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Diary Feb. 2007

Hi all

Make the most of this letter, because as from Tuesday 30th January, I haven’t had so much time. Yes – commiserations please – I have a job. It’s with an insurance company, working as an ‘analyst consultant’, and is very interesting. I get to advise other people what to do without actually having to do any management. Art is still a gentleman of leisure, and thoroughly enjoying it. So he stays at home and does all the housework, shopping and decorating. And this afternoon he’s participating in a typical Auckland pastime (more later….)

So, as we’ve just had Auckland Anniversary Day, our subject for this newsletter is… Auckland - or that area 'North of the Bombay Hills'.

But where do the Bombay Hills come into the discussion?

As we’ve mentioned in previous updates, New Zealand feels very British in many ways. The land area between the two countries is very similar, there are many British place names, and many people play British sports like cricket and croquet. We felt at home here as soon as we arrived.

But Auckland, like London, can be very different to the rest of New Zealand. It is by far the biggest city, and because of this, just like London, the people in it can become quite insular. And, just like non-Londoners, non-Aucklanders can become upset at how it seems to dominate the country. So – in England, the ‘North’ begins at Watford whilst in New Zealand the ‘South’ begins at the Bombay Hills. Get it?Auckland Civic Centre

The rest of New Zealand even has a name for us (yes, even us newcomers). We first heard it when visiting our friends in King Country. We’re ‘Jafas’ (pronounced like the orange biscuit-like cake). And it stands for ‘Just Another Frigging Aucklander’. Actually “frigging” is not the exact word used

So what makes Auckland different?

Here are a couple of figures (not too many – I don’t want you to stop reading)

* The land area of New Zealand (NZ) is 268 thousand km2, and the United Kingdom (UK) is 242 thousand km2. So they’re pretty similar in size. Plus, Greater Auckland, at 16 thousand km2, is pretty similar in size to Greater London. * The population of NZ is around 4 million, and the UK is around 58 million. * The population of Auckland is 1.3 million, and London is 7.2 million.

Enough! You’ve turned off!

But quite a lot of things can be deduced from these figures.

First, there are a lot less people living on the same area of land over here, even within Auckland.

Second, Auckland holds ONE THIRD of the whole population of New Zealand.

So Auckland has a big influence on what is decided in this country. You can understand why it gets most of the cash for new stadiums, infrastructure, etc – but you can also understand why other New Zealanders can be a bit upset by this.

Auckland is a very multi-cultural city – in many ways, it has as many different cultures as London does. They’re just different to the London ones.

There are, of course, the Maori people. It could be argued that it is in fact their country, but in fact they only arrived from Polynesia about 600 years before the Europeans. So – unlike the Aborigines of Australia – they are immigrants just like the rest of us. I don’t know if this has helped the integration of the Maori and Europeans, but there certainly seems to be more of an uneasy peace between the two communities than there is in Australia. For a start, they have much more of a say in the running of the country, and have their own political party. Anyone with even a distant link to a Maori relative can register their origins, and have their say in Maori issues. Many New Zealanders do have at least one Maori link, and being part of a Maori ‘tribe’ or ‘family’ is seen as being quite cool (my cousins children certainly think so!)

There are also a lot of Pacific Islanders from Tonga, Rarotonga, Fiji and Samoa. These people tend to get the lowest paid jobs (life doesn’t change, does it?)

There is a large Asian contingent, from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and India – generally in that order. The Chinese are the greengrocers over here, and also have many of the takeaways like the fish and chip shops (I don’t like the Chinese Takeaways over here though – everything gets put in the same box!). Most of the Indians (who are in the minority compared to the Chinese) are Hindu, with – so far- very few Muslims.

Then there are the rest of us. There’s a good splattering of Turks (fantastic kebabs), Italians, South Africans, and of course Brits. In fact, just like in London, sometimes it’s difficult to find a true New Zealander! (The rest of NZ is totally different – that’s where all the locals live)

The location of Auckland affects the social life here too. There is a HUGE amount of waterfront. There are two harbours, with container ports and docks for cruise liners that are only about 30 km apart from each other – but on different oceans! Mangere Harbour (which is our side) has an amazing amount of enclosed water, and even the entrance to it has a volcanic island which protects it from the worse of the oceans ravages.

So boats are a big thing here. About one in every five families has a boat of some description. In our area, it’s even more. Our local yacht club (Bucklands Beach Yacht Club) is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. There are no ocean-going yachts in our local marina at Half Moon Bay, but a huge selection of everything else. And a walk around the area shows boats of every size tucked down the sides of garages and in back gardens. One house just down the road has a boat so big it’s as big as the house! Boats have also given us a real way of making friends with the neighbours too. So what’s Art doing this afternoon? Yes – you’ve guessed it – he’s sailing! Our neighbour has a yacht in Half Moon Bay, and every Friday they go racing in the Rum Race. (I wondered why it was called the Rum Race until I saw the number of empty beer bottles that come back with them) Art is still just ‘portable ballast’, but the rest of the crew are teaching him a bit each week. Auckland Skytower as viewed from Parnell

This week has also been a busy one for cruise liners. Mostly they park in the centre of the city, by the ferry terminal (my transport into work – much better than the M25 or the Underground), so I get a good view of them. There’s been the QE2, Oriana, Sapphire Princess, and a huge Japanese liner, to mention just a couple. But last night was something special. The Queen Mary 2 was in, on her maiden world tour. She was so big she couldn’t park at the normal quay, and had to use a container ship quay. It was quite something – she’s in traditional colours of a black bottom, white top and red funnels, and is twice as long as Sky City is high . She was leaving at 10:30 pm, with a firework display, so we booked a place on a harbour cruise.. I have never seen so many small boats in one place – and when the Queen Mary steamed away, we all followed her. It must have been a fantastic view from her deck. But it too us ages to get home – it’s the biggest traffic jam I’ve ever seen in Auckland!

Here’s the URL for the NZ Heralds articles on it http://www.nzherald.co.nz/event/index.cfm?c_id=1501162

And talking of traffic – most Aucklanders will tell you how bad it is. Don’t believe them! Compared to London it’s a doddle. There is a short rush-hour in the morning, and admittedly it tends to get a bit busy going over the estuary crossings, but they don’t know the meaning of the word! No doubt we will change our tune when we’ve been here a while.

One last big Auckland thing is sport. Apparently there is a big emphasis on it in schools and colleges, and (I found this amazing) many activities at sports centres are free. It’s even free to go to the local swimming pool. Our local college does evening classes too, at very reasonable prices – it quite takes me back to the UK in the eighties!

So – time to sign off. I may not have time to write so many long letters now – but please keep in contact. We really look forward to receiving your emails – even the two-liners – so keep them coming and we’ll try to respond personally to as many as we can.

And we’ll see as many as possible of you when we come back for a holiday in June.

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auckland/diary_feb.2007.txt · Last modified: 2010/11/02 12:52 by art
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