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New Zealand February 2002

Author: WFDoran (More Trip Reviews by WFDoran)
Date of Trip: February 2002

That evening we drove back to Dunedin and visited their port off the peninsula named Port Chalmers. I was very impressed with the port. It was modern and could handle a variety of cargo including refrigerated fruit and frozen meat. They have plenty of warehousing at the port and off the container in break bulk shipments to both the East and West coasts in the United States.

Once again, when I got back to the Mahara B & B, my hostess sat out a glass of wine and some snacks and sat down to chat for a while. When my contacts came to pick me up, she poured them a glass of wine. She is a very friendly, genuine lady. I would recommend staying at her place if you go to Dunedin.

We drove around the Dunedin peninsula over a winding road atop tall hills that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. It reminded me somewhat of driving down the California coast from San Francisco to Monterrey. You had unobstructed views as the road had no guardrails.

We finally arrived at our destination at a small town that looks like a lot of towns you would see on the Mendocino coast in the 1970's. The architecture is mainly Victorian and the houses were painted some wild colors including purple. Bicycles, dilapidated dune buggies and surf boards seemed to be the preferred method of transportation for the locals.

We ate in a restaurant named the 1898 House, which had fantastic views and forgettable food.

We drove back on the low road, which is on the bayside of the peninsula and enjoyed the views without fear of going over the side. Dangerous roads are bad enough but when you are driving on the wrong side of the road, it really heightens the excitement.

The next morning we headed up to Auckland. I must say that Air New Zealand does a wonderful job even on their domestic flights. Our flight was about 1 1/2 hours and they served a complete breakfast including fresh fruit, cereal and a main hot entree. For those of you who don't fly, all of our domestic airlines have no stopped serving food except on coast-to-coast flights.

Auckland is by far the largest city in the country. It sits at the center of the North Island on a narrow strip of land that has protective harbors on each side. I checked in to the Ascott Metropolis Hotel (1 Courthouse Lane, Auckland, NZ, Tel.: 64+9+300+8800 or Fax: 64+9+300+8899). This hotel is a rather new 35-story hotel right across the street from Albert Park and adjacent to the downtown business center. The hotel is very modern, lots of light-colored marble floors and walls in the public areas. My room on the 30th floor was very nice. It had a bedroom plus a separate kitchen and sitting area with views of the city and the harbor. I got all of this for about $80 a night.

The only problem with the hotel was the bar. It was too austere and did not invite conviviality. The interior decorations divided the room into many discrete areas, which helped to give a sense of isolation. The food and service were mediocre.

That evening I dined with a few contacts at Investment New Zealand at the O'Connell Street Bistro (3 O'Connell Street, Tel.: 64+9+377+1884), which was within walking distance from the hotel. The restaurant was a hip-modern bistro with better than average food. I started with a curried pumpkin soup and moved on to veal medallions, cracked black pepper polenta and sauteed Chinese cabbage. For dessert I had a New Zealand flat white coffee. Flat white coffee is a double shot of espresso combined with frothed milk.

Friday morning we left the hotel at 7:00am to get an 8:00am flight to the capital city of Wellington, located at the Southern tip of the Northern Island. New Zealand does not have very much security for their domestic flights and in fact, they just instituted it after the events after September 11th.

By coincidence I was arriving in Wellington 45 minutes ahead of the Queen who was starting a State visit. As we landed at the airport, I could see the military honor guard formed up waiting to greet her. I thought they might come over and give me a bit of ruffles and flourishes but no such luck. I had meetings with our U.S. Ambassador, who is a personal friend of our CEO. The security to get into the U.S. Embassy was quite a bit stronger than to get on a domestic New Zealand flight. I then slipped over to the Parliament building where meetings were scheduled with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Deputy Prime Minister. There was virtually no security to get in to the Parliament building or the offices of the New Zealand cabinet members. In the afternoon, I met with a member of the Forestry Board who brought me up to date on the present and future timber situation in New Zealand. It is very good. Their available timber for cutting will double in the next five years.

Wellington is known as the "Windy City." It sits on the southern tip of the Northern Island and the 22 miles of open water between there and the Northern end of the Southern island form a natural wind tunnel. Wellington is a combination between the old and the new. A lot of the office and government buildings downtown are modern in architecture. A good percentage of the houses are older, wooden and Victorian in style. The newer homes of course are more contemporary in architecture. It is a rather compact city jammed in a bit of coastal plain backing up to large hills or small mountains that guard the interior of the island.

Our plane landed in Auckland about 5:00pm. The traffic, getting back to the hotel, was slow and crowded. There are virtually no freeways in the Auckland area so you must move everywhere on basic city and neighborhood streets.

After getting back to the hotel and changing into some casual clothes, I wondered down to the Viaduct. This is the inner harbor boat basin where all of the sail-racing teams have their headquarters and boathouses as they prepare for the 2003 America's Cup races in the waters off of Auckland. In addition there is quite a bit of public wharf space where many luxurious and many not so luxurious are moored. The area is ringed by trendy bars and restaurants and is a genuine "happening" place in Auckland.

One of the goings on at the viaduct that night was an event in the corporate Dragon Boat Challenge Racing Series. Dragon boats are of Chinese origin and are a type of long sea-going canoe that is paddled by a crew of 10-12 people. These events are very popular in Hong Kong and in fact they have even spread to the United States in cities like Portland and Seattle.

You could see the outlines of the America's Cup racing boats put up for the day in their dry land boathouses. The keels were draped with cover so you couldn't see the exact shape or technology of them. A couple of the boats were almost completely covered. They all try and use a different technology or some other adjustment within the rules and the 12-meter design to get a competitive edge.

I ended up in Tommy Doolin's Irish bar. It was opening night of professional rugby season and I sat at the bar watching that while eating an excellent hamburger and better than excellent French fries. There was a group of three young men about my son's ages sitting at the bar next to me. About halfway through the game I turned to one of them and said, "This game is so rough that I'm sure none of our NFL players could come down and play it." As a result, they took me under their wing and for the rest of the game, explained to me (or tried to explain to me) the finer points of rugby. All I can tell you is that it is tough, non-stop action and they don't wear any protective padding.

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