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Iceland delegation enjoy finding similarities

The similarities between a Nordic nation and New Zealand were highlighted during a visit to Gisborne from members of Iceland's Parliament.

Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, the Speaker of Iceland's Althingi (Parliament), led a delegation to New Zealand to discuss topics ranging from renewable energy to tourism.

Over a busy programme, the delegation was briefed by Eastland Energy at the Te Ahi o Maui geothermal power station in Kawerau. While in Gisborne they also visited Ngati Porou Seafoods.

Mr Sigfusson is the Icelandic equivalent of NZ Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard.

With Mr Sigfussson were Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, Deputy Speaker of the Althingi and a member of the Pirate Party; and Hanna Katrin Fridriksson, chair of the Parliamentary Group of the Liberal Reform Party, as well as Jorundur Kristjansson, director of the Speaker's office.

East Coast MP Anne Tolley, who is also Deputy Speaker in the NZ Parliament, said the delegation from Iceland was interested in forestry, and tourism and fishing during their visit.

“It is quite amazing how similar they are to us.”

Mr Sigfusson said commonalities included that both were island nations, dependent on agriculture, fishing, increasingly tourism, and had their own currencies. The geography was also similar with glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs.

The visit was seen as significant because it was the first by an Iceland Speaker to New Zealand. However, it is not Mr Sigfússon's first visit to the country, as he stayed on a farm in Northland as a teenager as an exhange student.

It was 1975, and he also visited Gisborne then.

He commented how culturally balanced Gisborne was, and said he loved the drive through the Waioeka Gorge.

“It brought back so many memories of how beautiful New Zealand is,” he said.

The delegation visited Wellington today where they met the Speaker, Trevor Mallard and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism New Zealand, as well as Ministers and MPs.

The Nordic island nation has a population of 362,000 so is significantly smaller than New Zealand. Its history and Icelandic language date back to the Viking settlers.

Mr Sigfusson lives in the north-east of Iceland, but works in the capital Reykjavik, where Parliament sits and most of Iceland's population live. He gets there on a 45-minute flight, and then by car. There are no trains in Iceland.

VISIT FROM ICELAND: A group from Iceland's Parliament visited Gisborne yesterday, and popped into council chambers to meet with Mayor Rehette Stoltz. They loved their 'beautiful' drive through the Waioeka Gorge, and remarked how culturally balanced Gisborne was, From left are Hanna Katrin Fridriksson, East Coast MP Anne Tolley, Steingrimur J Sigfusson, Mayor Rehette Stoltz, Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson and Jorundur Kristjansson. Picture by Paul Rickard