Party like it's Southland

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 19:57 25/07/2014
Southland party at Parliament
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
SOUTHERN STYLE: Murray Halstead and Scott O'Donnell shucking oysters at the Southland party at Parliament.

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Southland’s prized cheese rolls and Bluff oysters have made it across the Cook Strait.

They were to be devoured by around 300 Southland exports at tonight's world famous Southland Party in Wellington.

Parliament’s banquet hall was transformed to make attendees feel right at home, with hay bales forming part of the seating arrangement.

The cheese rolls had been taste-tested to make sure they were up to standard and 100 dozen Bluff oysters were delivered, ready to be shucked by Southland Party organising committee member and Invercargill National MP Eric Roy.

“I’m going to have to open a few of those,” he said.

Also among Southland’s “favourite sons and daughters” present were Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

Roy said invitations had been sent out to a number of successful Southlanders.

“It’s a bit of a networking thing for Southlanders who have moved away,” he said.

“We’re Southlanders, we do well, we’re here and let’s socialise and celebrate – that’s what it’s all about.”

One of those to be toasted at the party was Invercargill sprint cyclist Eddie Dawkins, who today claimed New Zealand’s first gold medal of the Commonwealth Games as part of the men’s sprint team.

Veteran journalist Barry Soper, another organiser, said the party was first held 15 years ago, but underwent a nine-year hiatus before being resurrected in 2012. It is now a biennial event.

“People were forever on at me saying, ‘when are we going to do another one?’

“People from the south really like getting together, talking about the south and their upbringings.”

This year’s party was particularly special as it was the first year cheese rolls were on the menu, said Soper, who hails from Gore.

“We’re introducing what really is the sushi of the south.”

The party was supported by Southland food businesses such as Alliance Group, Barnes Oysters and Blue River and organisations Venture Southland, Invercargill Licensing Trust, Southern Steel and Rugby Southland.

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