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'Great deal of interest' about Malta in New Zealand

There is a great deal of interest about Malta in New Zealand both from a tourist point of view as well as from the business community, according to Patricia Thake, honorary consul for Malta in New Zealand.

Ms Thake, who is married to a Maltese, was in Malta for a short visit during which she met Education and Culture Minister Louis Galea and President Guido de Marco as well as representatives of the Chamber of Commerce.

She has had talks with one of the main winemakers on the island and hopes to soon have Maltese wines on New Zealand tables. Another possibility is the twinning of local councils.

She also said it would be wonderful to have the YADA dance company go on at European Asia-Pacific tour that would take it to multicultural Auckland.

Ms Thake said in an interview that most New Zealanders dreamt of visiting Europe and spending time there. She acts as a catalyst or rather as a farmer planting seeds promoting Malta as a stop over longer stay holiday destination.

She will be taking with her an invitation from Dr Galea to his counterpart in New Zealand to visit Malta. Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami is scheduled to visit New Zealand in August.

Ms Thake has been honorary consul for the past seven years. She is trying to include a study about Malta in the country's national curriculum after obtaining a scholarship from the Bank of Valletta in Australia.

The scholarship is open to secondary and post secondary students. The criteria would be to do a study about Malta and present it as a project.

As a result of the scholarship, a school in Wellington represented the Maltese government at a youth conference in New Zealand.

Ms Thake is a secondary schoolteacher who believes education begins at grass root level.

"That's why it is so good to introduce Malta to children and eventually to students at tertiary level. In doing so, the next step would be teacher exchange.

"There is a lot of support for a teacher exchange programme," she said.

There are several thousand Maltese in New Zealand, mostly in Auckland, some in Wellington and a very small number in the South Island.

"Coming to Malta is part of a learning experience, to live, to feel, to breath Malta. That's the way I am beginning to appreciate and form the emotional connection with Malta.

"The people are so different. They have very special traits which make the Maltese unique. Where in the world would you walk through so much history?

"Walking into the President's palace, I felt almost embraced by this history - a feeling I can't describe," Ms Thake said.

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