New Zealand greets 2000 -- and Y2K bug -- first
April 2, 1999
From Correspondent Mike Chinoy
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNN) -- Come the break of midnight on New Year's Day, New Zealand will be the first country to witness the year 2000: Four hours before Tokyo, 13 hours before London and 18 hours before New York.
From the Chatham Islands, the first inhabited place to see the sunrise, to Gisborne, the first city, to the financial center of Auckland and the capital city of Wellington, New Zealanders are relishing their impending moment in the sun.
"It's a great privilege to be the first country to see the light of the new century," says Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. "We feel it presents tourism opportunities, medium-term economic opportunities, just simply awareness opportunities."
But is also makes New Zealand the first country to confront the potential havoc of the Y2K computer bug.
"We will be an early warning for the rest of the world, particularly the banking and financial centers of the Northern Hemisphere," says Scott Morrison of the government's Office of Tourism and Sport.
In that sense, New Zealand's financial markets, which open almost a day before those in London and New York, will be like the proverbial canary in the mine shaft.
"If something goes wrong, say a particular aspect of a software system that the market is using, then certainly people are going to get worried," says computer expert Russell Brown. "They are going to have that 20 hours in order to work out what is going wrong and how to fix it."
The markets aside, experts worry Y2K preparations are inadequate because of the crush of other events, including the America's Cup yacht race and the APEC summit of 22 world leaders. Both are scheduled for Auckland toward the end of the year.
"There are a lot of much bigger public issues than year 2000 preparedness, and I think that certainly has an impact on the way it has been handled," Brown says.
No one really knows what kind of havoc the Y2K bug will cause in New Zealand. And more than a few people fear that while the rest of the world is still celebrating, New Zealand will be waking up with a hangover produced by more than just a big party.
Y2K doomsayers cash in on millennium bug
Global 2000 Web site
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