I am visiting Auckland New Zealand for the 27th Economic Theory Workshop at Massey University. The weather is humid and warm and the coastal scenery is attractive - after the dry year in Melbourne I even enjoyed walking around in light rain. I am surprised to find that Auckland has almost the same latitude as Sydney - only slightly further south. The motel I am staying at grows tropical rhododendrons - vireya - that have problems surviving in Melbourne although they grow much more easily north of Sydney on the coast.
The traffic congestion in Auckland is appalling - the locals estimate it costs the city about $1 billion per year although they probably are not measuring these correctly as deadweight losses. The taxi service here is deregulated (drivers generally own their own cabs and entry to the industry is relatively easy) but different mixes of flag fall and variable rate fares make summary calculations of fares and comparison shopping difficult. In conjunction with the severe congestion issues - the fares still turn out to be very expensive - a trip from the airport to Takapuna on the north shore was over $100NZ*.
The Conference surprised me. The quality of the presentations was high and a lot of the theorists were applying abstract theory to very specific practical medical and other problems. These theorists are clever, no doubt and their work has value. But it is really not my scene - my interests are even more applied - I like theory but also want a bit of policy applicability or, as one of my colleagues puts it, a bit of 'meat'. Back in Melbourne tomorrow.
* Interesting outcome given the widespread claims that deregulation will lead to lower fares.