Our New Zealand Adventure: Coming to a Close


As we close out our time in Palmerston North, New Zealand, I am thankful for my husband’s ambition and the opportunity to travel abroad and experience life outside of America. Until now, I had never left the North American continent. Flying across the globe over 10,000 miles from our home in Missoula, Montana was quite the adventure! New Zealand is truly beautiful! There is so much to explore, and much of the country truly resembles Montana. However, New Zealand has something Montana does not: oceans and beaches all around!

We chose Palmerston North specifically because of the Sister City program. The Sister City relationship between these two communities has been in place since 1981, thanks to the efforts of Professor Harold Bockemuehl, a University of Montana geography teacher who earned his Ph.D. at Massey University.  Like all things in life, the relationship between the two communities has ebbed and flowed over time, depending upon interests and individuals.

While we have lived here, the Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) has been assessing its Sister City relationships, the benefits received from the program, and making a decision on whether or not to retain, expand or change those connections.  Like all communities in the world, the PNCC wants to see economic benefit from their investments, and their interests lie with communities in places like China, where opportunities for export and job creation may seem more probable than those across the world. Palmerston North’s other Sister City is Guiyang, China.

Ironically, just prior to our departure the Manawatu Standard reported that American-based Proliant will build a $24 million-dollar factory in Feilding (12 miles from Palmy) that is expected to have a 10-year economic impact of $90 million in the region (read more here). Proliant is a food, health, nutrition and biological company headquartered in Akeny, Iowa (population 46,300) that uses cattle blood plasma to produce a bovine serum albumin used in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and medical research.

Palmerston North, New Zealand. Clock Tower

Clock tower in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Proliant may not be from Missoula Montana, but I believe this company’s decision was first initiated early on with a vacation, education, cultural or business experience by someone on the Proliant decision-making team. Of course the number of cows in the region, Massey’s exports of hard-science graduates, and the targeted efforts in the food innovation industry are all contributing factors.

What I find remarkable is the similarities of the issues both Palmerston North and Missoula face and the missed opportunities to learn from each other. Our timelines are quite different, but the issues are truly the same: building economy, protecting the environment, managing infrastructure, improving human intelligence and ensuring basic human needs (food, shelter, clothing and health) for all community members are met.

While the PNCC evaluates its commitment to its Sister City relationships, community members in Palmerston North know Missoula is their Sister City, and they were interested in learning more about the Garden City. I had the pleasure of presenting Missoula to two Rotary Clubs (Love those Rotarians!), a Probus Club (Rotary retirees), and the Palmerston North Lunch Club, thanks to John Hornblow and Jean Corbin Thomas, two exceptional community leaders and volunteers! I was able to get in front of about 300 community members, and they really enjoyed learning about Missoula and the similarities and differences with Palmerston North.

Maddy and the Lamb

Our daughter Maddy enjoyed the learning experience in New Zealand but is anxious to return to Missoula and finish out the school year at Lewis & Clark grade school.

Thanks to the Manawatu Chamber of Commerce, I had the opportunity to showcase retail successes in Downtown Missoula to a group of city-center business owners in Palmerston North. I think they were inspired, and I am hopeful we have planted the seeds for how to work collaboratively to elevate retail in the heart of Palmerston North.

Thanks to the Art Society of the Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science, and History, I was able to showcase Missoula’s rich arts and culture to a group of museum supporters. They were quite impressed with the Garden City’s work in the realm of public art and cultural events.

There is nothing I love more than serving as a representative of Missoula, Montana. I love to tell people about this very special place, and this chance to serve as a Sister City representative was wonderful. However, credit must go to all those who have invested in this city-to-city relationship before now. Those who have committed time and resources to visit, learn, live or invest in an exchange of ideas, knowledge, and culture between two exceptional and parallel communities.

People like John Wall, John and Jenny Hornblow, Wiremu and Trieste Te Awe Awe, Mike Kadas, Monte Dolack, Geoffrey Sutton, Paul Miller, Jerry Furniss and countless others have kept that connection engaging and relevant. However, it is the relationship between The University of Montana and Massey University  that really deserves appreciation for the success of this Sister City program. Massey’s decision to welcome Tom Gallagher for a one-semester teaching appointment, and Montana’s support of my husband’s research and education proposal made this experience and this connection possible.

We are excited to see this expedition come to a close and return home to our beloved Missoula. We have a greater appreciation for our community, our state and our country, and we look forward to reconnecting with our community, our friends and family. Madelyn is thrilled to close out her last few weeks with her classmates at Lewis & Clark Elementary School before transitioning to middle school. Summer is arriving in the Garden City, and it’s an extraordinary time of year in Western Montana. Palmerston North is in the rearview mirror. Missoula, Montana. We’re coming home!




Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: tomlinda@centric.net.