Despite not-so-tropical weather on frigid Jan. 7, Honorary Consul General of New Zealand Ian Latham visited Macon to celebrate an interesting new relationship between the Georgia city and a small South Pacific island that is a freely associated state of his homeland.
Mr. Latham braved the below-freezing temperatures to visit Macon’s Nu-Way Weiners Inc. hot dog restaurant at the invitation of high school junior Alexander Smith. Son of Danish Honorary Consul Chris Smith, Alexander marveled that the tropical island Niue is pronounced the same as the 100-year-old iconic Macon eatery: “new-ay.” He decided to reach out to the island government to tell them of the coincidence and possibly make a connection.
Diplomacy and commerce sometimes begin just this way, with a common bond and small gestures of friendship shared between citizens of different countries, Mr. Latham remarked during a lunch reception at Nu-Way that included Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert. “These things are important. They make the world a smaller place,” Mr. Latham said.
Niue is a 100-square-mile island located some 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand, 750 miles east of Fiji and 300 miles south of American Samoa. “Discovered” by Captain James Cook in 1774, Niue has 1,600 residents of mostly Polynesian descent, whose painted faces and island attire led Capt. Cook to originally name the island “Savage Island.” But the Niuean flag’s yellow color symbolizes friendship, which Mr. Latham said aptly characterizes the small nation that is promoting its tourism industry.
Alexander Smith recently became interested in the island while researching countries governed by premiers, including Niue’s premier Toke Talagi. He learned the pronunciation of “Niue” when watching one of the island’s tourism videos. When he discovered that the leader was ill and in the hospital, he decided to write to him about the name coincidence and send him a book about Nu-Way written by Macon newspaper columnist Ed Grisamore.
Although the premier is still hospitalized, Alexander Smith did hear back from Richard Hipa, Niue’s Secretary of the Government. “They are very excited about the project,” Mr. Smith told Global Atlanta. “They are going to send a photo of the Nu-Way book with some members of the government, but we have not received it yet. Perhaps they are not back in session,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Smith told Mr. Latham about the project, and the honorary consul agreed to come to Macon for a reception hosted by Nu-Way owners Jim Cacavias and Spyros Dermatas. The two are descendants of Greek immigrant James Mallis who opened the first Nu-Way in Macon in 1916, fashioned after the hot dog stands he had seen in New York City, making Nu-Way the second-oldest hot dog stand in the United States.
Though Nu-Way’s popular malts do not currently include coconut flavor, Mr. Cacavias agreed with Global Atlanta that it could be a good idea to consider in honor of the island nation; in the Niuean language, Niue means “behold the coconut.” Niue’s economy thrives on agriculture, with vanilla, noni fruit and taro being the main export crops, and its agriculture industry is close to becoming completely organic. Postage stamps are another top industry, Mr. Latham said.
One of the largest coral islands in the world, Niue has steep limestone cliffs that tower 60 meters above sea level. It was the first country in the world to offer free internet access to all residents in 2003. Niue’s foreign relations and defense have traditionally been handled by New Zealand, hence it falls under Mr. Latham’s diplomatic jurisdiction as honorary consul in Georgia.
Niue is negotiating free trade agreements with other Pacific countries and economic partnerships with the European Union, plus other trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand.
To get to Niue from Atlanta, one could use Air New Zealand, which flies two times per week via Auckland from Houston or San Francisco.