Visiting New Zealand’s capital turned into a very special experience, for various reasons! First of all, we were invited to stay with Julie and Rob, where we enjoyed each others companies over great food, first class New Zealand wine and discussions touching everything from farming to world politics. We also learned a great deal about New Zealand politics from them. We had met Julie in Bolivia about 6 months ago and kept in touch. She also arranged for us to stay with her parents on a farm in Wanaka, for us city people this was an unforgettable experience. We already wrote about it…
Moreover, we had the opportunity to meet a most charismatic member of parliament, Rodney Hide, leader of the Liberal Party. During his final days at university, he worked closely with our friend Barbara Lence, now a professor at the University of Vancouver, who initiated this contact. This was surely a very unique moment: being able to talk to a political leader.
While at the “beehive”, the very name for New Zealand’s Parliament, we joined a free tour through the various buildings of parliament and immediately afterwards observed a session in parliament with members of the opposition asking members of government rather challenging questions. To watch this “questioning session” was a rather uncivil affair with MPs shouting and interrupting each other while one was invited to speak.
At this session, Rodney Hide quizzed the Prime Minister about her minister of foreign affairs, who not only publicly opposed her free trade deal with China but also made some racist comments towards the Asian community. Rodney called him “a racist xenophobe”, a choice of words usually not accepted in parliament. Rodney was only asked to rephrase this question, nevertheless we must respect the courage of a politician fighting against unacceptable positions.
Altogether, we were surprised by the extremely lean administration: one chamber only, no provincial governments. If only European countries would move that way…
Te Papa is Wellington’s most interesting asset, a giant museum covering everything that concerns New Zealand: history from the Maori arriving about 1.000 years ago to European immigration in the early 19th century, with a strong focus on the relationship between Maori and the Pakeha, the Maori word for Europeans. A whole part of the museum is devoted to the evolution of the fauna and flora. There is so much to see and learn at this place that we went there twice and still had the feeling we only touched the surface.
Of course, we took the famous red cable car up the hill and strolled down through an impressive Botanic Garden with the path finishing at the rose garden.
These two days were very special for us, because they were so different to everything we experienced in the last two months. After saying good bye to Julie over an excellent coffee at Cafe Astoria, we headed north to Tongariro National Park for some serious hiking.