the New Zealand Herald published a list of things that are great about the country of New Zealand. I’ve had another look at the list, and added a few comments of my own
The Great Outdoors
Certainly New Zealand has plenty of outdoors. In a country roughly the size of Japan, or the United Kingdom, we have only four and half million people – and more than a million of those live in one large area in the North Island. Consequently there’s plenty of space around us: huge mountains, flat plains, national parks and plenty of bush – that’s rugged terrain to the rest of you. People go hunting, shooting, fishing and mostly don’t get in each other’s way. But they also get lost fairly often, fall out of boats, out of the sky (while paragliding), or break their legs on the ski slopes. And that’s just the locals. The tourists who come here seem to have the idea that their bullet-proof: an awful lot of them go missing through thinking that the Great Outdoors is very safe. Though there aren’t any wild animals to eat you, there are quite a few other hazards – especially if you decide to go off trekking on your own.
As it’s known in the North Island, or the Crib, as it’s known in the South. Thousands of people have one of these. It’s a holiday home, often by the sea, or in a remote and sunny place. In the past you could knock one of these buildings up as the mood took you, if you had a little bit of land, and there were no one to stop you putting it up pretty much as you liked. Now a bach/crib has to conform to so many by-laws it’s not funny, or else is so much more splendiferous than your town house that you’d be better off living in it full-time.
Thirdly, New Zealand is known for its back-yard geniuses. It’s a country where people like to invent things, both useful and not-so-useful. Often it’s called the “number eight fencing wire mentality” after the idea that anyone with a bit of gumption can make anything work by using a bit of fencing wire.
And certainly the list of inventions the NZ Herald gives us is impressive: cars that float, treatments for blindness and disease on a global scale, tranquilliser guns, spreadable butter and chocolate fish. I wrote elsewhere about a New Zealander who invented a jetpack so individuals can fly. This is typical of the sort of thing they come up with.
I’m grateful that there are plenty of geniuses working out in their garages; if it was up to me, we’d still be using things invented in the 19th century.
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The New Zealand Beach
The Herald’s number four item was very general: the New Zealand beach. Of course other countries have beaches too, but we New Zealanders think that ours are just the best.
I was talking to my four-year-old grandson this morning, and naming the beaches around Dunedin, where we live: St Kilda, St Clair, Tomahawk, Smaill’s Beach, Taieri Mouth, Brighton, Pilot Beach, Blackhead, Warrington, Karitane…the list goes on and on. And none of them are more than twenty minutes away from our door. Mile after mile of coastline, most of it accessible. That’s something I really do appreciate.
Overall, we’re laid-back and optimistic, even when we have to live with a government ruled by Helen Clark, (it isn’t that she’s a woman – she just comes across as grumpy all the time), or with endless rules about everything, many of them from the PC Brigade. Generally we can laugh at ourselves, and generally we’re pretty friendly to visitors and each other. Of course there are a few annoying people who spoil that image, but the bulk of us are live and let live people.
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Even though there was a good deal of fighting back in the past between the Europeans and the Maori, for the most part in this country we’ve lived alongside each other fairly well. Yes, there have been some ups and downs, but in due course we overcome them all. And now we’re becoming an increasingly multicultural society: people with European backgrounds living together with the Tangata Whenua (the Maori), with Pacific Islanders (there are ten times as many Nuieans in New Zealand as there are in Nuie, for instance), with a host of people from Asian countries.
The seventh point will mean nothing to anyone who’s never seen one, but the Buzzy Beeis an important icon. It began as a toy that was popular with children in the middle of the twentieth century, and it’s still with us. It couldn’t be simpler: a bee-shaped thing with wheels that’s pulled along by the child and which makes a clacking noise in the process. (Certainly not a buzzing noise!)