Thursday 25 October 2007

Back in Wellywood

Yesterday afternoon I flew back into Wellington, or Wellywood, as the locals like to say.

It was a crystal clear day to fly north, and the view over Christchurch from my seat was beautiful. It's only a quick 40 minute flight.

The capital has a notorious habit of living up to it's old reputation of windy Wellington, and it was a good old southerly yesterday.
Kiwis talk about the wind from what direction it comes, whereas a Nor Wester in Canterbury can be warm, a Southerly in Wellington is rather biting.
Nevertheless, this city is perched right on the edge of the Cook Strait and the landing runway precipitates to the very edge of the ocean, which, you can imagine, makes for interesting flying.
420,000 now reside in the Wellington region, 164,000 in the city perimeter. 81% are European; 12.5% Maori, 8% Pacific Island; and nearly 7%Asian. It is a very cosmopolitan city.
On the airport side of the Victoria tunnel into town, there now stands a huge wind vane, installed by the Regional Council. It moves in every direction, dependant on conditions.

The international advertising firm, Saatchi & Saatchi worked with the Council 17 years ago to rebrand the city's image that was usually remembered as windy and one of discarded broken brollys down Lambton Quay. It is now Absolutely Positively Wellington, a centre of culture, national theatre and dance schools, universities, political power, public waterfront ownership, and a lot of historic preservation in this 1840's pioneer town.

I wrote early last month about the vibrancy this city boasts. It was something great back when I worked here in that late 90's in Parliament, but the addition of several stunning theatres, eateries and bars along the famous Courtenay Place and the waterfront strip, is truly wonderful.

I grabbed a cab from the airport to parliament, where I headed through the usual arrival checkpoint. I haven't been back here since I worked in the National Research Unit, and advisory wing of the National members of parliament, during the late 90's. However this rather robust Maori security office greeted me by name and asked if I was back for my old job! The are infamous for memory of faces.
The Parliamentary precinct is sprawled across three major buildings. It's the result of a classic Victorian architechure, for the main building that houses the debating chamber, offices and select committee meeting rooms, and was built in 1922. To the right, is the turn of the century Parliamentary library, and the famous iconic Beehive, that houses the Executive wing of the Government.

It's a distinctive building and was designed by British architect Sir Basil Spence and built in 1981. It's is ten storeys (72 metres) high, and the top two floors occupied by the Cabinet meeting room and the Prime Minister's office.

The Beehive sits where the southern wing of Parliament House was planned to go 90 years ago, but was never completed. In 1997 a plan was put in place to move the Beehive behind Parliament House, and to then finish Parliament House to the 1911 original plans, but was quickly scuttled due to a lack of public support.

I head up to the 5th floor from the central internal core of the Beehive, laden with my bags, to catch up with my old mate, Hon Cris Carter. Chris is the MP for Te Atatu, west of Auckland. He's now Minister for Housing, Conservation, and Ethnic Affairs.

Chris introduced me to his staff, some of which I knew from student politics years ago, who look after the different portfolios, and his electorate affairs.

I arrived just in time as he was about to catch a plane to Auckland for an evening function. Chris has kindly provided me his Wellington pad as home for a few days, and the ministerial driver dropped me off on the way to the airport.
Today the House sits at 2pm, so I'll pop in for Question Time, which is always good fun. Here's the order paper for today.

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