Sunday, April 3, 2016

Big City Visit–Auckland

Our friends Diane and Ken, flew in from Southern California, via Hawaii, to do some touring with us in New Zealand. After doing a quick round of the Northland we spent a few days in Auckland. This is the famous Auckland Space Needle reflected on the side of a downtown office tower. Actually, it’s not the Space Needle, but the iconic Auckland Sky Tower. If you include the mast at the top it is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere at 328 metres or 1,076 feet. It was built over 1994 to 1997. I’m still partial to Seattle’s Space Needle. It gets points for age and aesthetics. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair at 605 feet or 184 metres. When built it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi.
We timed our visit for the Pasifika Festival held at Western Springs Park, the home of the Auckland Zoo. The festival has been running since 1992. I’m not sure how its name came about, maybe a phonetic Polynesian spelling of Pacific.
The festival wasn’t as a good as we had hoped. In the Pacific islands we saw many great multi-day contests where elaborate groups from different villages would compete against each in judged dances. The festival in Auckland had lots of representatives from the various islands, but no direct competitions. There are very large ex-pat communities from Niue, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa living in Auckland. Almost 20 times as many Niueans live in New Zealand than in Niue.
Not exactly from the Pacific, but the Indonesian booth had some fancy getups.
Maybe escapees from the zoo, a native Pukeko (above) and a sort-of-native Black Swan. Apparently swans were present when the first humans settled New Zealand. By the time the Europeans arrived they were gone, along with the Moa (a kind of giant kiwi). In the 1860’s Swans were re-introduced, Moa are unfortunately extinct.
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has some pretty strong dissenters in NZ. Billed as a free-trade agreement between the Pacific Rim countries, like all the other ‘free trade agreements’ it is in reality a tariff agreement. It defines what will trade with low or no tariffs and what each country can protect. One issue for the Kiwis is that the US government’s massive subsidies for agriculture are still allowed by the TPPA – dairy and lamb being a huge part of NZ’s exports.
See those fighting Kiwis?
One highlight of a visit to Auckland is the New Zealand Maritime Museum. The museum is very well done with displays on the early Polynesian arrivals as well the Euro explores like Tasman and Cook. A good bit of space is dedicated to Russell Coutts and Peter Blake’s led Kiwi victory in the 1995 America’s Cup in San Diego where the Kiwis broke the 144 year run of all American wins. Above is one of the sleek trial boats in the museum.
Coutts was famous for wearing his lucky red socks when he competed. Kiwis all over the country got behind him and started wearing red socks to cheer on each race. One farmer reportedly had his entire herd walk through tubs of red dye so they would all have red socks. I thought it would be pretty easy to have Mr. Google find the image of those 1995 red socked sheep. The best I could come up with was the running of the sheep in Merriwa, Australia where for some reason they put red socks on the sheep.

Auckland seemed to have a pretty easy to use public bus system. Certainly easier than parking downtown. I spotted this sign at the bus stop while we were waiting for our bus back to the hotel. Seems like weekday commuters have some issues with the bus system

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