Surprise PM visit delights tourists

BROOKE GARDINER IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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Hundreds of unsuspecting residents and tourists got the opportunity to meet John Key and Julia Gillard as the prime ministers of New Zealand and Australia toured the Wakatipu Basin on Saturday.

The pair delighted crowds in Queenstown and Arrowtown as they made their way through official engagements which included the laying of wreaths at the Queenstown Memorial Gates, posing with the Cricket World Cup and a shopping expedition in Arrowtown.

While neither would confirm venues for the Cricket World Cup, both PMs agreed Queenstown had not been ruled out as a possible host venue for a match.

"They've played cricket here before, it's a beautiful location and it might be a fantastic place to do it but in time we have to see if it could accommodate the crowds and see if that's possible," Mr Key said.

Ms Gillard said there were lots of places in both countries which would make fantastic host venues, but after less than 24 hours in the resort, she was very impressed by what it had to offer.

"I'm sure it would be a beautiful location for anything you wanted to do here, including watching cricket," she said.

Mr Key said hosting the cup would provide a great opportunity for both countries to showcase themselves to the world, with more than a billion people expected to watch matches.

"The two governments and two cricket bodies, Cricket Australia and Cricket New Zealand, are working through where the games are going to be played," he said.

Asked who was going to win the cup, Mr Key quickly replied: "New Zealand.

"I'm so confident I'm wearing a gold shirt," he said.

To which Ms Gillard was quick to quip: "No indication should be taken from my black pants, thank you".

After laying wreaths at the Queenstown Memorial Gates earlier in the afternoon, Gillard announced New Zealand would receive an Australian war memorial for the 2015 Anzac centenary.

The A$5 million (NZ$6,170,174) memorial will be erected in Wellington's National War Memorial park precinct, which is being developed by the New Zealand government in time for the commemorations.

Designed by Australian architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, the monument will feature 15 columns made of red sandstone and will be surrounded by eucalypt trees.

A large entourage of ministerial staff, security, police and media followed the pair as they wound their way through Arrowtown later on Saturday afternoon, handing over cash in several stores.

Missing few photo opportunities, the pair spoke to almost everyone they passed and were very accommodating of requests by members of the public.

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Four Byron Bay women were so excited to see their prime minister they boomed a cheery greeting down the main street as they approached Gillard.

The women excitedly told their PM they had just walked 100 kilometres in seven days and were tucking into pies and custard squares to refuel.

"It's just amazing. We have never met her before. We stopped here to go to the bakery and saw the big crowd and then we said ‘that's Julia, let's go say hi'," Sorrell Millis said.

Both PMs were later mobbed by an enthusiastic Chinese tour group which swooped in on the pair and set up an impromptu photo shoot.

The trip was Gillard's first to Queenstown.

- The Southland Times

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