Friendship Exchange is an international exchange program for Rotary members and friends that allows participants to take turns hosting one another in their homes and clubs
New Zealand District 9930 hosted an exchange starting on Monday the 10th Feb 2020 and finishing on the morning of Wednesday 26th of February (16 days and 5 hostings).
Australia District 9650 welcomed our district from 27th February for 10 days after that.
Rotary District 9930 – New Zealand
Our District is well situated over the central North Island with our southernmost club located on the southern shores of Lake Taupo. We have a number of clubs in the Hawke’s Bay on the east coast and these clubs have easy access to one of the primary wine-growing regions of New Zealand as well as one of the largest gannet colonies in the world. Napier, Hastings and Gisborne are the major cities in this locality. The east coast beaches in New Zealand are some of the best that we have and there are plenty of them.
North along the coast from Hawke’s Bay we pass through the lesser populated area of East Cape before entering the larger Bay of Plenty district best known for the production of Kiwi Fruit and Avocados as well as having prime agricultural land. The main centres here are Wakatane, Papamoa, Mount Maunganui and Tauranga (the largest of the cities) but there are many delightful coastal townships and glorious beaches. Our District extends further northwards to the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula but also extends westward right across the North Island to the black sand beaches of the west coast. There are no Rotary Clubs on this coastline within our District as the settlements are much smaller and more exposed to the wilder west coast wind and climate. However centrally located in the District is the primary dairy farming region of New Zealand and a vast array of tourist attractions such as the geothermal activity of Rotorua which is classified as the number one tourist attraction of the North Island and a primary site to experience Maori Culture at its best.
We have within a short driving distance of Hamilton, limestone glow-worm caves at Waitomo, an aviary featuring kiwis and many other native birds, many well-maintained bush walks and of course the primary film set of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ - Hobbiton Village. All of these not much more than an hour’s drive away from Hamilton.
Then there is the central plateau with semi active volcanic snow-covered mountains of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe which are less than three hours away and just over our District boundary. Our only fully active volcano is twenty kilometres offshore in the Bay of Plenty and quite visible from shore and able to be accessed by helicopter or boat.
We were unable to visit White Island as there was an eruption shortly before we travelled and it was closed. We did visit all the other attractions mentioned and took part in a Maori ceremony.
February 10th to 26th 2020.
Ken Collier, RFE District 9930, New Zealand
Australia District 9650 is located in northern New South Wales, Australia. The district extends west over the Great Dividing Range to the western plains and arid lands on the very edge of the Australian outback. The coast has spectacular beaches with fine white sand, many estuaries and dynamic towns which boast the best climate in Australia. The temperate ancient Gondwana Rainforests are World Heritage sites. A little south of Armidale, a university town, is Tamworth, the 'Country Music Capital of Australia' while Gunnedah, the 'Koala capital', rests at the western limit of our district.
The scenic diversity across the district matches the diversity in industry. On the coast, tourism is the major contributor to the economy; additional economic activity includes fishing, forestry and pastoral pursuits. The grazing lands of the slopes and plains produce beef cattle and sheep, known for the best fine wool. Further west, on the black soil plains where sheep, cattle and wheat once dominated, cotton is now a major crop. Across the district, mining and fossicking yield coal, gold, diatomite, opals and sapphires.
Our district’s Rotarians are friendly and outgoing Australians.
The visit to Australia commenced immediately after the New Zealand trip. Due to air travel between the countries it was necessary to spend two days in Brisbane before starting the exchange proper. There were stays at three centres spending three nights at each. Inverell, in the middle of nowhere, turned out to be a great start, followed by another great venue, ending up at Port Macquarie before heading off to Sydney. By this time we were surrounded by news of the coronavirus and, indeed, one of the infamous cruise ships docked in the harbour while we were there. We got to the airport shortly before restrictions were tightened but in time to catch a half empty plane from an almost deserted airport.