By Alex Lacey
“Forget about the Maori, let’s talk about the sheep,” says Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, to Ambassador Jim Mclay, on the abundance of sheep in New Zealand.
Both ambassadors came to Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus to discuss and educate students on New Zealand.
Mclay is the Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations. He is a man well versed in the history, and understands New Zealand’s current role in the world. His accent is authentic, but he has no trouble communicating information to the audience.
“Actually, there are about four and half million people in New Zealand, to forty-three million sheep,” Mclay responds.
Although the topic of the night was New Zealand’s relations to the United States, its neighbors, and to the world, all other kinds of topics came up.
First, Mclay began with the history of New Zealand. Some interesting facts were that the country was the first in the world to give women the vote in 1893, and that it has been a democracy since 1853.
Also, before settlers came, there were only two mammals in New Zealand, and the rest of the wild life was all birds.
“When settlers first landed there, I can only imagine what it would have sounded like to hear all those birds singing,” Mclay wondered.
Then he went on to describe the country’s relationship to the United States.
“There are many more similarities between us than differences,” he said.
How, before railroads connected the east and west coast of the United States, it was easier to import goods from New Zealand to California, than to make the trip across the U.S.
New Zealand has also fought together with the United States in every war, except for Iraq, although they did send engineers to help there.
However, New Zealand and the United States have had problems with worldwide trade.
“New Zealand has an open-door policy, but the United States doesn’t always prescribe to that belief,” Mclay added.
On a different note about trade, New Zealand also produces more than they can consume and export a lot of goods. Sheep’s wool is a very big export. The large number of sheep in the country means that they can ship it across the world. Mclay also was almost sure that someone in the audience already was wearing wool that was imported from New Zealand.
Also, the subject of nuclear weapons came up.
New Zealand has always decided never to produce or keep nuclear weapons in the country. They have also had a few problems with nuke testing near the pacific area.
France was testing nukes near Tahiti, and that caused a lot of resentment from most of the pacific countries around the test sites.
Mclay also commented that the Unites States, when it comes to nuclear weapons, have a real, “Don’t ask, and don’t tell policy.”
Finally, when the question and answer portion began, many people took the opportunity to ask poignant, and sometimes silly, questions.
One man began telling a story of how a respondent on Craig’s List told him that he was from New Zealand, in a city named Victoria, but had no teeth. The man said he wanted to get new ones, but that it would take him two years to wait for them.
So the man’s question was whether or not people in New Zealand had to usually wait that long for teeth replacement.
“Well, Victoria is actually a city in Australia. So maybe he is not from New Zealand, but no one would wait two years to see a dentist in New Zealand,” Mclay answered.
By the end of the event, everyone walked out of the Lecture Hall with a better understanding of New Zealand. A place that at first may have seemed insignificant in the world now seems to be a country is as important as ever.
As Mclay later said, “New Zealand is the last stop on the planet.”
That last stop definitely seems a lot closer than it did before.