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New Zealand

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A monitor lizard basking on a rock.

New Zealand is situated the same distance from Australia as Algeria is from London, so if anybody tells you it's right next to Australia, tell them to check their facts. It is bigger than Connecticut, but smaller than Canada. There are two main islands - the North Island and the South Island. There are also about a zillion other islands dotted around and about. The South Island is slightly bigger than the North Island, so South Islanders often refer to themselves as 'Mainlanders'. Everyone else in the world calls both island inhabitants Kiwis, after the native bird and small fruit1 that grows there.

The largest city in New Zealand is Auckland, which has a population of approximately 1.2 million people, many of whom own Holdens (see below). The capital is Wellington, which is really boring and windy, so don't go there unless you're a big fan of coffee, or public servants. The fourth largest New Zealand city is called Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, Australia2. It has more New Zealanders in it than Hamilton. Lake Taupo, situated in the centre of the North Island is very big, but smaller than Texas, and has fewer guns and more trout. New Zealand offers a wide range of activities, mostly for those with a death-wish, including bungee jumping, river surfing, base-jumping, thermal geyser dodging, volcano spotting and drinking the local beer. All you really need to know when visiting New Zealand though is:

  1. North Island - beaches and wine
  2. South Island - mountains and skiing


Legend has it that many years ago a bloke called Maui went fishing with his brothers, using his grandmother's jawbone as a fish hook3. He caught a big fish and hauled it to the surface. It was a really big fish. Like, really, really big. About as big as the North Island. In fact, according to the myth, it was the North Island. But that's okay, because Maui's Canoe was pretty large as well, as big as the South Island (get the picture?). Maui's brothers, seeing the size of the fish, became jealous and laid into it with their axes, thus conveniently terraforming it into a fairly rugged bit of heavily forested fish (or land, as geologists prefer to call it).

A bit after that, in a huge migration from Hawaiiki, the Maori people arrived in this new land of Aotearoa, The Land of The Long White Cloud. After spending about 1,000 years not inventing the internal combustion engine, nuclear weapons, or Unix, the country was 'discovered' in 1642 by a Dutch bloke called Abel Tasman. It was soon visited by Captain Cook and not long after that colonised (invaded) by Europeans; bringing blankets, muskets, whaling ships, God, syphilis, tuberculosis and guttering systems. Not able to pronounce Aotearoa, the Dutch name of Nieuw Zeeland was soon altered to New Zealand by the mostly British colonists. The Maori, overwhelmed by the newcomers' staggering generosity and wonderful re-naming of their land, occasionally went berko4 and killed some settlers - but to no avail.

By 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi, popularly advertised as New Zealand's founding document, was signed by the Governor of New Zealand (representing Queen Victoria of England) and various Maori leaders. After another thirty years of bloodshed and the odd 'hangi', things began to settle down a little bit and the real business of farming sheep and building towns like Bluff could begin in earnest. Bluff was built. It still exists today, just.

In 1893, New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote and by 1907 became an independent dominion of the British Empire. The Great War came, and with it the battle of Gallipoli, in which heaps of Kiwis and Aussies got dropped on the wrong beach. A battle that should have lasted about twelve hours lasted six months. The Second World War rolled around, and thousands more Kiwis died displaying the refreshing lack of self-preservation that Allied High Command was so enamoured with. The score stands at New Zealand two, Germany nil.

Nuclear warships stopped coming to New Zealand in 1984 with the election of The First Labour Government in a Very Long Time and the signing of the Treaty of Raratonga, which declared the South Pacific a nuclear-free zone. America loved New Zealand slightly less than it did before. The French then blew up a Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland in 1985 and the Kiwis then liked the French slightly less than they had before (but due to the fact that dairy products and beef and lamb are exported to France, there isn't really enough dislike to do anything about it).

The All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 1987, the country had its sesquicentennial in 1990 (150th anniversary), and a bunch of Kiwi sailors defended the America's Cup in 1995 and 2000. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, New Zealand became a popular destination for Dungeon & Dragons and Tolkien fans alike when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed there. Resulting tours and orc-hunts through the hills and mountains have led to a growth in Live Action Roleplay and dwarf and elf sightings.


There's more to New Zealand than strange plants and wildlife, the Maori, unpronounceable place names, a thriving music industry, pie and small birds that start with the letter 'K'5.


Woolen bush shirts and jackets made by Swanndri NZ Ltd. Very waterproof, scratchy, rugged, warm and make you look like a mass murderer when hitch-hiking.


Holden is an Australian car manufacturer, a subsidiary of General Motors. Most Australians either don't know this, or don't care. The classic New Zealand car is a very old grey Holden station wagon, with shot suspension and dodgy brakes. Holdens are popular because they are cheap and have big engines, which may or may not be V8s.

Buzzy Bees

A quintessential piece of Kiwi-ana. It is a small wooden bee that toddlers can drag around on a piece of string. It has wings that rotate (backwards) and it makes a weird clicking sound.

The Edmond's Cook Book

More copies of this book have been sold in New Zealand than any other book (ever). Produced by Edmond's, makers of fine Baking Powder, Cake Mix and Bournville Cocoa, there are hundreds of recipes, many incorporating Edmond's 'Sure to Rise' Baking Powder, Edmond's Cake Mix, and Bournville Cocoa. There is even an entire section dedicated to cooking with Oxo.


A traditional New Zealand dessert supposedly created by a chef in Wellington when some ballerina visited there in 1926. Australians claim to have invented the pavlova, but every Kiwi knows the truth.


  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons corn flour

Beat egg whites until stiff, add cold water and beat again. Add caster sugar gradually while still beating. Slow beater and add vinegar, vanilla and corn flour. Place on greased paper on greased tray and bake at 150°C (300°F) for 45 minutes, then leave to cool in the oven6.

This recipe for 'pav' never works properly, nor does any other. Except maybe this one:

  • NZ $15
  • bicycle carrier bag
  • bicycle

Ride bicycle down to supermarket. Purchase ready-made pavlova with $15 and place in carrier bag. Ride bicycle home, remove pavlova from carrier bag and place in cold oven. When guests arrive, remove from oven and say,

Look at this pav I just made!

1Otherwise known as a Chinese Gooseberry. What the relation between China and New Zealand is fruitwise is anyone's guess.2Apparently Kiwis like to travel away from home.3It seems his grandmother's jaw fell off through overuse - an object lesson in verbosity.4Slang for 'quite angry'.5The kiwi, kea and kakapo to name but a few.6Courtesy of The Edmond's Cookbook (naturally).

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