Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: PMs make a perfect picture with small-town style

In New Zealand this weekend for her annual talks with Prime Minster John Key, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is gearing up for toughest challenge to date: winning a second term.

John Key on a Harley-Davidson. Photo / Supplied
John Key on a Harley-Davidson. Photo / Supplied

The trip that Julia Gillard's partner Tim Mathieson took to Arrowtown 12 years ago with a couple of mates was so memorable that he took her back there yesterday.

Not just to Arrowtown, but to a particular shop that sold a particular product: a lamb and mint pie.

Unfortunately the Arrowtown Bakery and Cafe had not been scoped out beforehand, nor had the proprietors been warned that the Australian Prime Minister and her partner, and the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh - not to mention 20 hangers-on, staff, police and media - would descend upon their establishment on Saturday afternoon in search of a lamb and mint pie.

It was still on the menu and still so popular that it sold out yesterday. Mathieson had to be content with a hot venison pie and a squeeze of tomato sauce.

Gillard was feted in the old, historically-preserved goldmining town by locals, children, travelling Australians and Australian immigrants to New Zealand.

Pete Gawron, the founding owner and chef at Saffron restaurant, was originally from Adelaide and had been in New Zealand for 14 years.

"I miss the beaches in Australia but this is an extraordinary place, and we get four seasons here," he said.

"In Melbourne we do that in a day," Gillard replied.

There was one noisy upset from a small boy named Kalem, who was intent on wresting from Gillard a kiwi toy which a shopkeeper had just presented her.

In an instant, Gillard knew that giving away a kiwi would create even more upset to her hosts - so she gently but firmly held on to the toy.

It was a picture-book walkabout in a picture-perfect town. Even the local Harley Davidson chapter were welcoming, and offered Key a go on one of their machines.

An earlier visit to the Queenstown War Memorial was not quite as perfect.

During a wreath-laying ceremony, Key appeared to have difficulty keeping his eyes open for a couple of minutes. He kept rubbing his eyes, but no sooner had he opened them than they would shut. He said later, through a spokeswoman, that the problem was because of the glare on the war memorial, which made his eyes water.

It was about 24C and bright sunshine but he did not look in danger of fainting, as he did several weeks ago at a Christchurch restaurant.

The ceremony was watched by a couple of hundred people, and both Prime Ministers were warmly welcomed and applauded when they drove away.

One lone protester, who would give her name only as Fay, held a placard saying "Close Nauru". That was a reference to the island nation that hosts one of Australia's offshore processing centres for asylum-seekers, which Gillard has re-opened recently. The prospect of being detained on Nauru for years is designed to deter the arrival of boat people.

Key yesterday agreed to take 150 refugees a year from the offshore processing, within New Zealand's annual quota of 750 refugees.

He said it recognised the intelligence and support on illegal arrivals New Zealand received from Australia, and suggested mass arrivals in New Zealand could be processed by Australia's offshore centres if the law was changed.

Key and Gillard took their delegations to dinner at Amisfield Winery Bistro near Lake Hayes. Gillard leaves Queenstown this morning.

- Herald on Sunday

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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