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  • An exter­i­or view of the grand mock-Tudor house from the back lawn
The 20-room res­id­ence of the Ger­man Ambas­sad­or is as grand as you would ima­gine: sprawl­ing lawns, ten­nis court, mul­tiple sit­ting rooms, a pur­pose-built cater­ing kit­chen, and both busi­ness and private liv­ing quar­ters. As we walked into the house, the interi­or presen­ted per­fectly white fur­niture set against dark rimu-wood pan­el­ling — not a cush­ion was out of place in the impress­ive Tudor-style house.

The prop­erty serves not only as a home for Ger­man Ambas­sad­or Dr Anne-Mar­ie Schleich and her retired bar­ris­ter hus­band, Cheng Guan Tan, but also as a work­ing res­id­ence and place of busi­ness. While the entire top half of the house is used as the Ambassador’s private quar­ters, the lower half is regarded as the ‘offi­cial quar­ters’, where guests can mix and mingle in a vari­ety of rooms. As we sit in the old bil­liard room, Anne-Mar­ie explains how the role of an ambas­sad­or has a lot to do with meet­ing people, net­work­ing and enter­tain­ing, most of which is done in their home.

When din­ner parties are hos­ted at the res­id­ence, guests include mem­bers of polit­ic­al parties, busi­ness­men and women, as well as oth­er ambas­sad­ors and high com­mis­sion­ers. New Zea­l­and and Ger­man chefs often cater din­ner parties, where a mix of New Zea­l­and and Ger­man dishes and wine are served. Fish­Head spot­ted bottles of Giesen and Schubert wine in the cater­ing kit­chen, as well as an assort­ment of oth­er pop­u­lar Ger­man and New Zea­l­and wines.

The prop­erty was built in 1931 by Dr G.W. Harty, and bought by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment in 1958 to house ambas­sad­ors dur­ing their New Zea­l­and post­ings. Anne-Mar­ie has been the Ger­man Ambas­sad­or to New Zea­l­and since August 2012, and has had pre­vi­ous post­ings in Mel­bourne, Bangkok, Ber­lin, Lon­don, Pakistan and Singa­pore, where she met her hus­band. When Fish­Head asked where she would be pos­ted next, Anne-Mar­ie explained that you can express interest in dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions, but you don’t really know where you will be pos­ted, and that that’s one of the excit­ing things about being a rep­res­ent­at­ive of your country.

As the res­id­ence is owned by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, so too is all the fur­niture in the lower level of the house. To make the house feel more like a home, Anne-Mar­ie has dis­played some of her own pic­tures in the din­ing room, includ­ing repro­duc­tions of works by the icon­ic Ger­man paint­er Georg Basel­itz, Aus­trali­an artist Brett Whiteley and Eng­lish artist Wil­li­am Turn­bull. The house has under­gone recent renov­a­tions, includ­ing earth­quake-strength­en­ing, improv­ing insu­la­tion with double-glazed win­dows and roof tiles made of recycled tyres, and the pro­vi­sion of wi-fi through­out. While some interi­or paint­ing and tim­ber­work have been refin­ished, the bones of the house remain true to their ori­gin­al state.

Last year was an excit­ing year for the Ger­man Embassy, as it was the 60th anniversary cel­eb­ra­tion of rela­tions between Ger­many and New Zea­l­and. Anne-Mar­ie and Cheng have thor­oughly enjoyed their time in Wel­ling­ton, espe­cially our vibrant culture.

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