First impressions on Aotearoa/NZ

So I’ve been here a month now, kinda a bit settled in. On my first day I got a mobile phone number, bank account and IRD number (like a TFN), and updated facebook and OKcupid as to my new location.

My first impressions of Auckland was that it was like a smaller Sydney in a lot of ways. Firstly, Queen st is the main street, long and straight to a harbour, a lot like George st Sydney, the suburbs sprawl in all directions without a grid or a plan, the patterns of migration and the cosmopolitan make up of the denizens. Even the footpaths in the CBD look like Sydney ones, so I was tempted to look at NZ and Auckland as kinda like another state or city in Oz. I guess this was a natural reaction due to the ease at which I came over, its just like going interstate for an Aussie, except that you need to change your money.

I left Auckland and then my impression changed. my first excursion was to Northland. I wanted to see the remnants of the once expansive Kauri forests, (basically 1% left since European ‘settlement’) and the first thing I noticed was the predominance of Māori placenames, and in Northland, Te Reo was being spoken freely on the streets!

The hills are green and the Pākehā very friendly and warm, so I’ve come to the conclusion that for me it seems that NZ is a mix of Australia, England and a Pacific Island country.

The white New Zealanders, Pākehā are quite friendly, more friendly than English people generally, but a bit more reserved than Aussies, you know that way an Australian will act like they’ve known you forever to someone they’ve just met, which can to non-Australians seem a bit overfamiliar?

Also I think, NZ went through years of a Helen Clarke led Labour government with Alliance and Greens in the parliamentary majority with them at the same time as Australia suffered under the leadership of John Howard. So in NZ there is a stronger awareness of identity politics, and unlike Australia wher Howard made it ok to be racist and selfish, the people here are generally accepting of other cultures, Māori self determination goals and if they are racist or homophobic, tend to keep it to themselves. You won’t see in the papers here the kind of comments that Tasmania’s “the mercury” seems to be comfortable publishing.

I’ve found the Māori I’ve dealt with to be such a warm friendly people, smiles abound, even to a young, dirty, dreadlocked, ripped clothes, smelly kid walking around. I’ve seen some cool things too, like a kid, aout 10 years old, waving around a stick he found at the beach like the traditional Māori club weapon, he was obviosuly practicing something he’s being taught.

The Māori are a proud people. their tribes, Iwi, are organised entities and deal with the government directly. Because of the treaty of Waitangi, and modern political awareness of colonialism and a general acceptance of past wrongs, many advances are being made in the Māori cause. The Maori party is part of the power sharing/minority/coalition government at the moment. An incredible feat if you think of the Australian situation. Many past wins include the proper pronunciation of Maori place names, you here this on the radio and TV, all government services are bi-lingual. it also means you learn Te Reo by osmosis. for example, the ‘people of the land’ is tangata whenua. i know that Whenua is land, so tangata is onviously people. The dole office is called ‘work and income’ or Te Hiranga Tangata, so I’m guessing that hiranga is employment or similar. People greet eachother with Kia Ora, people use the word Whanau, family, instead of the word family. Its normal for a Pakeha to talk about their friends and whanau. Place names tell you about the place. Maunga turns up a lot, it means mountain, as does Wai, water and Moana, ocean. People say Kai for food or tucker, Te Reo is all through New Zealand English. I think its pretty cool, really cool actually. I’d love to learn Te Reo, but that would involve staying in the same place for a period of time 😦

NZ is also less centralised. this is depsite Auckland holding 1 third of NZ’s population, what I mean is that the regional cities seem to be vibrant. In Australia, my general impression is that the capital cities get all the investment and migration and that the regions are dieing. certian exceptions exist, such as Bendigo and ballarat, and rural cities with a university, or Goulburn, but generally it seems that Australian population and investment seems concentrated in the capital cities. Perhaps that is a consequence of being alarge and thinly populated nation.

Here in Hastings/Napier in Hawkes Bay, there is a strong rural economy, I’m working in it, picking apples, but the cities do well for themselves separately from that. There are car yards, department stores, all the trappings of wealth. And it’s not the capital of anything. Same as Hamilton, Rotorua and Taupo. Even Thames in the Coromandel. They all seem to be doing alot better than Australian towns of similar size.

Anyway. another thing I noticed is that the road signs and markings are just like England. Big blue signs for Highways and motorways, speed signs in circles, yellow marks where you cant park, and those little blue circles pointing at the ground telling you which side to drive on! I guess both the UK and NZ get a lot of visitors from drive on the right countries. That’s a noticeable difference being a motorist. at least its all im KM and not Miles though!

Wages and emigration. The minimum wage is lower here, and the dollar weaker. given this it is understandable that a lot of Kiwis choose to go to Australia to earn some money. I’ve heard that there are as many Maori in Australia as in NZ.

Also educated kiwis leave for Oz and the UK in great numbers too, often not to return. This is a shame for the country. I wonder if it is an important issue for the government. It should be. the Census is doing a census of overseas Kiwis called “every Kiwi counts” to assess the skill level and intentions of Kiwis abroad and find what if anything would entice them to return. I guess its a lot like Tassie in that regard, people leave and dont always come back.

perhaps a combination of higher minimum wage and greater opportunities would help redress the problem. Monetary union with Australia would probably disadvantage NZ, being unable to set its own interest rates, a lot of autonomy has been signed away already with the closer economic relations act of the 1980’s, i’m interested to see how NZ deals with the issue of emigration.

At 30 June 2009, an estimated 548,256 New Zealand citizens were present in Australia.

I wonder how many Aussies migrate to NZ. probably just tree and fern loving weirdos like me.

I really like it here, and could see myself living here full time. of course i know very few people here and have a lot of loved ones back in Oz, but the countries being so close, and so long as air travel exists I could see myself living a double life. I want to go back to tassie for summer, do some guiding and hopefully work in the loo crew again, but at the moment it doesn’t feel like Tasmania is where I want to be. A friend suggested I come back for june, and my heart jumped, “too soon! too soon!” however if someone told me that Forestry Tasmania was disbanded, all native forestry ceased pending a land review and that a department of conservation had been created to take over all Parks and forestry land then you couldn’t keep me away. I guess its just the conflict I’m keeping away from and enjoying the absence of here. Sure, there are issues over here being campaigned on, like GE food crops and oild exploration off the coast, but these are more abstract, less direct than watching forest fall in front of your face. and I am not getting involved in these campaigns. I’m just picking apples, sleeping in a tent on an orchard, taking each day as it comes.

So, in summary; love Aotearoa, could see myself being a part time Kiwi, or Pukeko, I love those birds, see them everywhere, they are smart arse little trouble making anarchists of birds, haven’t seen a kiwi, and a part time Taswegian, who sometimes visits friends and whanau in Sydney and Melbourne.

Thats the plan, but we all know what happens when we make plans, …

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