Thursday, December 9, 2010

Background of New Zealand

New Zealand...


Located east of Australia, New Zealand has remained a peaceful country, isolated geographically from the rest of the major countries. New Zealand consists of mainly 2 big islands, North and South. Traditionally, the ingenious people, known as the Maori, named the North Island as Te Ika Maui (the fish of Maui) and the South Island as Te Wai Pounamu (the waters of greenstone) or Te Waka o Aoraki (the canoe of Aoraki). A term which the Maori used to call the present New Zealand is Aotearoa, also means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ due to the shape of the 2 islands combined.

Northern Island = Fish (Maui), Southern Island = Canoe (Aoraki)
This also leads to an interesting fact: New Zealand is the last land mass to be discovered by humans as the Maori only came to inhabit in this place 1000 years ago. Hence, New Zealand is known to be the youngest country in the world.

What is the country known for?

Kiwi bird (national animal icon)

One common national icon that represents New Zealand is the Kiwi Bird. Traditionally, Maori believed that Kiwi is under the protection of the god of forest. Their feathers are considered sacred and used for ceremonial cloaks. Now, the Maori no longer hunt for Kiwi, but see them as their guardians. This icon is so strong that all New Zealanders call themselves “Kiwis”, even the New Zealand dollar is often referred as “the kiwi dollar”. This uncommon bird, Kiwi can also be found in certain parts of New Zealand, mainly the north island.

Beautiful Landscape... where Lord of the Rings takes place

The popular legendary movie, “The Lord of the Rings”, also takes place in New Zealand. Throughout the movie, we can see the stunning and majestic scenery landscape at the background, which is actually taken in New Zealand. For example, the Hobbiton and The Shire were taken at the Waikato Region. (More information, click here:
As the youngest country in the world, New Zealand is able to retain most of its natural landscape, which became one of the major selling points. It’s undisturbed and quiet environment, surrounded with mountains, lakes and forests makes New Zealand a must-go and must-see destination for all nature-based tourists.
Hobbits' home

Mount Doon in Auckland

Mystical rivers and mountains... Perfect for the Lord of the Rings

Culture & Traditions - Maori

Culture & Traditions
Indigenous People - Maori

The first inhabitants migrated from the Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki about 1000 years ago. These voyagers arrived at the shore of the island by canoes and began building a settlement. Over the years, they developed their own distinct culture, the Maori. Their population grew and were eventually divided into different tribes (and sub tribes) across the 2 islands. There are namely 6 tribles: Ngati Kuri, Ngati Wai, Te Rarawa, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and Ngati Koata.

The Maori has a rich and unique culture, which is solely found in New Zealand only. Although there is a slight similarity with the Eastern Polynesian cultures, the original Maori has developed many of their own traditions and lifestyles over the years. Traditional arts include carving, weaving, moko (tattoo), the Kapa Haka (group performace) and many more. Some local communities are still tightly bound to the Maori culture, and with the support of the local government, the distinct culture of Maori still could be experienced across New Zealand.
1.  Oral traditions

Like the other olden traditions, Maori is an oral culture, shared through many rich and interesting stories and legends. One of the creation stories says that “the world is formed by the violent separation of Ranginui, the Sky Father and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, by their children.” This story could be depicted by many Maori carvings and artworks. This oral tradition is a very important aspect for the Maori as many stories, songs, chants, poetry and music are shared during festivals and even the daily life from the old to the young generations.
2. Arts
- Carving
Wood, bone and stone are the 3 main materials that the Maori used for carvings. Traditionally performed by men only, the Maori could carve out many objects from house decorations, containers to jewelleries. Jewelleries are made from bone, or pounamu (green stone), which is a form of jade. With the arrival of Europeans which brought about the introduction of metal tools, carving has become more intricate and detailed which helps to produces many beautiful accessories and tools for decorations.
Fish hook necklance, made of fish bone

Made of pounamu (green stone)

- Ta moko
A traditional marking (carving) or tattoo by the Maori. One differences between Ta moko and modern tattoo is that the skin is carved by uhi (chisels) in Ta moko, while skin is punctured in modern tattooing. This will result in rough skin with grooves. Moko plays an important role traditionally for the Maori as they receive moko between childhood and adulthood. Moko was traditionally done during rites and rituals. It is a symbol of integrity, identity, prestige, one’s ancestry and personal history. Moko also symbolises social rankings, as one without moko was seen of having lower social status. Men usually have moko on their faces, buttocks and thighs. On the other hand, women wore them on their lips and chins.
Traditional method

End results...
- Painting

The Maori does not see painting as an important form of art as it was mainly used as a minor decoration in houses. One of the oldest forms of Maori art are rock paintings. However, the arrival of Europeans has allowed paintings to become more popular as they are interested in art appreciation.
- Weaving

Maori could create numerous things through weaving, from wall panels in houses to clothing. They serve as important gifts to people, and this traditional art could take hundreds of hours to complete. Harakeke (New Zealand flax) was the most widely used material for weaving cloaks. The first cloaks were made for protection from the natural elements (rain, cold winter). Other materials including feathers and even dog skin were used, but mostly for high ranks like the rangatira (chiefs). Fine and high quality weaving is a vital skill that a Maori woman has to learn. A Maori proverb says, 'Aitia te wahine o te pa harakeke', which translate into 'Marry the woman who is always at the flax bush, for she is an expert flax worker and an industrious person'.
Beautiful handmade bags

Maori feathered cloak

- Music

Singing Maori
Songs (waiata) were strongly emphasised as the Maori uses songs to convey stories and feelings. They could be sung solo, in unison or at the octave. Love songs, lullabies and laments are some types of song included. Maori also have many traditional musical instruments, which are used both as a rhythmic accompaniment to singing, or solo. Some of more popular instruments include Koauau, Nguru and Putorino.


- Dance

Another way how the Maori people express their heritage and culture identity is through Kapa haka, or “Maori Performing Arts”. Similar to everyone, I have noticed that the New Zealand Rugby Team, the “All Blacks”, always perform a dance ritual on the field before every game. This ritual is actually called “haka”, refers to a Maori challenge). There are several types of dance styles in haka that is performed for different reasons and occasions.
-          Haka for challenges
-          Waiata-a-ringa (literally means “song of hands or arms”)
-          Poi are women’s dances using swinging balls attached to cords. Traditionally to improve a women’s agility, but now is used to show the gracefulness of women.
-          Whakawatea are used to bid farewell to audiences.
All Black Rugby Team... Getting ready

Female dancers

All Black Rugby Haka Dance... Before matches.

Haka Dances with Traditional Costume
For more details on the different types of haka, click here: (
3. Protocol / Greetings
Traditional protocols could be observed on a marae (Maori meeting grounds). A formal welcome includes a challenge between 2 warriors (1 from the host, 1 from the guests). Women from the hosts will perform chants. Inside a wharenui (meeting house), greetings and speeches are made, with songs on certain occasions. One important greetings is the hongi – ceremonial touching of noses.

Hongi greeting


Over the years, many immigrants come to settle in New Zealand from across the world. Hence, New Zealand has a diverse population; with about 78% is European or others. Although each carries a different culture and history, New Zealanders are proud to call themselves Kiwis (a symbol of New Zealand icon). With the many different ethnic groups, it brought about an introduction to modernised society and culture to New Zealand.
Cuisine from all over the world could be found, such as Chinese, Japanese and American. Modern music such as Rock, Hip hop and Electronica, could be easily found within cities. Sports, such as Rugby, is a popular sport widely played in New Zealand. In addition, due to its vast landscape with mountains and lakes, New Zealand is also famous for its extreme sports and adventure trails.
Group band using western instruments

Language & Mode of Education

New Zealand has 3 official languages: English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. 98% of the people speak English, whereas only about 14% speak Maori. Their English is influenced by Australian English, the British and also the Maori language. In terms of pronunciations, it is most similar to Australian English, with some differences in some vowels. In the New Zealand English vocabulary, you will also come across some terms which are not found in dictionaries. Such as “bach” (a small holiday property along seaside), “haka” and “Boohai”.
Maori, also known as te reo Maori, is the official language of the indigenous population of New Zealand. As it is similar to the Cook Island Maori, Tuamotuan and Tahitian, it is classifies within the Eastern Polynesian languages and is recognised in 1987. 
National Anthem in Maori and translated

To learn more about the Maori language, click here for more info:

Due to the influenced from the Europeans, English has become the first language in school. Thus, fewer and fewer people are able to speak Maori, especially in the more urbanised cities like Auckland. Despite this, Maori is still a community language in some predominantly-Maori settlements, such as in the Northland, Urewera and East Cape areas. There are kindergartens throughout New Zealand that immersed Maori into the daily activities. A large number of Maori also raise their children bilingually.
Most government buildings have bilingual names. Places such as public libraries and government offices. For example, the Department of Internal Affairs with the Maori name: Te Tari Taiwhenua.
The New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is used by the Deaf community in New Zealand. It first came about when deaf immigrants from Britain arrived in New Zealand. Thus, NZSL is similar to the British Sign Language (BSL) with the inclusion of some Maori concepts and names of places in New Zealand. (Such as Rotorua – mudpools and Auckand – Sky Tower). It became an official language in April 2006.
Some basic hand signs... Can you spell your name?
(For a larger image, click on the image itself)


New Zealand uses the 3-tier model for education: primary, secondary (high school) and tertiary education at universities / polytechnics. Children start school when they are 5 years old. Their schools use the year number to identify their education levels. Though there may be overlapping of years between primary and secondary.

Age 5-11: Primary School (Year 1-6)
Age 11-13: Intermediate School (Year 7-8)
Age 13-18: Secondary School (Year 9-13)
Primary and secondary education is free in New Zealand and it is compulsory between ages of 6 and 16.
New Zealand’s education is also ranked 7th best in the world, by the Programme for International Student Assessment. (For more information on the Programme, click here:

Leisure Programmes - What can you do in New Zealand?

New Zealand is known for its vast and beautiful landscape, filled with forests, mountains, lakes and plains. With this, many sports and adventure trails can be found here, along with natural wildlife experiences.
Adventure (land/water)
      Both soft and hard adventures could be experienced here. As one of the countries with the most number of mountains, New Zealand is a perfect place for both land and water activities and sports. Here is the list of some common land activities:
-          Mountaineering and Rock Climbing

-          Trampling and Walking
-          Skiing

Coronet Peak Skilling Resort

-          Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping at Queenstown

-          Golf
-          Aerial Adventures (Sky diving)
-          Horse Trekking
Trekking at South Island
Even trekking on... Water! Does the scenery looks familiar? Seen in the Lord of the Rings.

Popular water activities include:
-          Surfing
-          White water rafting

-          Kayaking
-          Jet Boating

Along river canyons at Queenstown

-          Diving


      Farms can be widely found throughout New Zealand, even on tall hills. Many locals welcome visitors for farmstays, where one gets to experience rearing sheep and cows, while relaxing in a quiet environment surrounded by the peaceful country view. Even many locals living in the urban cities would go into the countryside once in a while to break away from the stressful urban life.

Wildlife experiences

Bridge at Wairarapa
     Camping grounds offers a cheaper alternatives to travel around New Zealand in caravans. Furthermore, one could get a close and authentic feel of the beautiful sceneries that New Zealand has to offer. Ecotours and heritage expenditures allow visitors to tour and experience the natural environment with the help of a guide. Because of its strong conservation laws, New Zealand has one of the world’s most amazing and untouched landscapes which attract many wildlife and nature lovers. You can also get close encounters with wildlife through bird watching, boating with wild dolphins, etc.
Bird watchin 

Boating... with dolphins trailing along

      This vast land also produces some of the world’s famous wine. Hence, Food & Wine Festivals are popular across New Zealand. Some upcoming festivals are:
1. Rhythm and Vines
(Wednesday 29th to Friday 31st December 2010)
-          New Year Celebration with audio visual feast.
-          Held at Gisborne, a great place to catch the sun rise for 2011.
-          Dazzling light shows, fireworks, programme of bands and musicians.
-          Famous R&V water slide, forest stage, circus performers. 
2.  Hawke’s Bay Wine and Food Festivals
(Saturday 29th January 2011)
-          Held at Hawke’s Bay region, famous for its world class wine.
-          More than 40 top wineries and boutique food producers.
-          Workshops offering classes on matching wine to art of cooking seafood.
-          Region surrounding by stunning view of vineyards and mountains.
3. Auckland Seafood Festivals
(Saturday 29th – Monday 31st January 2011)
-          Offer a 3 day gourmet New Zealand seafood festival.
-          Live cooking demonstrations and competitions.
-          Family entertainment with wine and beer available.
-          Held at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.
Food & Wine at Oamaru Otago

Other events include sports & recreation:
Water sports
Challenge Wanaka
(15 January 2011)
-          World’s most scenic iron distance triathlon (226km)
-          Takes place along lakes, Mount Aspiring Park.

Cultural Festivals like:
Te Matatini – National Kapa Haka Festival 2011
-          A regional competition every two years
-          Battle of dance between teams
-          An excellent opportunity to experience the Maori’s way, and the different types of “haka”


"Disneyization" in New Zealand

Disneyization seems to affect New Zealand in a slower pace. Unlike the some countries where disneyization just pops out everywhere, it appears to grow gradually in New Zealand than just an “explosion”.  
-          Theming
There are indeed an increase in the number of themed environments being set up, such as restaurants, hotels and theme parks. Themed attractions are much more captivating and appealing to both the locals and tourists. A theme allows each attraction to have an identity so as to be differentiated from the other attractions, including international competitors. Some examples are the Rainbow’s End Theme Park in Auckland, Adrenaline Forest in Christchurch, Treehouse Restaurant in Auckland. New Zealand has also just opens its first water theme park on November 15 and this will add on to the collection of theme parks New Zealand currently has.

Rainbow's End Theme Park in Auckland
-          Hybrid consumption
Auckland is considered to be the busiest and most concentrated region in New Zealand. It acts as a business hub in the country, and also, a lively city where any kinds of entertainments can be found. Restaurants (Treehouse Restaurant), casinos (Sky City Casino), shopping malls (Sylvia Park Shopping Mall), theme parks (Rainbow’s End) and hotels (Hilton Auckland Hotel), all in one package. With everything available in one area, it is hard to describe Auckland, now that it has become so packed with different attractions to suit the various types of tourists. In the Sky City Hotel alone, one can find restaurants, accommodation, casino, and many other entertainments in just one place.
Sky Tower
Casino at Sky Tower
Hotel... Also at Sky Tower

-          Merchandising
Merchandising of one’s famous icon would help to boost the identity of that particular country. As such, the nation’s icon, the Kiwi bird can be now found printed on t-shirts, key chains, bookmarks, and many more. Even toys made to resemble Kiwi birds are known to be perfect gifts for young children. Fans of the New Zealand’s Rugby Team could also buy their T-shirts embroidered with the Team’s logo and a picture of a Kiwi bird. These Kiwi’s souvenirs can be easily found and purchased from any souvenir shops, theme parks and hotels across the countries, and even online. 

Shirt with Kiwi Icon

Kiwi Toy

"I Love NZ"... National Logo Cushion

-          Performative Labour
Haka Performace Group
Never seen a Haka Dance before? Just head down to Pohutu Cultural Theatre in Rotorua and the locals there will perform what you want to see. Dance, songs, sharing of myths and legends, they will demonstrate to you in a theatre setting by your request. Another performing group, the Pounamu, will be proud to showcase to you their traditions “to meet your needs.” This is certainly convenient for the tourists as they can experience all these sacred arts easily. However, it shows that the traditional dance can now be performed any time regardless of the occasion. These dances will no longer hold any significance as they are performed as and when the tourists request (no longer just during an important festival). It becomes a staged performance, where the dancers and performers are now seen as entertainers on a stage to deliberately showcase their traditions.