To say that New Zealand is one of the most popular tourist, migration, and business destinations of the world is to say nothing new. Aotearoa, which in the Maori language means “the land of the long white cloud,” has fascinated people all over the world with her stunning beauty and endless possibilities.
“New Zealand may at best seem far if one is traveling from Hungary, but in reality it can be reached in mere 24 hours. It is refreshing to see that Hungarians traveling to New Zealand are definitely on the rise,” says Rezsõ Sárdi, who has been Honorary Consul of New Zealand in Hungary for six years. While links between the two countries are less extensive in comparison with the larger EU member states, there is a fixed level of bilateral projects, spanning a range of areas, including tourism, education, science, investment, environment and cultural development. “Hungary has witnessed a significant growth in all these areas. There has been a line of high-level official state delegations from the New Zealand government in recent years,” says the Consul, who, in addition to performing an abundance of consular duties, has ardently promoted bilateral relations with the continuous endorsement of the nearest New Zealand Embassy in Berlin. In 2003, Governor General Dame Sylvia Cartwright paid an official visit to Hungary, which was followed by the state visit of Prime Minister Helen Clark, two ministers of the former administration, and in 2008, the visit of Speaker Margaret Wilson completed the circle. Hungarian dignitaries and politicians are also frequent visitors in New Zealand: President Dr. Lászlo Sólyom has recently paid an official visit to discuss questions of education, science and cultural links and to meet the significant Hungarian community.
“While Hungary only has a small community of Kiwis, events related to New Zealand are plentiful,” Sárdi adds. Working hand in glove with ITD Hungary, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has been organising workshops for Hungarian business people with the aim of promoting import and export relations with New Zealand. However, what remains to be the most notable achievement in the field of commerce is the recent foundation of a factory belonging to AHI Roofing Ltd. in Várpalota, a large project, which has created more than a hundred new jobs in the region. Sárdi believes that it was pity that Air New Zealand, the country’s national flag carrier, decided to shut down the airline’s East European representations, among others in Budapest, in 2006. “This is not only a question of business but a question of national prestige. New Zealand has a well-deserved place on the world map. Everyone should know that there is an easy and affordable way to get there,” he comments.
Sárdi has told Diplomacy and Trade magazine that the “cultural ties between the two countries are remarkably strong”. Scott Alexander Young’s A Café in the Sky, the retelling of the story of Gloomy Sunday, was the first New Zealand film project with a fully Hungarian subject-matter; the photo exhibitions of Ms Ilona Jo have brought the natural beauties of New Zealand closer to Hungarians; ANZAC Day commemorations are held annually in Solymar War Cemetery with the participation of the New Zealand Consulate. “As regards higher education, the Consulate nurtures an excellent relationship with the Faculty of Humanities of Eötvös Lóránd University, where a full-day New Zealand cultural programme was put together last year with the contribution of our Embassy in Berlin,” says the Consul. However, the most notable achievement in the field of education will be the forthcoming ratification of a bilateral Working Holiday Scheme, which is to enable young Hungarians to live, study, and holiday in New Zealand up to a one year period.
Successful as the bilateral co-operations may appear, Rezsõ Sárdi was quick to add that the limited capacity of a small consulate would scarcely ever prove sufficient if it were not for the expertise of the New Zealand Embassy in Berlin and the invaluable assistance received from the Embassies of the United Kingdom and Australia as well as the Honorary Consular Corps Accredited in the Republic of Hungary. “Visitors from New Zealand are warmly received in Budapest, and the growing number of business, immigration and tourism enquiries with the Consulate in Budapest reflect further growth potential in the bilateral relationship,” the Consul concludes.