgrims nervous. Because we had the car, we had a hotel far enough up the hill to make our town excursions part of our fitness program. Wellington, too, is one of those cities where roads that intersect do not necessarily connect. There is our street down there but there seems no way to get to it.

            The main street to our hotel suddenly became one-way heading toward us.

            The city itself is delightful with several of the very finest Maori art galleries in the country. Intricate carved masked and deep, deep or translucent greenstone (jade) jewelery went far beyond craft to individual art.

            We didn’t take the Parliament buildings tour which everyone praises but we did spend an entire day in the brilliant Te Papa museum. It covers all of New Zealand history, warts and all with an insouciance that tells you New Zealand as a nation is comfortable in its own skin.

            There is a video called “Golden Days” that shows a farmed deer being slaughtered and the Neil Armstrong moon landing with a New Zealand flag being planted. It also shows film of forest being burned to clear land.

            Canada resents having larger nations ignore our sovereignty. We have little to complain about compared to New Zealand.

            The French secret service sank “The Rainbow Warrior” in Auckland harbour killing a crew member. The Greenpeace vessel had been protesting French nuclear tests on a Pacific atoll.

            The Kiwis caught the two agents responsible for the sinking and convicted them in court. Then they allowed France to take the agents back to serve their lengthy sentences at home. Two years later, both agents were free and one had become pregnant while, theoretically at least, in prison.

            The Americans gave New Zealand a very hard time when the little country declared itself nuclear free and refused to allow nuclear-powered vessels to dock there. The US pressure culminated in a debate between the New Zealand prime minister of the day and the erudite American conservative William F. Buckley Jr. Everyone expected the Kiwi PM to be humiliated. He was not. He pointed out that the sanctions the US was imposing on New Zealand were more in keeping with the totalitarianism the allied nations were supposed to be opposing.

            New Zealand also suffered tremendous trade setbacks when the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1972 and New Zealand lost its favoured access to UK markets.

            Fortunately, Asia quickly made up the deficit.

CBC logo

          We were surprised to encounter the CBC logo in a different colour on a business in Wellington. Its name is “Imbibe.” I have no idea what it does.



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