23 Things I Learned About New Zealand (In No Particular Order).

Post by Steven Dale

This is NOT what you think it is.

These are a few of the more intriguing tidbits I learned about New Zealand while in Wellington to attend the New Zealand Planning Institute’s annual conference. Most of the lessons were learned via heresay, gossip, first-hand observation and rumour, so take them for what they’re worth.

Time hasn’t permitted me to double-check any of the following, so if you wish to debate and contradict my incredibly preliminary and jet-lagged findings, go for it; I’d be pleased to know how much of what was told to me is accurate and how much is nothing more than the subjective ramblings of any numerous individuals.

  • ONE Christchurch is in pretty rough shape and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be paying attention anymore. The tragedy of Christchurch has largely been overshadowed by those recent incidents in Japan. And while the loss of life in Japan was exponentially greater than that in Christchurch, the economic devastation of Christchurch is awesomely severe. Without jobs, utilities and access to the standard amenities of life, the city’s population is shrinking rapidly and some believe the population numbers will never recover.
  • TWO Christchurch, for all intents and purposes has been obliterated. The entire centre city will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Most estimates at the reconstruction cost are floating around $20 billion NZD. The government is treating it as a war zone with the city centre inaccessible to everyone but those with a military escort.
  • THREE The unofficial name of Wellington’s film industry is “Wellywood” and is now one of Wellington’s largest industries. Wellywood is located on land originally reserved for the military just outside Wellington proper.
  • FOUR Monsoon Poon is not the name of an ethnically-themed brothel (although it should be), but is actually one of the more enjoyable thai restaurants you’re likely to ever visit. Just don’t ask to “dong the gong.”
  • FIVE New Zealand wine is far more interesting, varied and unique than that which Australia pumps out by the bagful.
  • SIX New Zealand has a remarkably green reputation largely predicated on its abundant natural features and Lord of the Rings. It is a reputation that is unjustified. New Zealand (and Auckland, in particular) is exceedingly characterized by urban sprawl and is one of – if not the most – car-centric and transit-unfriendly countries in the developed world.
  • SEVEN Auckland City Council has approximately 200 vacant planning positions.
  • EIGHT Restaurant prices in New Zealand are atrociously high. On the surface, this would make logical sense – after all, New Zealand is in the middle of nowhere with whatever attendant shipping costs should go with that. And yet it also has one of the world’s largest agricultural industries for a country of its size. One would think this should cause downward pressures on food prices. Not so. The vast majority of New Zealand agricultural products are sold to the rest of the world.
  • NINE The New Zealand planning industry has virtually no experience with Tax Increment Financing. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate.
  • TEN New Zealand is one of the most heavily indebted country in the developed world. This public debt is causing large problems and is dramatically affecting the country’s ranking and place within the OECD.
  • ELEVEN New Zealand is far away. Like, really, really far away. As in, so far away the closest major land mass to it is Antarctica.
  • TWELVE Like most countries in the world, New Zealand’s largest city is the subject of the rest of the country’s scorn, derision and contempt. Aucklanders, themselves, are often heard to utter the phrase “Listen, it’s not like I’m some Jafa” – Jafa meaning “Just another fuckin’ Aucklander.”
  • THIRTEEN New Zealand ketchup tastes weird. Like with cumin or something.
  • FOURTEEN New Zealanders used to drive on the right side of the road – also known as the right side of the road. But once the local car industry realized that imports from Australia would be more economically efficient, the country switched to driving on the left side of the road – also known as the wrong side of the road.
  • FIFTEEN It is socially acceptable to call a New Zealander a “Kiwi,” it is not offensive – at least I hope so.
  • SIXTEEN Kiwis drink. Hard.
  • SEVENTEEN New Zealanders appear to integrate with and embrace aboriginal culture better than any other country with a history of Colonialism. While problems still exist, the Maori people are in a far superior socio-economic position than any other aboriginal or native group.
  • EIGHTEEN It is physically impossible for a foreigner to pronounce the name of the city Porirua. Go ahead, try it. You’ll fail every time.
  • NINETEEN Pedestrians have no right of way in New Zealand. And in a turn that suggests the country’s planning industry is run by sadists, Wellington appears to have a dramatic lack of crosswalks. Those crosswalks that do exist are bafflingly confusing.
  • TWENTY Kiwis are incredibly accommodating towards foreigners. Never once did I feel like a tourist. It seems that New Zealanders genuinely appreciate the difficulties it’s geographic position causes and make up for it accordingly.
  • TWENTY-ONE Land mammals went extinct in New Zealand centuries ago and the country’s eco-system is no longer built for them. Goats and deer, in particular, have become a major problem. Imported by colonists hundreds of years ago, the goat and deer populations have exploded to the point where they represent a minor environmental catastrophe. Goats and deer are now considered more pest than animal and people are allowed to shoot them at will; such action is considered as much a public service as it is considered gamesmanship.
  • TWENTY-TWO New Zealand money is made out of plastic and is see-through!
  • TWENTY-THREE There’s nothing better than Wellington on a warm summer’s day.

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  1. 2. I think the cost projection is in the billions 6. surprisingly many NZ citys had extensive tram networks , and high PT mode shares to match. Unfortunately the most of the tracks were ripped out and now the CBD of our largest city is now surrounded by motorways on 3 sides and the cost on the fourth. 10. Despite common belief our public debt is not too bad at approx 25% of GDP (for comparison japan's was nearly 200% prior to the quake). Our Net foreign debt is however ~132% of GDP. 12. yip 15. yeah its OK 19. We have zebra crossings and pedestrian phases at signalized intersections. Did u like the Barns Dance on queen street? 21. Possums and rabbits are more of a problem. 22. Its waterproof too :), we mostly use EFTPOS (debit cards) in NZ anyway.
  2. @ Scott, 2. Thanks for the spot. I did mean to write "billions" not "millions." Changed. 6. I was really pretty taken aback by how car-centric the entire country is - Auckland especially. It just wasn't what I expected to see. 19. What are "zebra crossings." Don't know what the Barns Dance is.
  3. Zebra crossings are what is on the front cover of the Abbey Road LP. Zebras can cross the road at them. It is also where cars are supposed to stop for a pedestrian wanting to cross the road. Kiwi drivers do sometimes stop, or at least slow down (or speed up) for pedestrians at them. P.S. I want to get a pet Zebra. I'm going to call him Barcode.
  4. I'm an Aussie who moved to the USA. I would think an obvious solution to the problem of too many goat, deer, and rabbits is to encourage citizens to export the meat cheaply frozen and canned. I cannot find venison (deer meat) in the supermarkets and grocery stores at any price. Sometimes rabbit. Goat meat prices over here are outrageous. Like many others, I eat "exotic" meat because a steady diet of chicken, beef, pork and generic fish gets boring. Turkey and tofu as the alternative meats get broing too. Please! There must be some entrepreneurs who can solve your eco-problem and provide the world (or at least my part of it) with inexpensive goat meat, venison, and rabbit and make a lot of money in the process. Your best bet as an institutional buyer is Walmart. Wal-Mart Corporate Office located at 702 SW 8th St. in Bentonville, AR 72716 USA telephone 1-800-925-6278 If Walmart needs convincing that there is a market for this and that there are shoppers who want to buy inexpensive meats of this type, then just send me an email and I'll be happy to spread the word. I would not buy possum meat myself, opossums are common road kill here. Dogs and cats have evolved to look both ways but possums still play dead and soon are dead. That said, I have never eaten possum meat and should keep an open mind. I have heard of people with recipes for possum. And while you are at it, please send more lamb mutton. The prices here are so high that lobster is cheap by comparison. If any readers run into citizens of Christchurch, please tell them that I read your bite about how they have been forgotten. I have a full plate of things to do (need to find a new home and a new job or start a new business) but as a writer I can still tell people to pray for Christchurch or volunteer to go and help out if they can. Wellywood eh? Any filmmakers down under who take an interest in my writing should know that I write on more topics than SCC. Do a thorough internet search of Toni Roman if you have doubts. Just follow the links. God bless New Zealand! Toni Roman
  5. Wow Toni, you put 2 types of spam in the one comment, and both got past the spam filter. You are a masterful writer indeed.
  6. One thing!.....NZ has a beautiful Aftershave! Try it. Its called..........Mint Sauce!

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