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By GAIL PALMER, HELLOWORLD NEWTOWN

A CONFERENCE in Wellington meant that I would have a chance to get to know New Zealand’s capital much better.
My memories from a trip years ago were hazy. Our landing in Wellington two days before was a little hair raising. I was later told that pilots are required to have a special endorsement to fly in and out of Wellington. They must be able to cope with the very strong winds often encountered there.
After checking into our hotel, we wandered off to the Cuba Street area and then to the wharf precinct for a delicious seafood meal.
The next day we took a walking tour conducted by a local obviously passionate about showing off their city. Bad luck for us that it was the windiest day of the year. It was exhausting and sometimes difficult walking against the wind but very enjoyable all the same. Walking with a local is the best way to get to know a city.
The wind came with a wild rain storm in the evening that drenched the delegates making their way to the Air New Zealand hosted function on the waterfront. They treated us to a fashion show of their uniforms to celebrate 75 years of flying, great food and local wine and beers.
Thankfully the next day the weather had cleared, the sun was out and the waterfront was sparkling during the next local tour to visit the botanic gardens and the famous cable car.
The conference was then full on. The following evening, Qantas Holidays hosted a function in the Tapapa Museum with a private viewing of their new Gallipoli exhibition. It is brilliantly done, very moving and highly recommended for a visit if anyone is in Wellington. At the end of the exhibition, you can do your own personal message on a red paper poppy.
Most of the delegates left after the conference but I was curious to see Christchurch so I took the ferry across Cook Strait on a glorious sunny day to Picton and connected to the train to Kaikoura for the night. Then up early the next morning for a boat trip out to see the Dusky dolphins. There were literally hundreds of them and I was mesmerized by their antics and acrobatics. Some people wanted to swim with them but I elected to watch and be delighted.
Then back on the train to Christchurch. I knew the city would be very different from the last time I was there. Around Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens you would not know that there had been a disaster there but in the city precinct it is virtually a huge building site. It was sad to see the Christchurch Cathedral in a state of ruin. The debate is still going on whether to demolish it or try to restore it. They are rebuilding the city almost from a clean slate and the plan is to have several different precincts of government, arts, technology etc.
There is a saying of “wood is good” in Christchurch. It seems that the wooden buildings withstood the earthquake and anything else fell down.
I bade farewell to Christchurch with the hope that they will succeed in their plans despite the constant threat of tremors and quakes.
Helloworld Newton: 4/329 Pakington Street, Newtown. Phone 5221 9888.

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