A Final Word

BECOMING A KIWI

Pubs

The New Zealand way of life is quite different from the British. Until recently there were no cosy pubs where you could wind down at the end of the day, or enjoy an entertaining evening out. A few smaller pubs have now started to appear but on the whole the pubs are large and noisy, with strange elbow-high tables scattered around the rooms where the men seem to enjoy standing and leaning while drinking their beer. Until roughly 25 years ago, drinking was referred to as ‘the six o’clock swill’. That was because pubs closed at 6.00 p.m., and everyone had to drink their drink quickly and leave.

Restaurants

A new trend that seems to be becoming extremely popular is ‘dining out’. In Wellington alone there are enough restaurants for you to dine out at a different one every day of the year! Wine bars are also very popular with the younger set, and in some you may find live music.

Cinema

It would seem, according to recent figures in the local press, that New Zealanders are the world’s most avid cinema-goers. Cinema complexes which hold two, three or even four screens are springing up all over the main cities.

‘Bring a plate’

It is very common to be invited to an evening gathering of friends and be asked to ‘bring a plate’. This doesn’t mean an empty plate! You are expected to concoct some delicacy and share it with everyone else who will be doing the same thing. When I first came to New Zealand I innocently took along an empty plate, thinking perhaps that the hostess was running short of crockery — I remember the strange looks I got!

Dress

Dress here is rather casual, so aim for the middle of the road look if you are unsure as to how you should dress for an event that doesn’t indicate the requirements. Shirts and trousers for the men, both can be short in the summer. Until you are sure of the expectations, the ladies should dress simply, not over dressy. Don’t wear the crown jewels until you have found your ground.

PLAYING THE GAME

Sport is the life, blood and soul of a great majority of New Zealanders, the national game being rugby. Weekends during the season are taken up with games being played all over the country, and television is completely taken over at weekends with replays, and then replays of the replays!

Parents of young children can be seen huddled against the cold supporting their young prodigy’s efforts on the field. Very young kiwis can even be seen doing the ‘haka’ before their interclub matches begin. They all have aspirations to be another Jonah Lomu. Netball is very popular for girls, as is hockey. In the summer tennis clubs are popping at the seams with likely players, and there will invariably be a waiting list to join.

New Zealand is generously endowed with wonderful golf courses. The green fees vary, but at weekends you can expect to pay around $20 for 18 holes.

Water sports are high on the activity list with sailing being very popular. After winning the America’s Cup in 1995, the continual talk has been of yachting. The harbours and lakes can be seen to be cluttered with a myriad of sailing boats. In fact most families enjoy time on the water during the summer, whether being propelled by wind or motor.

SOME TOPICAL ISSUES IN NEW ZEALAND

There are several topical issues concerning the New Zealand public, and you are likely to find them widely discussed. These are some of them.

Hardcore unemployment

People are becoming quite concerned at the growing number of redundancies, and the fact that so many people in the middle years are unable to find another job. The Government is now trying to encourage children to stay on at school, rather than leave and go ‘on the dole’: even after going to university and graduating, many young people are still unable to find work. There is also concern that there will be a core of people who will never be able to find employment in their lifetime again.

Health and education reforms

The Government has reorganised the health services, within the Ministry of Health, and people are worried when they see wards and hospitals closing down in the smaller areas. The Ministry of Health is leading the process of changes in the health sector and overviews the local and area Health Boards — they are working to make health services and hospitals become commercially viable organisations, rather than just a ‘service’.

Schools have also been organised to run themselves, instead of the Education Department being responsible. School heads have been increasingly turned into administrators and schools are run by boards of trustees, elected from among the parents. The boards hire and fire, and because they have a strict budget to operate must hire to fit their budget; if they are short of money, they may feel obliged to hire less qualified teachers.

Crime

There is concern at the growing number of rapes, attacks of violence, murder and robbery. It is generally felt by the public that the punishment does not fit the crime. Offenders may be sentenced to eight to ten years, but this can be substantially reduced for good conduct. Also, white collar crime has increased, and seemingly ‘stable’ organisations have collapsed overnight when misappropriation of funds has been discovered. The prison population seems to be growing out of control.

Racism

Of concern to a lot of people is the Government’s handling of the Treaty of Waitangi Appeals, and its ‘hand-outs’ to the Maori tribes. People in general feel that the other races in New Zealand are being disadvantaged because of this and instead of New Zealanders being ‘one people’ they are now split into ‘them’ and ‘us’.

Many New Zealanders question the advisability of the Government’s policy which allows large immigration of Asians. Some people are now shouting out against the seemingly ‘over-run’ situation. Asians are becoming prime targets for criminal elements.

A beautiful country

When Captain James Cook came ashore on the east coast in the late 1700s, he named the area the Bay of Plenty, and this it certainly is. Everything grows here aplenty.

Grapefruit, orange and lemon trees are everywhere, dropping their fruit over lawns, road sides and fields. Throughout New Zealand things grow in abundance. In the North Island you will see freesias growing wild at the roadside, arum lilies growing in fields, clematis growing amongst the trees in forest areas. In our garden in Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, we grew outdoor tomatoes; the vines grew as abundantly as weeds, and black and green grapes were everywhere. There were plum trees, peach trees, guava trees, lemon and orange trees, to name but a few.

The commercialism so evident in most countries is still not alarmingly evident here. You will certainly not find the equivalent of Blackpool and the ‘Golden Mile’. New Zealand has no really ‘old’ buildings, as it has only just been weaned in a historical sense. You will find several historic villages, where time seems to have stood still since the arrival of the early settlers; these are really a ‘must’ to view.

You will never grow bored with the scenery which changes continually as you travel. The South Island is very grand with mountains to rival Switzerland. The peace you will feel because of the low population density is very captivating and you will feel very well rested after a holiday here.

Nuclear testing

In June 1995 the French Government announced the resumption of nuclear underground testing at Mururoa Atoll. This is a Pacific Island approximately 1,200km west of New Zealand. The people of New Zealand and other countries around the Pacific are very displeased with the arrogance of the French wanting to pollute our ‘back garden’. The new Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior continues to police the environment of the southern hemisphere.

Gambling is alive and well in New Zealand Many people live in the obscure hope that they will win a large fortune and retire into the lap of luxury. It is now more than a dream. New Zealand has extended the hand of opportunity to many by opening a casino in the South Island in Christchurch. My husband and I visited the casino in May 1995, and were amazed at the sight of people sitting patiently feeding 20c coins into the jaws of voracious slot machines lined up on two floors. Across the road from the casino was a prosperous pawnbroker, with many large diamond rings in his window, and next door a business that hired out appropriate clothes to punters to gain entry into the casino. Obviously the idea that ‘one could lose one’s pants at the races’ could apply to the casino too. Auckland opened its magnificent casino in 1996 and one is planned for the waterfront in Wellington. Black Magic!

The success of the New Zealand team in the Americas Yachting Cup in January 2000 was widely celebrated. Tickertape parades brought all the main New Zealand cities to a complete standstill. With the challenge that returned to Auckland’s shores again in 2002 the land close to the coast and around the viaduct area was promoted by entrepreneurial real estate agents.

HOT OFF THE PRESS

  • The health system is once again being restructured. As in the United Kingdom patients are being denied vital operations due to quotas being imposed upon Health Authorities by government funding.
  • The police are undermanned — computers are being put in offices rather than constables on the beat.
  • Violent crime is on the increase and education standards are dropping.
  • The Maori voice is being heard more, especially in Parliament with New Zealand now having the first Maori Deputy Prime Minister.
  • The legal change of drinking regulations has occurred with the official lowering of the age limit to 18 years.

New plan to curb flood of migrants

The New Zealand Government is constantly looking for ways to slow the flood of new immigrants. This is reflected in the ever changing immigration requirements. It is very important to check with your nearest immigration department for the latest information.

POSTSCRIPT

Once you have discovered what a great place New Zealand is, you will need to give some serious thought to making the big move to live here, or whether you will just come for the holiday of a lifetime.

As far as my family and I are concerned, New Zealand has become our true home. My daughters have both graduated at university, and remember very little about England.

My husband and I are enjoying a type of semi-retirement, playing a little golf and writing books. We hope in the future to include lots of travel in our itinerary. Don’t be a ‘nearly did’. Many people in England, upon hearing of our intentions to settle in New Zealand, said ‘Oh, I nearly did that, but . . .’ I decided there and then that I was never going to be a ‘nearly did’. Life can be exciting if you give it a chance.