Rattle your dags and take a look at the new Conventions New Zealand Web site.

Australians have always known about the charms of New Zealand. You can hardly get through a conference in Melbourne, for example, without somebody telling you that Wellington is just a wonderful town. In fact, the lion's share of New Zealand's offshore convention business comes from Australia.

Now, the New Zealand Convention Association wants to let the rest of the world in on Australia's secret. It is spending big bickies (lots of money) to convince other international markets that Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington aren't just a bunch of waikikamukaus (towns totally remote from anywhere). It has hired a new marketing agency, Conventions New Zealand, to go after international meetings and incentives business. The agency has created a new Web site, www.conventionsnz.co.nz, where event managers can learn more about such New Zealand venues as the 2,000-seat Wellington Town Hall, the 20,000-square-foot Christchurch Convention Centre, and a collection of meeting venues in Auckland that are being jointly marketed as “The Edge.” These include the 48,000-square-foot Auckland Convention Centre (with a theater that seats 2,256) and the Aotea (Maori for “white cloud”) Centre, which has about 36,000 gross square feet of space in 12 rooms and expects an additional 27,000 square feet of space to become available when the planned Aotea II opens in 2004. This addition, along with the Auckland Town Hall, The Civic, and Aotea Square, will make The Edge the largest convention facility in New Zealand.

It is already a technologically advanced venue (it has to be, with a name like The Edge), with a closed-circuit television studio, a satellite uplink/downlink facility, and a 36-monitor “Vidiwall” for drop-dead media presentations.

Another technologically advanced venue near Auckland is The Conference Centre, which can handle groups of as many as 250 people theater-style in its main room and which has five smaller rooms for breakouts. Billing itself as an “advanced communication facility,” the Centre has facilities for producing computer-generated graphics; for audio- and videoconferencing; and rooms equipped with electronic whiteboards for small working groups.

So rattle your dags (hurry up) and take a look at the Conventions New Zealand Web site, where you'll also learn about the NZCA's relationship with the New Zealand Tourism Board, which occasionally organizes small fam trips from North America for qualified buyers who need to see properties up close and personal.

Wired in Christchurch

Christchurch Convention Centre, which celebrates its fourth anniversary in March, is well-attuned to the technical needs of meeting and event planners. Every rentable space in the building — including about 20,000 square feet of pillarless exhibit space — has access to a Category 5 network (copper wire) that can be run through the facility's PABX switch or through an independent switch. High-capacity fiber-optic service runs past the Centre, and “will be taken advantage of in the future as demands increase,” according to Cathy Hemsworth, director of sales and marketing for NCC (New Zealand) Ltd., which operates the venue.

In addition, ISDN lines are available for videoconferencing and high-speed data transmission. In the near future, 2Mb Jetstream services will be available to handle Ethernet-like high-speed Internet connections. Voice and data services are available in-house “at favorable rates,” according to Hemsworth; conference organizers may also tap outside sources.

Also coming soon is a state-of-the-art, multilanguage interpretation service, to be supplied by a German firm, Brahler ICS. The new system will include Digivote, a sophisticated audience-polling system.