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It’s 07:45 in New Zealand and we’re finally shaking off the lurgy that’s laid us both low since the day we arrived. Most of our time has been spent housebound although we did have a lovely New Year’s Eve. For the first time on these trips we’ve booked homestays via the Airbnb network and I have to say, it’s been a lovely experience. We’re staying in an area of Auckland called Mt Roskill, a few kilometres the South of the city centre. The area has a local hilltop park which has a great view of the skytower, which is used as the launchpad for the firework display that announces the arrival of the New Year as Auckland is the first major city to celebrate the arrival of 2019 . Having travelled half-way around the planet there was no way we were going to miss seeing the fireworks, so we dragged ourselves up to the park for a grandstand view. I’m afraid the results were a tad underwhelming! The display lasted for little more than three minutes before fizzling out. A local lad stood nearby summed it up when he said “Aww, there wasn’t even a grand finale”.

DG315372. New Year fireworks. New Zealand. 01.01.19crop

Afterwards we returned to the home of KK and his Chinese Malaysian family where we spent a lovely evening with the extended family, some of whom had flown in from Australia and Malaysia to get together for New Year. Also present was his son-in-law, who was originally from Iran. Many of the family are construction professionals (including KKs wife, who’s a Quantity Surveyor). I had a fascinating conversation with them about the levels of investment and construction in Malaysia (a country I know well), politics and Chinese economic expansion as well as the crisis in housing affordability in many countries. Truly, we are the lucky generation. What struck me was what an international family they were (KK himself had studied in Aberdeen) and how Britain has completely lost the plot with its fears over immigration. People like this are an asset to any country and should be welcomed, not demonised. It seems New Zealand realises this, which is why the population has grown from 3.8 million when I was last here to nearly 5 million now – almost 20% It was an entertaining evening full of fun and laughter, but it made my heart ache as it made me realise how disconnected I now feel from my own backward looking country. 2019 is going to be a very difficult year in the UK.

DG315365. Viking Orion. Auckland. New Zealand. 30.12.18crop

Auckland’s changing skyline, with the cruise ship Viking Orion in the harbour.

Right, it’s time to stop penning this and grab some breakfast before heading out into the city. I’ll write more soon…

12:39.

We’ve had a lovely stroll along to the little suburb of Onehunga, which has an interesting place in social history. In 1893, Elizabeth Yates was elected mayor of the borough, becoming the first female mayor in the British Empire. Her picture is one of many historical images from the town that are on display by the railway station.

DG315405crop

We’d actually come here to catch the train into town only to suffer the curse of railways the world over: bustitution! Nearly the whole of the Auckland suburban network was closed over the holiday period, leaving just one service operating into Britomart.

On the bright side, the town had been without a railway from 1973 until the line reopened in 2010 in a welcome retreat from the country’s previous policy of running down the railways to invest in roads. Now there’s some really exciting projects going on here – as I’ll describe in a separate blog.

The one good thing about the bustitution was it allowed us to see parts of Auckland we wouldn’t have otherwise and I have to say I’ve been impressed. Despite the modern building boom here, there’s still plenty of old ones left which have found a new lease of life, like this one, where we are now…

Just around the corner’s the cities main railway station. It’s pretty unassuming from above ground and could easily be mistaken for an industrial shed…

DG315407crop

Below ground is a very different matter…

DG315417. Britomart. Auckland. New Zealand. 2.1.19crop

Only the two left-hand platforms are in use at the moment due to engineering work – hence all the temporary barriers blocking off the other three. 

DG315422. Britomart. Auckland. New Zealand. 2.1.18crop

 

 

 

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