It is almost as though it were the last
place created. Carefully arranged on two main islands it seems that
nature's awesome constructions display themselves solely for the delight
of humans. Here is everything: snow-tipped mountains piercing the clouds,
emerald green pastures dotted with sheep, glacial lakes spilling into
waterfalls, and sunny beaches splashed with blue waters. Small scrubbed
cities nestled into hillsides, a few bustling hustling cities where the
main business gets done, and then miles and miles of peaceful but rugged
natural beauty to calm the mind and quench the soul with serenity
But most of the world thinks of New Zealand as a faraway place where
people drink tea at four and spend the rest of their time tending sheep.
No doubt this is the image deliberately perpetuated by the 3.5 million New
Zealanders who are fully aware of their good life, beautiful land, and
If New Zealanders have a reputation for pride, it is for good reason.
Although they cannot take credit for the beautiful land or benevolent
climate, they can take credit for creating a society where pollution,
poverty, malnutrition, racism, and unemployment are almost non-existent.
This is not to say that life for New Zealanders was always idyllic. There
had been friction between two peoples of such diverse philosophies: the
Maoris and the English.
Well-preserved legends tell of the seven canoes in the Great Migration
that brought the first Maoris in 1350 C.E. to the islands of New Zealand.
They quickly disposed of a small population of simple people known today
as the "moa-hunters"; those they favored they married, the others they
ate. Surviving on the many indigenous birds and planting their own crops,
the Maoris soon expanded into many powerful tribes.
Today most of the prominent Maori families trace their origin to these
early adventurers who worked artistically with hone, stone, and wood,
creating a highly developed culture that survived untouched for about 300
years. Then, in December 1642, the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman
arrived. His visit was brief. A skirmish resulting in the deaths of
several of his men convinced him to return to sea. More than a hundred
years later, in 1770, Captain James Cook carefully charted the coasts of
both islands and the European influx began.
The first Europeans to create settlements
were missionaries bent on saving souls and fishermen bent on hunting
whales. The established Maori population did not take kindly
to all of this and sporadic fighting ensued. The Treaty of Waitangi in
1840 gave Great Britain sovereignty over the islands but guaranteed the
Maoris' right to their lands. English colonization was slow, and
occasional uprisings and disagreements between the European and native
populations did little to encourage peaceful growth of the new nation. But
a gold rush in 1865 brought a swell of immigrants who later settled into
farming pursuits when the gold fever exhausted itself. Production of
mutton and lamb quickly exceeded local needs and the introduction in 1882
of refrigerated ships gave impetus to the production of fresh meat,
stimulating both the intensity of farming and the flow of immigrants.
Light industries based on food and forest products, clothing and light
machinery together with the small population probably account for New
Zealand's lack of pollution problems. Although the sheep out-number the
people by twenty to one, farming only absorbs about 12 percent of the
population. At its worst, the unemployment level is usually less than most
countries. Likely it is a combination of climate and agricultural
efficiency that accounts for the abundance of meats and dairy products and
a year-round selection of fruits and vegetables that places nourishing
foods on every table.
That the easygoing nature of the Polynesian Maoris can exist side by side
with the work-oriented English (or Pakehas as they are called in
New Zealand) is a tribute to both peoples. About 88 percent of the Kiwis
(New Zealanders) are of European descent, with about 9 percent of
Polynesian Maori origin and the rest small groups of mixed descent.
"Kiwi," by the way, does not derive from the fruit by that name, but
rather from the native kiwi bird which is flightless. Although some Maoris
have adapted themselves into the mainstream of New Zealand society and can
be found working in all types of industries and professions, great
inequalities still exist.
A phenomenon called musu is often apparent among the Maoris, as it
is among other South Pacific and even African groups. It is characterized
by a deadpan expression and monosyllabic speech and is said to be caused
by a combination of fear, shame, and perhaps a sense of unjust accusation.
The intervention of a trusted person who speaks the language will usually
calm the afflicted Maori. Regarding all property as communal and seeing no
wrong in "borrowing" something he desires is another Maori cultural trait
that has frequently caused misunderstandings.
But in the fabric that has built the New Zealand nation, the interweaving
of the Maori spirit of nature and the Pakehas' ethic of work and
order over more than 150 years have combined to produce a proud and
pioneering people in a fresh clean land of boundless beauty, in a climate
that is never too hot and never too cold and where no one needs to pray
for rain. Maoris, Europeans, and others have retained their cultural
identities, enriching each other and in the process creating an exemplary