Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Dubai Expo 2020: New Zealand pavilion to 'change perceptions' of country

The New Zealand team says there is more to the country than mountains and it hopes its pavilion will prove it

New Zealand has broken ground on its Dubai Expo 2020 pavilion with a traditional Maori karakia (cultural blessing) and hopes that their large budget is going to help them change the way the world perceives them.

The small country is spending Dh128 million on its Expo appearance – a considerable investment from the small island nation of 4.8 million people when compared to the Dh200m budget from Germany, Europe's most populous country and largest economy, and the Dh220m of the United States.

Organisers hope that the pavilion will help cement the relationship between the UAE and New Zealand, and help to educate people about what the country has to offer, beyond its Lord of the Rings landscape.

"In New Zealand lingo, you can't show up in a tin shed and serve a cold cup of Milo (a chocolate and malt powder drink)," Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand’s Expo 2020 commissioner-general, told The National. It is a reference to a comment made to him by John Key, the former Prime Minister who approved the project in 2013, meaning that if it the project is worth doing, it is worth doing properly.

The latest rendering of New Zealand's Dh194 million Expo 2020 pavilion. Courtesy New Zealand at Expo. 
The latest rendering of New Zealand's Dh194 million Expo 2020 pavilion. Courtesy New Zealand at Expo. 

New Zealand first unveiled its pavilion design last year during an official visit from Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.

Its theme is kaitiakitanga, the care and connection between land and people, and was inspired by waka taonga, receptacles made by Maori to safeguard items of considerable value.

With its turning of the soil ceremony on Monday, the team will now officially get to work on the pavilion's construction. But the importance of the event does not lie in the pavilion itself, which will have to be dismantled when Expo concludes, but in the legacy of the impression it makes on visitors.

Mr Kimpton said that while New Zealand has done a great job of marketing itself as a beautiful tourist destination, people often know little about it beyond that.

"Research conducted in Europe and the US found that people were not sure if we have electricity in all of our villages. They're not even sure if we speak English,” he said.

"We've got to somehow develop the understanding of New Zealand away from simply being a nice place to visit to being a country that is innovative, world class."

Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand Commissioner-General to Expo 2020, says he wants to change people's "perceptions of New Zealand". Reem Mohammed / The National.
Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand Commissioner-General to Expo 2020, says he wants to change people's "perceptions of New Zealand". Reem Mohammed / The National.

He pointed to notable events that shaped the country’s history, and the that of the world: the splitting of the atom by Ernest Rutherford, who was born in Spring Green, in the South Island; in 1893, it became the first self-governing country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections; and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the country’s founding document, which was an agreement between the indigenous Maori people and the British.

"These are very rich stories that tell much more about the substance of us as a country,” Mr Kimpton said.

He also said that the country wanted to take part in the Expo because of its strong relationship with the UAE. Links include trade and the fact that the Middle East is a hub for those wishing to travel long-haul to New Zealand, with Emirates Airline in particular playing a crucial role.

Emirates Flight Catering will lead the New Zealand pavilion’s hospitality operations and Kiwi culinary stars are rumoured to be attached to the project. The entertainment schedule will also "blow you away", Kimpton says, but he will not be drawn on naming who will be involved yet.

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Take a look: The world's Expo 2020 pavilions revealed so far

Updated: May 14, 2019 08:46 AM

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