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Upton-on-line - From Hanover

Upton-on-line June 22nd


A very short edition, since upton-on-line comes to you this week from Hannover. (No, not Hamilton, Hannover in Germany with which New Zealanders now have a deeply shared affinity flowing from a common electoral system).

It has been the occasion of a Global Dialogue on sustainable development to which upton-on-line was invited as a result of past lives on the environment circuit. It has been a very European sort of event - much dialogue, and a great deal of angst-ridden philosophising. All an acquired taste with which upton-on-line will not weary his to-the-point kiwi readers.

But he can report that New Zealand's flag was proudly flown by Joan Pollock from (somewhere south of) Gisborne. Joan founded the Eco 2000 Trust which is dedicated to achieving sustainable land use practices in the soft, sliding mudstone country in New Zealand's eastern-most outpost.

Discarding 'safe' advice from government agencies, Joan socked it to them about what's happened since Cyclone Bola. The fact that really hit her audience between the eyes was Joan's explanation that the East Coast region contributes one percent of all the sediment reaching the world's oceans. One percent of New Zealand's sediment, surely, people asked? No. One percent of global sediment.

It was far and away one of the most compelling presentations and Joan did a really good selling job for plantation forestry along the way.

The dialogue took place in the heart of Expo 2000 - a wasteland of asphalt, concrete and vast hangars. The general effect was a cross between Disneyland and a 1970s trade fair. Upton-on-line feels the last government's decision not to spend tens of millions building a pavilion in the middle of the North German plain has been well and truly vindicated.

Somehow the whole place had a tired, out-moded feel about it. The truth is that Expos must be a thing of the past. In a world of mass travel and the internet, the idea of rushing off to a theme park of nation states seems completely outdated. Upton-on-line's jaundiced view wasn't helped by temperatures in the mid-30s. (And to have complained about the lack of air conditioning at an environmental forum concerned - amongst other things - with global warming would have been a little gauche …).

New Zealand's physical absence did not hamper our profile amongst delegates to the Global Dialogue, however. Upton-on-line was set upon by a genial professor from a German think tank wanting urgent reassurance that New Zealand was not dismantling its reforms. I could provide no comfort - the end was nigh, I said, assuming he was a fellow traveller on the Right.

But not a bit of it. He was a staunch Social Democrat who claimed he had been trying to persuade his state Prime Minister (also a socialist) to "take up the New Zealand model". The poor man was almost beside himself when I explained the ideological counter-revolution currently being master-minded by New Zealand's Old Labour. Living amidst the inflexibilities of the German system he could not believe we were so stupid. I explained that we are a very innovative and experimental people. Constantly veering from one side of the spectrum to the other keeps us battle-hardened, match fit and so on!

Helen Clark also had a profile as a result of her Berlin blitz. Apparently, her photo occupied a good third of the front page of a Berlin newspaper under the heading "I am not Bill Clinton". Bemused readers felt this was fairly obvious (and upton-on-line has previously explained that there is no danger of ideological confusion either). It appears that she stepped out of a car that was expected to be carrying Clinton. Her helpful clarification appealed to the uniquely Teutonic sense of humour. People are still earnestly chortling.

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