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Edition 370 – Land Of The Long White Cloud

My wife and I have recently returned from an 11 night cruise aboard the Celebrity Eclipse around  New Zealand. It was the fifth re-book of a cruise originally scheduled to depart out of Miami in March 2020 that we managed to cancel just prior to the world falling apart.

For 11 days, we sailed around the South Island and the lower and eastern shores of the North Island and wondered at the magnificent scenic beauty of a country that is so close to home, yet so often overlooked on our travel plans. That’s sure to change when you realise that in the time it takes you to fly to Cairns, you can be in New Zealand.

During our travels, here’s some of what we observed, and what the locals told us:

  1. If you think labour shortages are an issue in Australia, we’re much better off than New Zealand. On a tour of the Otago Peninsula out of Dunedin, our bus driver was actually a small holding farmer, roped in to helping out during the cruise season. There’s simply no one else to do the job.
  2. Agriculture is still the largest industry contributing to the New Zealand economy. Tourism runs second, but has been decimated by the pandemic.
  3. One can’t help but wonder if New Zealand’s hard border closure throughout the pandemic has contributed to a long term significant impact on the tourism industry. In one story regaled to us by a South Island local, a trip to a regional area mid last year saw he and his wife be the only guests in a multi room, family owned local motel.
  4. The integration of Māori culture into everyday life is prevalent everywhere. From dual signage on tourist sites, to the emotion of the stories told in the fabulous Te Papa Tongarewa museum in Wellington. New Zealand appears to be a nation where different cultures live harmoniously alongside each other, respectfully.
  5. The devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 is still evident today. The construction that has taken place in the city centre is edgy, including new timber buildings in the CBD. However, the magnificent Christchurch cathedral will not be able to hold services again until 2027.
  6. Further to earthquakes, the New Zealand Government are investing significant sums into the earthquake “proofing” of older buildings. In one case, NZD$15 million has been spent reinforcing the heritage Law Courts building in Dunedin. That’s a considerable budgetary cost in tight economic times.
  7. A number of traders, particularly in Napier on the North Island, proudly expressed their gratitude for visiting a “locally owned family business”. It’s always something I look out for, no matter where I am in the world.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why we’ve ventured to New Zealand so infrequently. The scenery is incredible, some of the best we’ve seen anywhere. The Māori and Pacific cultures are mesmerising, both in the stories they tell and in the traditions they practice. The food and wine is unbelievable. However, it’s the people that we met, who were so incredibly polite, helpful and engaging that left a lasting impression.

This Week’s Tip

“Travel, to different places with different cultures, teaches us so much about ourselves,
including how little we know about the rest of the world.”