The Queensland tourist bureau used to advertise their state with the slogan; “Queensland! Beautiful one day, perfect the next!” Back in the 1980s the Japanese found out about the place and heavy Japanese investment began. There was a lot of local resentment about the perception that the Japanese were buying up all the real estate. Many Queenslanders I knew back then liked to parody the tourist slogan with, “Queensland! Beautiful one day, Japanese the next!” The truth of the matter was that the Japanese were the fourth highest investors in Queensland. Third were the Americans; second were the English and first were the New Zealanders.
The Kiwis like it here in Surfers Paradise and yesterday as I was walking down Cavill Avenue (the main drag) I could hear that their accent almost everywhere. There are a lot of New Zealanders working in the stores and walking down the street as tourists.
Back in the mid 1960s a local businessman, Bernie Elsey, afraid that the local council’s plan to put parking meters on the streets would scare off trade, came up with the idea of creating the “meter maids”. The first meter maids were dressed in gold lame bikinis, wore tiaras and were paid by the local chamber of commerce. The function of the meter maids was to put money in parking meters that were about to expire so that shoppers wouldn’t get fined for over staying. Bernie’s idea was a huge sucess and the meter maids became a tourist attraction in their own right.
I had to laugh today when I went to the meter maid website and I saw; “Gone are the outdated tiaras, replaced by the sun-conscious and true Aussie Akubra hat ideal for our tropical climate, while Gold Lycra Bikinis with the occasional sequin have replaced the traditional lame bikini”.
A hat isn’t much of a help when most of your skin is still uncovered.
Instead of the meter maids being paid by the local business people, they are now “self funded”, which means that walk around the streets selling little tourist knick knacks and charging to have their photos taken. The days of putting money in the parking meters are well and truly over, as well.
So yesterday I was walking down the street, when I hear behind me, Kiwi accents, “hey look, it’s the meter maids!” Sure enough two of those legendary creatures were crossing the road. Immediately the meter maids were mobbed by some rather large Kiwis and I could see that the smallest meter maid looked quite scared. The poor things must get that sort of attention all the time. I took out my camera to record what was happening and one of the Kiwis saw me and said to his mates, “stand back bros, a guy wants to take a photo of the meter maids”, to which they all stood back, like the gentlemen they were, for me to take a shot. I explained to them I actually wanted a shot of them interacting with the women. Meanwhile the smallest meter maid pipes up with; “we’re self funded and we’d like a donation of $5 if you want to take a photo of us”. “Fair enough”, I thought and I handed over the money and got this shot.
I came away from the experience thinking that being a meter maid was pretty hard work for very little money.