"Living and Travelling in New Zealand" Top 5 Page for this destination New Zealand by Kakapo2
New Zealand Travel Guide: 14,517 reviews and 36,767 photos
After having travelled to New Zealand the first time in 1991 I remember coming back home to Germany and telling my parents: "This is the country I would love to live in." What had impressed me most was the relaxed lifestyle, the friendly, chatty people, the incredible colours of the lakes and rivers, the tree ferns and pohutukawas, and surely the fact that only 4 million people and 60 million sheep - in the meantime this number has dropped to 40 million - lived in an area as large as West Germany before the reunification, inhabited by 60 million people and 4 million sheep.
At the time this was only a dream. I knew it would be nearly impossible to convince NZ Immigration that they needed more journalists who would not even write for NZ newspapers - although I am sure I could make newspapers better with my design and writing skills and even explain why handball is more exciting than even rugby ;-) ... which BTW I love in the meantime.
On my first trip I had visited both the North and the South Island to get an impression. On my second visit in 1995 I travelled only on the North Island to fill some gaps - like Northland and the East Cape - and go back to the Coromandel Peninsula which had become my dream location. I could already imagine my future address: Paku Hill, Tairua.
Well, and when I thought about my third trip this wonderful Kiwi guy named John crossed my way. He is both a typical and not so typical New Zealander: relaxed, easy going and smiling but no macho at all. I thought he was relaxed enough to bear my more explosive nature, and sure, he is :-) We were married soon after but lived apart for two more years. Finally, at the end of 2003 I moved to NZ. For job reasons we did not move to Paku Hill in Tairua but we live on a hill in Lyttelton and have great harbour and mountain views, and pohutukawas and tree ferns in the garden. I now work as a freelancer for several German newspapers and magazines, and if you are lucky you can read my great articles about life, animals and sport in New Zealand ;-)
Whereas love was the reason to emigrate to NZ the first idea to travel to NZ in 1991 was born at the hairdresser's. In one of the many women's magazines I saw a photo of Milford Sound: a Norwegian fiord with a white beach and palm trees - that was such an incredible combination that I just had to see it with my own eyes. Of course, I now know that the palm trees are cabbage trees which are the world's biggest lily plants. I have become a bird and plant expert :-)
I can still see the magic of Milford Sound - but already in 1991 I found other places that I loved more, as the already mentioned Coromandel Peninsula and Lake Tekapo. I love the tussock grass landscapes of Banks Peninsula where I live and the Mackenzie Country and Central Otago, and the lush green Otago Peninsula with its fantastic inlets where you can watch all kinds of shore and wading birds, and of course, the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head. The most colourful day walk I have ever made was the Tongariro Crossing Track.
As I now know nearly the whole of NZ some more favourite places have been added to my list LOL I will share them with you but it will take some more time to complete my tips about NZ. You must not wonder why I have not written about the East Cape or the Catlins yet. It is not a matter of lacking attraction, just a matter of time. In the meantime enjoy the tips I have already written.
The system of my NZ tips
Here on my main NZ page you find general tips about the country which are not specific for the destinations.
On the North Island and South Island pages you find tips about destinations for which I have not made extra pages. So if you want to know more about major destinations like Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch or Queenstown you will not find these just by browsing the North and South Island pages. You have to check directly on those specific pages.
Thoughts about Sir Edmund Hillary after his death on 11 January 2008.
I have just come back from the garden where I had a chat with a fantail. Those little birds which can do fantastic aerobatics and fan their tails to a spectacular display of feathers, like a mini peacock, are absolutely cute. They love to be close to humans because where humans are insects fly up and can be caught easily. Some fantails just show up daily for chatting and sit down right in front of you, and you can see how beautiful they are with their little white eyebrows ;-)
The fantails might not be New Zealand's most unique bird, they are not even endemic, but they are from the kind of animals which make this country unique. It's the birds. Most other animals we have here can be found in other countries as well (whales, dolphins, seals) with the exception of the tuatara, the living fossil and only remaining relative of the dinosaurs (and lucky us, a lot smaller), the Hector Dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world, and quite some creepy crawlies like the weta. Apart from the redback spider we have no poisonous animals. But we do not have cuties like koalas and other cuddlies either.
New Zealand has a big selection of the world's most unique birds, and many are flightless like the kiwi, the national symbol, the weka, the takahe, and the kakapo, the world's only nocturnal and flightless parrot, and some unique penguins which can be best seen on the Otago coasts.
As the birds had no natural enemies before the arrival of the humans there was no need for the birds to fly, so they lost their wings, and were not afraid or cautious towards anyone. Now with all the predators brought in first by Maori and later by the Europeans - dogs, cats, ferrets, stoats, weasels and possums - the birds struggle to survive. Many are extinct, others only survive on predator-free islands, remote or fenced areas.
Depite all those efforts there are just over 100 kakapo, and without the operation nest-egg, supervised by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the numbers of kiwi would drop dramatically. The survival rate of kiwi chicks in the wild is only between 5 and 10%. By taking the eggs from the nests, breeding them in breeding centres and relocating the chicks back into the wild when they are heavy and strong enough to fight predators, this rate rises dramatically to about 90%. See my NZ Things to Do tips for more info about the kiwi and the places where you can see them. As they are nocturnal you need a lot of luck to spot one in the wild. The best chance for this is on Stewart Island.
A bird tourists always see is the pukeko, a big blue and black swamp hen with striking red beak and legs, wandering along the roads - which in first place was not their own idea. It is because humans take over their habitats for living and farming. You might think the pukeko is flightless. They are not - they just do not feel in the mood very often. Scientists think they are on the brink of losing their ability to fly.
On the South Island nearly every visitor has to tell a story about encounters with keas. Most are funny because those mountain parrots are so cheeky. People who live in the same area will tell you different stories as keas tend to destroy precious things like vintage cars, flower pots, or unattended clothes. Of course the keas have a good excuse: They only want to play ;-)
On the photo of this chapter you can see wekas, flightless rails. You will most probably see them on the West Coast of the South Island. They eat everything and are not afraid of anything - not even of bears. When they had eaten their potato chips they looked at the bear, and one of the wekas bit him in the ear! Keas on the other hand are more cautious if they are confronted with unknown objects. They would inspect first. Once they would not take a piece of bread from the bear's paw, just walked up and down, and up and down, in front of him.
Other famous flying birds which can be watched in New Zealand are the Royal Albatross (the world's only mainland colony on Otago Peninsula) and gannets (Cape Kidnappers near Napier and Muriwai Beach north-west of Auckland).
This chapter is about words and actions. It is about the demolition of a historic building in Christchurch on 30 April 2007 and now, in the early days of 2008, the consecration of a war memorial in Greymouth.
In case one I am disgusted about two facts: First the poor role the Christchurch City Council has played in the process, second the role of Ngai Tahu, the South Island's biggest Maori tribe, which obviously only thinks Maori heritage is worth being saved.
It is about the demolition of the former administration building of the Sunnyside Hospital in the suburb of Hillmorton, a wonderful Gothic and French Renaissance style building from the 19th century, unique in New Zealand and Canterbury's last reminder of the colonial health system.
Ngai Tahu bought the property for a development and applied for demolition of the building. First the CCC objected but after a lenghty and complicated process it agreed, and opened the way to the bulldozing. First, the city's reputation as a heritage city is damaged. Second Ngai Tahu have proved to be more of a greedy money-making machine than interested in heritage. I fully agree to the comment in The Press which says: "Its - Ngai Tahu's - actions are out of step with its claims for a special place for its culture in South Island life. There will be less sympathy for the tribe's position now that it is seen as disrespectful of colonial European culture - especially of the European health system from which Maori greatly benefited."
Even more. I do not want to imagine how Maori protests would have been if nowadays anybody would have dared to touch one of their heritage buildings or values. They even block access to "sacred" Maori land that a non-Maori owner plans to sell, and if something does not go the way they want to they are quick with accusations of racism.
I do not want to accuse every Maori of racism the other way round, of course not, as the average Maori is not involved in such processes. And I want to point out that my ancestors did not colonise New Zealand, so I am not biased. But I think it is time to expect of the Maori representatives to at least respect New Zealand's heritage as a whole. It is ignorance, intolerance, disrespect and commerce-driven egoism at its worst. Not the real Maori values.
Case two is about the removal of four concrete pillars with the names of teachers and pupils of a Greymouth school who died in World War I. Those pillars were sitting at the site of the former school for 85 years and had become part of Greymouth's life and history. Unfortunately they were also sitting on Maori land, and the owner - a company called Mawhera Incorporation - wanted to get rid of them because they want to build a supermarket there. This is their right. But instead of contacting the Greymouth mayor or city council Mawhera's chairman Maika Mason (I name him because we should know the names of such hoons) hired a contractor who removed the pillars at 6am on a Sunday morning, and deposed of them on a Mawhera-owned property 30 km south of Greymouth, one pillar badly damaged.
This guy named Mason was not available for several days. When he reappeared he said he would be "happy to negotiate the return of the pillars". Sorry - those pillars are no objects of negotiation. Who does he think he is? To turn insult into injury he said the outcry in Greymouth would be "from people whose grandparents desecrated Maori burial sites all over the country". Sorry again. So you want to say this Maori's right of revenge now in the 21st century and the way to bring the people of different cultures closer together, and nurture co-existence and understanding? It honours the Maori people of Greymouth that most of them were saddened by the event while Maori Party member Pita Sharples simply said that the action was ok. Finally he has shown his true face. Only white people have to be sensitive and politically correct. It honours the Maori majority in Greymouth that they do not think like that.
BTW The pillars are back in town. This Maika Mason is a hero ;-)
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