New Zealand's $53 million push to get noticed at Expo 2020 in Dubai

A 40-minute drive from the historic heart of Dubai, a new frontier of this mega-city is being built in the desert.

In the 35C heat and dust, 37,000 workers are toiling to build Expo 2020. Projects worth billions of dollars are underway as the opening date looms in October next year.

It’s the emirate’s next big play in its relentless growth of the past four decades, and one it hopes will stimulate an economy that has been losing some steam.

Workers are masked up to protect them from fierce dust storms which have hit Dubai earlier in summer than usual, and special protection has been put in place for them in the notoriously harsh conditions.

The Expo site, covering an area the size of 440 football pitches, looks like an impossible tangle of enormous steel framing and concrete in a giant sandpit.

The road to it is up to six lanes wide — each way — and smooth as glass. Alongside is the latest leg of the fully automated Dubai Metro, stretching beyond its current 75km length, which will be open in time for the Expo’s opening.

The local lore is that this place builds so quickly Google Maps can’t keep up, and while some central Dubai projects have reportedly stalled in the worst downturn since the global financial crisis, out at Expo dozens of tower cranes are in constant action.

This is where New Zealand hopes to make a big statement among the 190 other countries that are confirmed participants in the six-month-long event that hopes to attract 25 million people.

This country is spending $53.4 million to build and operate its “modest sized pavilion” at Expo, the first New Zealand has attended since Shanghai in 2010.

Commissioner-General to Expo 2020, Clayton Kimpton, says this country’s presence is aimed at shifting perceptions of New Zealand and that comes with an “enormous” price tag.

The last Government signed off on the Expo mission, — there was little reaction to the decision by the then Opposition — and Kimpton says the Coalition Government is supportive.


By: Grant Bradley, Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the NZ Herald

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