Posts with tag: life
Letters from the Southern Man
Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people.
Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.
After working 15 days without a break I spent last weekend at the Tanjong Jara resort in north eastern Peninsula Malaysia. I needed to catch my breath, to catch up on some sleep and remind myself what it means to be a human again after two weeks in claustrophobic Singapore and chaotic Kuala Lumpur enduring 12 hour plus working days.
Two weeks is about my limit in those bustling mad holes.
As much as I enjoy meeting so many new people both nervous and excited about the possibilities of moving to New Zealand and playing a part in that process, spending time working in these places simply reinforces in my mind who we New Zealanders are as a people and what is important to us.
I needed to get sand between my toes, hear the chirp of birds, the tumble and hiss of waves as they broke and melted into the sand; to enjoy the company of a young monitor lizard testing the air with his blue tongue before scratching through the mats of grass to get his morning meal below; to listen to the rattle of the coconut palm fronds as the sea breeze pushed its way inland from the South China Sea. To sit outside my room at 4am watching the pre-dawn sky light up purple and white with constant flashes of lightning and the inevitable slow rumble of thunder that follows; to smell the damp warm earth after the heavens have opened up and dumped rain in a way that only open happens in the tropics.
To just sit on the beach for ten minutes watching a disconcertingly large black ant struggling with a piece of sticky sweet mango I had dropped at its three pairs of feet, pausing every now and again to wipe his antenna clean.
To watch squirrels sprint up vertical palm trunks and then leap across to branches of neighbouring trees – they clearly know each branch and tree in their territory the way a taxi driver knows the streets and lanes of their city. Always in a hurry. Maybe they are visitors from Singapore.
Enjoying breakfast under a tree with Leaf monkeys (Lutong in Malaysian) sitting high overhead eating their breakfast of new shoots and having to dodge as discarded leaves rain down around my table. Their faces like the Black and White Minstrels of my childhood TV – white circles painted around their dark watery eyes. Their long tails with tufted ends hanging like pendulums.
To spend time 20 metres under water scuba diving at Tengol Island in water so clear and so warm I was diving in nothing but shorts. To be herded away from her nest by a rather large and aggressive Trigger fish (funny how big their teeth suddenly look when you are trying gently to swat her away with your fins while smiling at her bravely). Of spending time with Nemo’s cousins darting in and out of their anemone homes.
I need all this to feel whole. Interviewing for four days on the 33rd floor of a hotel in KL without coming down to earth is something I not only find weird, but disconcerting, unbalancing almost.
New Zealanders, on the whole, are not overly religious. Most of us have thankfully left organised religion behind. We remain however a spiritual people feeling a close connection to the land, the sky and the sea and everything that lives on, over and in them.
Which is why after these long days on the road and explaining in great detail not just how to get visas but what it means to be a New Zealander, I seek out these places where I can enjoy relative humanless peace and quiet and a reconnection with the trees and creatures of the air, the land and the sea. To just slow down, breath, observe and re-take my place as part of nature.
It works most of the time although I find in Asia there are increasingly fewer places you can get away from humanity. Even if you have managed to escape the crowds, their filth follows.
I never fail to feel abject disappointment that the citizens of Malaysia (actually all of Asia because it seems to be the same everywhere I go) have a very strange disregard for their environment. Perhaps they believe so strongly in ‘heaven’ that they feel they treat this Earth like a rubbish dump. I just hope when they get to their heaven it isn’t as covered in industrial waste as their earthly home is.
I managed on one dive last weekend to find a fishing lure stuck to a rock. I am familiar with these tools of the fisherman as I use them myself at home. This one had clearly been used out the back of a boat well within the boundaries of a marine reserve where fishing is banned.
Even out there at Tengol Island which is some 25km from Peninsular Malaysia the beach is liberally sprinkled with plastic water bottles. Polystyrene floats and flotsam regularly come ashore; on the coral reefs the remains of fishing nets continue to catch fish and you are likely to see the odd truck tyre in the strangest of places.
Even here at the Tanjong Jara resort the beach is more than littered with industrial waste, it is covered with the rubbish of the locals and those that use the sea as a dump. Everyone in Malaysia blames ‘foreigners’ but I find that less than convincing. I am sure some of it is carried here on the currents and tides but I strongly suggest most is home produced and thrown away (at least if the language on most of what I picked up is to be believed).
On Saturday afternoon with the late afternoon sun pounding my back I sat surrounded by a dozen or so local young men who were surf casting off the rocks. Fish hook packages were thrown away once their contents were removed. Sticking plaster wrappers flew away from its owner, caught on the late afternoon sea breeze. The final straw for me was a large orange plastic bag that tumbled away from its owner who watched it disappear into a rock pool without blinking. He didn’t go after it. He just watched it blow away before returning to his fishing.
When I got up to head back to the hotel I quietly picked up his plastic bag and put it in my pocket. So easy. And it won’t end up fooling a passing turtle that it is a jellyfish meal and choke it to death.
I find it an interesting proposition that as we New Zealanders have discarded the superstition and dogma of the world’s major faiths we have replaced it with something which to me is far more precious – living this one life in some sort of balance – not living to work but working to live, spending time with our family and friends, being at our children’s Saturday morning sports games and not working in the office and treating our environment as our heaven on earth and not a rubbish dump – hopefully leaving it better for our children than we found it.
We New Zealanders lead the world in many ways. I don’t think we believe that a balanced lifestyle and respect for the planet and each other is one of them, but I think we should.
It defines many of us and that of course is what makes New Zealand such an attractive destination to so many migrants.
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
Anyone remember Skynet?
For those of you out there who have no idea what I am talking about, Skynet was the global computer system in the movie franchise ‘Terminator’ that went rogue, creating a race of robots which it then sent out to destroy mankind.
It was and thankfully still is the stuff of sci-fi fantasy; however life may imitate the cinematic arts sooner than we think.
Technology has moved ahead at such an incredible pace that there is really no gauge as to what we will be able to achieve in ten, twenty or even two year’s time. This is particularly alarming if you consider that in 1937 the first electro-mechanical computer was born (the Z1) which could perform basic multiplication in approximately three seconds; compare that to the Cray Titan, unleashed in 2012 which can perform the same calculation 20,000 trillion times per second.
What we can do now with computers, even the basic ones that we have at home, is nothing short of miraculous, and at the same time the proliferation of technology into almost everything we do is expanding at a similarly alarming rate.
I remember when email was becoming ‘mainstream’ and I would head to university to fire up the computer (which took enough time to boot up to prepare a cup of coffee and two slices of toast) and download, if I was lucky three or four messages. Back then emails were important and it was like receiving posted mail – just electronically – incredible really.
In the modern world emails are still important, but they are slow. People demand much faster and instant responses such as Tweets. Electronic mail has been surpassed by Instant Messaging. People send photos, videos, books and music rather than the written word. Our entire lives are lived virtually through social networking and there really isn’t any way to escape it. Technology is also no longer the domain of the ‘nerd’ or the ‘geek’ or the ‘young’. The elderly are becoming as IT savvy as Gen Y and ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks’ are now actually pseudonyms for ‘cool’ and ‘hip’. We have entire TV series devoted to being a ‘geek’ and the technology that kids carry around in their pockets today has more power and potential than the systems used to send man to the moon. Its enough to give you a headache, but don’t worry there is an ‘app’ that can help with that (seriously there is).
Right about now you might be wondering what any of this has to do with immigration.
A few weeks ago I attended a presentation held by INZ, where the senior managers attempted to unveil the first signs of their new online processing system. It would have been an event similar to something Microsoft would do, had the video presentation worked. Technical issues aside the presentation was revealing in a number of different ways.
Firstly Immigration, like many Government Departments, is slowly starting to realise that technology can replace a lot of their tired, paper based and slow processes. If you can fill it in on paper you can do it online and save a few trees in the process.
Secondly online systems bring cost and efficiency gains, removing bricks and mortar, speeding up lodgement procedures and making the entire process accessible from anywhere on the planet.
Thirdly, these systems have the potential to replace people. Not in the ‘rogue robot’ kind of way but in the way that you don’t need to pay ten people to open envelopes and shuffle papers.
On these points I am all for an investment that brings the immigration process into the 21st century – long overdue in my opinion. They have tried it before and failed, just look at what happens when ten thousand hopeful migrants apply online for 300 Silver Fern Visas. I hope this time they get it right.
But there is a flip-side.
Immigration is not only talking about filing applications online but going a step further and having an ‘eligibility engine’ of sorts that will assess certain applications against pre-defined criteria. If the applicant ticks the right combination of boxes and the ‘engine’ completes a background check against its rules a decision will be made to issue or not issue a visa. All with little or no human interaction.
Other countries have introduced similar systems. Australia, for example, demands that practically everyone secures a visa before visiting, yet you can get one (if you are from certain countries) online and within 24 hours. No paper, no visa label just an email you print (or have on your smartphone) and show at the border.
This removes the ‘visa-free’ status that many countries used to enjoy but allows the Australian Government to monitor and track any and all visitors, all of the time. They also collect a bit of extra revenue doing it.
New Zealand appears to be following suit but, in typical fashion, wants to go one step further (because we can always do it better).
Not quite Skynet and I don’t envisage a rogue army of robotic visa officers being unleashed on the world; but still an interesting concept.
Migrating is a uniquely ‘human’ process and whilst INZ is not indicating that people will be removed from the equation entirely it does look very much like fewer people will be asked to make decisions. Instead a large number of applications will simply be measured against a list of rules.
The minute you take the ‘human’ out of what is a very human process things get complicated. They might become quicker but decision making quality won’t necessarily improve. People are complex and migrants are amongst the most complex people, so having a computer decide on one’s fate is a relatively scary thought.
A number of other advisers who attended the same seminar were overcome with fear and dread that an online system would replace the need for advisers in the future. These people clearly don’t bring a lot of value to their clients with the current process.
If anyone had asked me whether this move to a virtual immigration world worried me, my response would have been – absolutely not. You can make an online system with all the bells and whistles, but you will never be able to replace the knowledge that a good adviser brings to the table and in the flesh.
I don’t anticipate this new system ‘taking over’ in the immediate future and if this Government has any sense they will have learnt from their recent mistakes with Novopay (the $30 million teachers’ payroll system that still doesn’t work) and take this all very slowly. However, as an ICT enthusiast, I shall be watching its development closely and keeping you all updated.
And of course we aren’t immune from the advances of technology here either.
We are currently working on a new online software platform (all very hush hush) that will provide our existing and future clients with an entirely new and interactive way to work with us. We have made a pretty big investment in time and money developing this system, which we hope will enable clients to see more, do more and be involved more with their entire relocation. Ironically finding talent to build this system wasn’t easy, but despite an extensive search in the local market we wound up hiring a highly qualified and skilled ICT professional from the Philippines. Stay tuned for more developments!
For now however I need to respond to 35 emails that have arrived whilst writing this, post my regular ‘Tweets’ and check out what is going on in the world of Facebook…and if I have enough time post a good old fashioned letter to my mum for Mother’s day.
Until next week when the Southern Man returns
That was the question put to viewers on a local TV show that aired the night I flew out of New Zealand last week. I didn’t get to watch the show but I read an online article the following day that suggested 76% of those that voted in their ‘poll’, said it was.
I confess I was very surprised. My experience is my friends are not racist. My clients overwhelmingly tell me that they have never felt racial discrimination either overtly or covertly in the work place, on the street or in any other part of their lives and New Zealand works so hard at maintaining a tolerant, secular, welcoming society that the outcome did not reflect the reality that I experience or my clients tell me they have experienced.
Naturally there are racists everywhere, but we are more known for being welcoming, tolerant and a genuinely friendly people.
Interestingly migrant groups that were asked for their reaction to this finding the next morning (and reported online) all said the same things as me – nope – NZ is not a racist country.
That tallies with the Government’s own findings – since 1998 the Department of Labour has carried out a Longitudinal Survey which seeks to track migrant experiences and outcomes. Fourteen years on, something like 95% of migrants confirm they have never been on the wrong end of anything ‘racist’.
I suspect that those who voted were not migrants. It was one of those – if you think ‘yes’ text 2354 and if you think ‘no’ text 9854 situations - prime time ‘who cares’ kind of programmes.
In the trailers that were airing in the lead up to the show I did notice that when people were stopped in the street (in Auckland) and asked ‘Is NZ a racist country?’ what struck me was that all those who looked like me and had my accent said ‘Yes’ (except one) and everyone who looked and sounded like they weren’t born in New Zealand said ‘No’. One did add, however, ‘It depends where you go in New Zealand.’ That might have been reference to the other end of the country…
I would speculate that those that think we are a racist country are probably not migrants.
Of course (and not having seen the programme I am speculating) those middle class born and bred locals might have been referring to race relations not between migrants and locals but between Pakeha (New Zealanders of European descent and others) and Maori – but I doubt it. There is no doubt that there is among a minority of both groups tension over Treaty of Waitangi settlements (a story for another day but in a nutshell that describes the Crown offering financial and non-financial redress for its acts in the late 1800s in respect of land confiscations and the feeling among some that ‘Maori get special favours’).
And therein of courselie the perils of unscientific TV polls.
I speak openly on racism at my seminars – after all New Zealand is increasingly home to people from (literally) all over the world. With 42% of Aucklanders not born in New Zealand and 20% of New Zealand residents or citizens not born in New Zealand we are increasingly a highly ethnically and culturally diverse country. It is inevitable then that there will be those who feel threatened by migrants but with hand on heart I can say I don’t hear much of it. In fact it is amazing to me that a city like Auckland which has the greatest concentration of migrants can be such a tolerant and friendly place to live without the racial tensions that can arise when the composition of a large population can change so radically over a decade or two.
I live in Mount Eden, an inner city suburb in central Auckland. When we moved into the area twenty years ago the population was young couples, crappy old ‘do up’ houses and the population was largely Pakeha and Polynesian. Over the years the Polynesians have largely moved out and the Chinese have moved in. I now sometimes joke that I live in Shanghai such is the overwhelming dominance of Chinese faces in my street adn local community. The local primary school when my sons were there had children from 41 different nationalities but they are now increasingly North Asian. All of them sound like little Kiwis when they open their mouths and they have values that might be a little different to their migrant parents.
I have often observed that with these new faces in my suburb in serious numbers, my life hasn’t changed one jot in the 20 years (except I now shop at the local ‘Asian’ Supermarket and eat more pork(!), we eat out more often at the plethora of Chinese eateries that have popped up like mushrooms (probably about 50 within ten minutes walk) and I am aware that to be a New Zealander no longer means being a rugby fanatic, being white and middle class. However, I still don’t eat dog. I prefer chickens feet on the chicken and not on my plate, I love a good curry and fried rice is more often on my home cooked menu than mashed potato and I don’t have congee for breakfast. I am not eating with chopsticks at home (except when I make sashimi…). Yet. I have not converted to Islam. I am not a Buddhist. Hinduism doesn’t much interest me. I have not been tempted to try Christianity as some cultural refuge from these migrants.
I am aware though that I live in a wonderfully diverse and exciting city that is all the better for the mixture of races and cultures that we now have.
My experience of New Zealanders is that most do not have a racist bone in their bodies. One on one we do not judge based on race, religion or ethnicity. While we are as quick as the next group to generalise (such as ‘Asians can’t drive’) my experience and that of my clients is that one on one we do not.
I’d be really interested in hearing the views of those who have travelled here, live here and have migrated here.
Have you experienced racism? If so I’d like to know the context of it, whether it is common and your thoughts.
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
I mentioned a week or so ago that autumn was slowly winding its quiet way up the country.
Well it has now arrived in Auckland. It almost feels like someone has flicked a switch.
It is a time of year I love and a change that I enjoy (although I could have done with one more month of the amazing summer we have just had). I start thinking about getting out the jacket and pulling on something warmer in the evening. Five months of shorts and tee shirts are not yet over during the day but at night you have to have thick blood or be an English immigrant (everything is relative) not to need a sweatshirt or jacket.
The humid, muggy nights with overnight temperatures of the mid to high teens have been replaced by temperatures of around 13 degrees here in Auckland. Daytime temperatures continue to be in the 22-24 degree Celcius range and there has still been precious little rain. Autumn really is a special time in New Zealand. In the far south you get the trees turning rich reds and yellows about now before discarding their leaves. This colour explosion slowly moves its way up the country through late March, April and May although I heard today autumn is late down south after their summer that has lingered on longer than usual. We see these autumn colours less vibrantly up here as autumn and winter are relatively short and the temperature cools down slowly through April and May before warming up again by September. And with winter, rain. Although it will inevitably come right now my garden is thirsty and requiring constant watering. The fields and farms outside the city and over most of the North Island continue to be parched and dry.
The days are growing shorter and we have just put back the clocks by an hour – the end of daylight saving draws a curtain on summer around here. The sun is now setting around 6.30pm (on the longest day December 22nd it doesn’t set till just before 9pm – don’t forget we also put the clocks forward for by an hour in summer). I tell myself about this time each year there is only eight weeks till the shortest day and then we are all downhill to spring and summer again!
Although the trees in my garden and the city’s parks aren’t yet losing their leaves they will certainly be thinking about it.
It is a time of year when the fishing is nothing short of spectacular as it tends to be every autumn as the fish look to fatten up before the winter arrives in a few more weeks. Last weekend my wife and I caught our daily legal limit of snapper (a superb eating fish for our overseas readers) in a little over an hour. We actually caught about 36 but as the legal daily catch is only 9 per person (and woe betide if you get caught with more – you can lose your boat and whatever is pulling it as well as being stung by huge fines) so we threw back anything under 35 centimetres (legal minimum size is 27 cm) and stuck to our 18 fish limit. That will keep us in fillets for a few weeks.
At this time of the year the fish practically jump in the boat. We use two hooks and flasher rigs and I cannot tell you how tired we got of hauling up two fish on each line every time the bait was lowered 40 meters to the bottom. We caught our limit too quickly. Seriously, the fishing is that good at this time of year.
However, as the fishing won’t get this easy till next summer and the seas can, at times, get quite rough through winter I am heading north next weekend to have a final crack and fill up the freezer before the fish lose interest and head into deeper waters.
For those living here who don’t have access to a boat you can just as easily perch yourself on one of the wharves in downtown Auckland and try your luck. Plenty a feed of fish are caught down there – people fish in their lunchtimes!
A must do for those of you who have recently moved here or are looking to visit is to head to the Matakana Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. I particularly enjoy it at this time of year- wandering around the stalls with their local produce and ready to eat food on a crisp autumnal morning is great fun and a wonderful way to while away an hour or so. This is a very interesting example of rural regeneration and ‘build it and they will come’. This picturesque little village which is an easy one hour drive north of Auckland was, until about ten years ago, a sleepy little village you drove through on your way to somewhere else. With the Farmers Market, their choice of stall holders (all locally produced foods, wines, olive oils, pastries etc) and its layout which resembles something from Medieval times and village shops it is a destination in itself. The Farmers Market stalls are made of rough sawn timber and chunky native wood and each is covered by fabric in faded red stripe. The gravel underfoot is fine and you expect to hear the sounds of knights on horses jousting in the distance. It doesn’t look like a film set – nothing Disney or tacky about it - it is just well thought out and stylish and the coffee, food and produce are great.
I was sitting outside one of the cafes on the weekend and seven ducks – three white and four brown wandered across the road behind me stopping the traffic before waddling up the footpath stopping to see what titbits of food they could coerce out of the diners. They were very comical and awfully cute.
Matakana has become so popular now with day trippers from Auckland in particular some of the locals are moaning about the traffic jams on Saturday morning and the inconvenience. But this commerce has brought considerable wealth to the area and there is a definite whiff of money about the village and surrounding farms, orchards and lifestyle blocks.
I managed to buy and consume in my hour or so there last Saturday a South Island whitebait fritter (whitebait are the juvenile form of native freshwater fish and are a rare delicacy in this country), consumed a Belgian style custard filled doughnut, had a great coffee and munched my way through a bap filled with rocket and a locally made pork and fennel sausage with caramelised onions (makes me drool just remembering it). And I skipped lunch……
We bought seedling lettuces for the garden, basil and coriander to plant and a 1 litre bottle of local olive oil which is seriously right up there with the best we have ever tasted anywhere in the world (and that includes Italy).
Matakana and the Farmers Market is a place to linger. Once you have eaten your fill and/or bought lunch my advice is then to head off to the Goat Island Marine Reserve. This is about another 15 minutes drive. This was New Zealand’s first Marine Reserve and has been around since I was a small boy. I remember many a summer’s afternoon spent there when I was only 5 or 6 being mesmerised by the fish and marine life while baking under our hot summer sun.
The Marine Reserve gives visitors a sense of what our inshore seas must have been like before humans settled this land. It is breath taking if you take a mask and snorkel. At this time of year the water temperature is still around 22 degrees Celsius so it is quite warm enough to swim in without a wetsuit.
The fish are everywhere and literally even if you stand in the water up to your ankles you are quickly surrounded by them – and some are quite big. Kelp grows in great brown swaying beds. Sea urchins litter the seafloor. Crayfish (lobster) dance on their many feet at your approach and slink backwards into their rock crevices as you pass by. Large crusty old snapper will circle you and smaller schools of fish swirl just out of reach. Truly magical and a wonderful way to introduce your children to the way things were and many of us hope one day they will be again. For those a little less keen to get their head under the water there are glass bottom boat trips and kayaks are available for hire. It is also a popular scuba diving spot.
There is even a camping ground there for those that might wish to pitch a tent and stay the night. In summer it is a real treat – in winter it can be cold (not freezing, just cool).
Within 10 minutes drive of Matakana are a number of vineyards so you can always call into one of these for a wine tasting, to buy a few bottles or just to enjoy the afternoon sun, tapas or dinner before the drive home to Auckland.
I hope you take the time to visit these places. They are well worth it and I was encouraged to see a number of tourists wandering the markets and sampling the wares. I must have heard 25 different languages in the space of an hour.
Add it to your to do list.
To see some more great images of the markets click here>>
Until next week
Iain Macleod - Southern Man
About a year ago I wrote a blog reflecting on national crime statistics for the year ending December 2011. In that year crime was down by around 10% on the previous year. I didn’t think it could improve beyond that especially at a time of relative economic quiet (traditionally with higher unemployment so too crime rates). However, it hasn’t happened – our safe little country just got even safer.
A snapshot of the December 2012 year shows that murder bucked the trend and was up from 39 deaths in 2011 to 42 in 2012 (46 in 2010); assaults were down by 3.4%; sexual assault rose by 1.3%; robbery was down by 10.1%; unlawful entry/ burglary down by 11% (not at my place – see below), Fraud and Deception was unchanged, illicit drugs up 0.3%, public order down 1% and I could go on.
The overall picture is steadily declining crime rates.
How strange it is then that the media still headlines crime on the Six O’clock news bulletins and splashed across the front pages of the daily rags that pass for newspapers in this country.
While these statistics are, I suspect, a true reflection of the rates of crime in this country is this a case of everything being rosy in paradise?
The Police are quick to point out that they are more focussed on crime prevention rather than crime charging and solving. One of their tools is earlier intervention and in particular in cases of domestic violence (which dominates our crime against persons stats) using what are known as Personal Safety Orders which allows the Police, without anyone being charged, to remove a person from a domestic situation whether they usually live at that address or even if they own the property. The individual can be asked to leave for up to 5 days. A cooling down period which appears pretty effective. Assaults are significantly down in the past three years as Safety Orders increase. It appears to be working.
Naturally there are critics and those that would argue that ‘real’ crime isn’t getting better, the Police are simply charging people less. And in that there may be some truth.
Take drug offences. The Police have been focussing heavily on prosecuting drug supply and dealing harshly with that through the Courts. They are less concerned with charging users of say, cannabis/marijuana but giving verbal warnings (not to be confused with a formal warming which is recorded as an offence).
I continue to be astounded at how blasé my own sons and all their friends are about recreational drugs (cannabis only I desperately hope) and underage drinking. Not helped as a parent I might add when these young men and women watch those (inane) reality Police shows which show young New Zealanders being stopped by the police who from time to time find a ‘joint’ and who do not press charges but destroy the offending item by crushing it under their feet.
It raises an interesting point of discussion between my friends and me.
On the one hand we live in a society that increasingly does not view the use of recreational drugs as a crime. The fact is cannabis is freely available and used by many people of different age groups and backgrounds means that it is commonly found in many social situations.
Its use and possession however remains unlawful.
When the Police themselves are not taking a hard line on its use it certainly makes it more difficult for we as parents to ‘police’ its use and make our teenagers understand it is a crime when those tasked with enforcing laws see it as low priority.
Maybe the Police approach is right. If Society accepts the use of (relatively harmless) drugs, the Police are perhaps just reflecting the values of that Society. Maybe it is time for a law change.
Burglary of course remains the most common of crime.
I live in Mount Eden, a suburb of Auckland that lies on the fringe of downtown Auckland. One of Auckland’s oldest it is full of hundred plus year old villas with no off-street garaging for cars, low levels of security, generally no gates to prevent people coming onto our properties and houses that have old wooden sash windows that are not hard to jimmy open. An area of relative wealth meaning good pickings for those that might be so inclined to help themselves. Mount Eden is apparently the burglary capital of New Zealand. My family have had a number of brushes with burglars in our 20 years in the suburb.
Only last Tuesday morning my eldest son was watching TV at 2.15am (as you do it seems when you are a University student) and thought he could hear people talking outside the lounge on our driveway. We don’t have garages for our cars but a driveway that sits beside our house (and TV room). He turned the TV off and went to the front door. Two men ran down the driveway and jumped into a car and sped off. My son waited outside to see if they would come back (having noted the type and colour of the car – too dark for a registration plate) and sure enough about five minutes later these guys cruised past once again. He thought little more of it and went to bed.
At 8.00am my neighbour knocked on the front door to tell me that my son’s car (parked on the road) had been broken into. Given they live in a state of near perpetual poverty (or so they tell us) I assumed they would have left nothing of value in it. However, it turns out my youngest son left his GoPro Video camera that I had given him three days earlier for his 17th birtthday in the glove compartment. It was gone. As was his school bag with his year’s books and notes along with his iTouch. The thieves left his uneaten lunch of sandwiches that had been in his schoolbag (and may have been there some days knowing Tom).
Suffice it to say I was furious. Not only at the thugs that think they have the right to break windows and help themselves but to silly 17 year olds who despite their father’s plea to never leave anything of real value in the car, especially when it is parked on the road, one son did.
We duly reported this to the Police and my eldest son gave them a good description of the vehicle they were driving. They were genuinely interested. They have a good track record in our suburb of finding thieves like these. Goodness knows they get enough practise.
If there is a good side to crime here it is that it tends to be against property rather than people. If someone breaks into your house they aren’t going to hang around just to harm you. Violent crime against people is overwhelmingly domestic violence. That doesn’t excuse it but should reassure anyone thinking of moving here that crime is real but it is low level and generally not personal. If you get bashed, chances are you will know the person who did it. It might not make you feel better if it happens to you but reinforces our streets are generally very safe.
My wife often walks around 4km to the gym, before and after dark, summer and winter, rain or shine. She thinks nothing of it. She carries no protection and is armed only with a cellphone. That is the reality of ‘crime’ in this city and this country.
When I consider that if we murdered people at the same per capita rate as a country like South Africa we would murder around 1000 people a year it brings home just how safe New Zealand is (and how unsafe places like South Africa really are).
It remains pleasing though to see the crime rate continues to fall and a very safe country is becoming even safer.
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
My apologies for the late Letter from New Zealand. I returned home earlier in the week from fourteen days of hectic consulting (dawn till dusk and beyond) in Singapore and Malaysia. Seriously shattered. It has taken a few days to recover.
Not helped by yesterday being the first day of the third cricket test between England and New Zealand at Eden Park. It is the last cricket test of the New Zealand summer.
I often counsel potential clients that the key to quick assimilation into our society is linguistic and cultural compatibility along with skills (or capital).
And cricket is a mighty fine barometer. If you understand this game you will survive. If you love this game you will thrive. If you don't, well, you'll get by.
Cricket is part of our British ancestry. It is in our blood. Given I live about 15 minutes casual walk to the home of all that is great and good about New Zealand sport I wasn’t about to miss the first day. There is nothing like it.
Eden Park is the beating heart of New Zealand sport’s premier games – rugby and cricket. I have spent many a lazy summer afternoon there enjoying a quiet ale with friends and family watching, to my eyes anyway, that finest form of the game of cricket – the five day test.
I have also enjoyed many a booze filled day watching the New Zealand cricket team play the best in the world. In all forms of the game – T20s and one dayers. Light entertainment and fast moving – I consider it a fun day out but it is rather a hit and giggle situation – without the seriousness, commitment and skill of a test match.
Now, as the days grow shorter, summer holds on by a thread and the evenings close in earlier as autumn creeps i up the country the Black Caps – ranked eighth in the world are battling the second ranked team in England.
Travelling with their small but highly vociferous band of supporters known as the Barmy Army (who are seeing what a real summer is all about) the game late on day two has New Zealand with their noses in front.
How to explain a game that takes five days to complete to a new migrant?
I did try describing it once to some Americans but I quickly realised I was wasting my time. Even talking about it as like a five day version of baseball on valium still didn’t work. Their eyes glazed over and I realised that you need to be the son or daughter of the British Empire to ‘get it’. And those Americans just weren’t part of the British Empire for long enough for the game to take root in their psyche.
This game has to be the sternest test of mental and physical strength. A game that swings from advantaging one side to another, that twists and turns under hot summer skies, where a single delivery can make or break a career. Nothing like it.
Of course to others it is as exciting as watching paint dry. But to them I say, Philistine to a man.
Many years ago when my sons were starting out playing cricket (about age 5) a very dear friend of mine from Durban said to me – great game cricket, it teaches them so much more than how to hit or bowl a ball – keep them involved for as long as you can.
And I did.
Over the past twelve years most of my summer Saturdays wee until very recently been spent standing down one end of a cricket pitch acting as one of two on field umpires for my two sons club and school cricket games. You never appreciate the cut and thrust of this game till you have had the chance to stand down one end watching your boys become young men learning their craft, developing their game and adding the lessons of the sports field to their personal development and world view.
As I so often said to my boys and those I also coached down the years – in cricket as in life. Which usually resulted in the rolling of eyes. Now that they are older, and unfortunately no longer playing, they are beginning to understand what I meant. The more you put in, the more you get out of it.
Nothing is tougher than cricket. It is the cruellest of games. And the prince of games. Ask any opening batsman.
But back to Eden Park. Since its redevelopment for the Rugby World Cup of 18 months ago the park as lost a lot of its intimacy for cricket. Something of a concrete jungle of huge towering stands (largely empty even during test matches) there are now in my view far nicer places to watch test cricket. Other cities of New Zealand have their own dedicated cricket venues which usually involve one or two medium sized stands to watch and then grass covered embankments, often framed by ancient Pohutukawa trees.
So while Eden Park has become more functional it has certainly become better for watching rugby than cricket.
Its days as a joint venue, shared with rugby, must surely one day end. Right now, money talks but it is odd given Auckland has over 1.5 million people who enjoy being outdoors thanks to our long balmy summers why we haven’t taken test cricket away from Eden Park to a venue more befitting what might be the last of the truly gentlemen’s games. I know a few years ago Auckand cricket was offered over $20 million to take the game elsewhere. Strangely they declined.
If as a recent arrival to New Zealand you haven’t been to Eden Park, go before this test match is over. Take the children. It’s part of our DNA and even if you don’t understand the game the beer always tastes great sitting in the warm late summer sun.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
It’s been a long, hot, rainless summer for most of New Zealand. It has been fantastic if you like, sun, surf (and fishing), but things are getting pretty dire if you are a crop or dairy farmer.
This time last year we ‘townies’ were moaning of the summer that wasn’t, overcast, humid and plenty of rain. A boom for the farmers reflected later in the year in their incomes.
This year, however, the boot is on the other foot.
Virtually the whole of the North Island has been declared a drought zone which means farmers get access to Government assistance.
Climatologists are talking of this being the worst in seventy years.
Parts of the South Island (the north and east) are also suffering severe soil moisture deficits and many will shortly also be declared drought zones.
Most parts of the North Island have now not received any substantial rain (if any rain at all) for over three months.
Those green rolling hills of the Hobbit movie and post card fame have been replaced by dry, parched, straw coloured fields empty of livestock. Those that rely on rain water to fill water tanks are on short ration (or trucking in expensive water by the tanker load).
Drought is a normal part of life in New Zealand with the last major one being in 2010 and before that 2008 and 2004. What is not so common is to have so much of the country affected so badly.
Given half of what we export comes from farms and forests then any extended period of drought hits our economy where it hurts – in the soil. Perhaps perversely, however, I see that the latest international auction of dairy products saw already high process surge by 10% as international buyers recognise that milk production in New Zealand is going to fall fairly dramatically in many regions. Economists are muttering about a net NZ$1 billion coming off export receipts notwithstanding these higher prices.
This wonderful weather (depending on your occupation) has been caused by a steady procession of large, fat anti cyclones parking themselves over the country for weeks on end acting to block the fronts that bring rain from the south west and the sub tropical lows that come down from the tropics bringing rain with them.
At the same time as we are being parched northern New South Wales and Queensland are being hammered by rain event after rain event as weather systems that would usually drop rain but move on across the Tasman Sea and fall on us, stay put and are pushed south along the New South Wales coast.
This summer cycle is not at all unusual in pattern – Brisbane, for example, gets ample summer rain (far more than cities like Auckland – and comparable with Durban in South Africa for you South African readers) and this is why – but is somewhat unusual in intensity. The north of the North Island of New Zealand usually gets some rain in summer – Auckland averages about 70mm in January and February but that rain usually comes in two or three hours over a few days over the course of those months.
Temperatures have been about normal – mid to high 20s but the humidity has been noticeably lower. Usually at this time of the year humidity levels lie between 70 – 95%. Northerly winds, of which we have received little this year bring the thick moist air and rain down from the tropics blanketing us in muggy air.
So the difference this year has been more than the absence of rain – it has been the significant increase in sunshine as well, drying out the soils.
Although I need to get the sprinkler on the garden every summer to keep everything from drying out, this year I have had to water even more. Up north at my beach house the cracks in the ground are now wide enough to lose a small child down. Okay, not quite, but many are over 3cm wide – you’d definitely lose the car keys.
In January we received around 10% of our normal monthly rainfall in Auckland and about one third of what we would get in February which is usually precious little but at least it keeps the garden ticking over. March has been equally dessert like.
While on things climatological do you know which are the hottest, driest and coldest urban centres in New Zealand?
The answer is all three statistics are held by one place - Cromwell. A small town in Central Otago which began life as a gold mining town and is about an hour and a half’s drive inland from Dunedin towards the bottom of the South Island. This town receives 350mm of rain in a good year, in summer has temperatures in the low to mid 30 degrees, yet in winter averages about 10 degrees. Incredible when you think about it – this is Pinot Noir country, cherries, apricots and other pip fruit, Lord of The Rings looking country. Wonderful really – tussock country where three colours dominate – straw brown of the grasses, grey blue of the schist rock and blue (big towering and wide blue) skies. Long, hot, dry summers dominate this part of the country despite being so far south.
As summer turns to autumn the first touch is being felt at the bottom of the South Island. Daytime temperatures start to slowly fall as the first fingers of winter weather fronts tickle the bottom of the island on their journey eastward.
Autumn then slowly makes its way north over the coming weeks and reaches Auckland in mid to late April. The temperatures will gradually fall a degree or two each month as autumn becomes winter.
And the rain will come for us up north. It always has and always will.
While the farmers will all celebrate the change we ‘townies’ will lament the passing of what has been one of the best summers in many years.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
I wouldn't usually reproduce someone else's blog piece but this week I am going to (and I hope the author doesn't mind). I do so in response to some pretty vicious and defamatory comments posted last week on the Letters from New Zealand blog site. Most posts I took down - anything defamatory will always be removed especially when the person is too cowardly to put their real name and email address to it.
I am however all for adult and respectful discourse so I left most of them up even though they will fail statstical or half intelligent scrutiny. The ones that ran down New Zealand as 'third world', 'a shithole', terrorised by urban gangs, suffering a youth drinking culture (that part at least is true), terrible child abuse statistics, high cost of living, low wages etc I left up. After all I have nothing to fear from such opinions - I am the guy who leads a team of Consultants who stand up at seminars around the world and warn people to be careful in their expectations of this country or any other. To do their homework, establish their employability, visit if they can and make a balanced decision in the full knowledge nowhere is perfect and the migration process comes with no guarantees. I hear myself at every seminar say up front and openly 'I don't live in paradise, I live in New Zealand'.
There will always be contrarian views - some migrants do view New Zealand as heaven and others hell. Most fall somewhere in between.
In the interest then of other perspectives read this from a US based blogger comparing his country with New Zealand and he draws on real, verifiable statistics.
Written by Nonny Mouse from American blog 'Crooks & Liars'.
We Americans like to think, and in fact have been indoctrinated for decades to believe, that we are the greatest country in the world, the best at just about everything. Sadly, that hasn’t been true for quite some time. Words patriots once gave their lives for, like ‘freedom’... and ‘patriots’... have become almost meaningless.
So if you’re curious about who’s taken our crown, you might be surprised. The latest international index of 123 countries released by the Fraser Institute, Canada's leading public policy think-tank, and Germany's Liberales Institut, ranked New Zealand number one for offering the highest level of freedom worldwide, followed by the Netherlands then Hong Kong. Australia, Canada and Ireland tied for fourth spot. The survey measured the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties - freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly - in each country surveyed, as well as indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women's freedoms. Pretty extensive stuff.
The United States tied Denmark for seventh. We didn’t even get bronze.
As for the idea that the United States is the envy of the world when it comes to free markets and business? Wrong again. The U.S. continues to lose ground against other nations in Forbes’ annual look at the Best Countries for Business. The U.S. placed second in 2009, but in 2012 it ranks 12th, trailing fellow G-8 countries Canada (5th), the United Kingdom (10th) and Australia (11th) The world’s biggest economy at $15.1 trillion scores abysmally when it comes to trade freedom and monetary freedom.
So, who did top the list for the Best Countries for Business?
New Zealand. New Zealand can boast a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption.
Okay, so at least MIT is still the best university in the entire world, we’re still first at something...Well, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there are two thousand six hundred eighteen accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States, most of which operate privately or as part of state governments. Only fifty-four of these are in the top 200, very slightly over 2% . So who does top the educational rankings?
That would be New Zealand again, first in the world on the basis of performance in three areas: access to education, quality of education and human capital.
The annual QS World University survey ranks institutions based on scores for academic reputation, employer reputation and how many international students it has, among other things. Up to 20,000 universities from around the world were surveyed to find the top 700 academic institutions from 72 countries, the best universities in the world.
New Zealand has eight universities nationwide, with slightly less than around a half million students. According to the QS World University Rankings, two of New Zealand’s universities – Auckland and Otago – rank in the top 200 of the 700 best universities in the world, and Auckland in the top 100 (83rd and 133rd respectively). That's 25% compared to the United State's 2.06%. All eight universities rank in the top 500, with Auckland University of Technology appearing on the list for the first time this year. That’s a 100% rating.
Even when New Zealand isn’t top of the list, they’re outranking and out-performing the United States on just about any index you want to consider. How about the environment? According to the Yale University and Columbia University 2012 Environmental Performance Index at the World Economic Forum, ranking 132 countries, New Zealand placed 14th in the top 30. The United States trailed at 49th.
We rank top of the list for the most expensive health care system in the world, but dead last overall compared to six other industrialized countries - Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom – when it comes to quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.
There are a few other things the United States tops the charts at: We’re fifth out of the top 25 countries in the world in terms of crime rate. New Zealand is 24th.
Auckland is ranked the third best city out of the top five for quality of living, after Vienna and Zurich, nothing in the United States making the list at all. Even when it’s just the Americas being ranked for quality of living overall (taking New Zealand out of the equation altogether), the top four cities are all in Canada, with Honolulu coming 28th.
Don’t even get me started on the All Blacks.
One of the smallest countries in the world is kicking our ass when it comes to actually living up to the standards we Americans pretend we still have. Isn’t it about time we stopped kidding ourselves, stopped living on past glories that mostly never were, and started actually trying to be at least as good as one of the smallest nations on earth?
So I am not the only one that thinks New Zealand is doing okay.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
I have three parts of New Zealand that regular readers of this blog understand are extremely dear to my heart – Lang’s Beach in Northland, Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf and Queenstown.
Asking me which one is my favourite as a few people have done is a bit like asking which of your children you love the most. The truth of course is you love them all but you love them for different things.
The reality is no three places could be more different in terms of the people who live there, the climates, the vistas.
One thing they all have in common is they are great places to spend a few days.
Last weekend I spent four days in Queenstown and its surrounds with a group of friends who get together every two years for an extravaganza of golf (and drinking, giggling and telling lies). This was my first trip with my now 19 year old son who has joined the group.
Tell me where you know that in three days you could play six golf courses, enjoy temperatures in the mid twenty degrees Celsius for the grand total of NZ$400 (including one of the six that cost $200)?
We played the testing Arrowtown golf course situated in the small town of the same name which has a main street that looks like a movie set. Built when gold was discovered there 160 years ago this is a picture postcard village of renovated old stores and restaurants.
The following morning we headed off to Alexandra which is both the hottest part of New Zealand in summer and the coldest in winter. It is a virtual desert with less than 350mm of rain per annum. It is famous for its pip fruit (the cherries and apricots are superb) and wine.
In the afternoon it was back along past the Clyde Dam to Cromwell – another small town enclosed by ranges of mountains on all sides.
These small town courses were in great nick – a warm breeze took the sting out of the sun which in these parts will burn you inside of ten minutes. Just for the record, these short burn times – in February across New Zealand it is about eight minutes of exposure before you will burn badly has nothing to do with ozone holes – a common myth. It has everything to do with clean air and no dust or pollution to block some of the UV rays.
Saturday morning again dawned fine with whisps of high clouds feathering the mountain peaks.
We were off to the country course of Lake Hawea where for the princely sum of $20 we were again surrounded by a million dollar view. Mountains stretched to the horizon, their peaks at 2500m still covered in snow of the purest white. It is hard to comprehend for those of us who live without snow in our lives that you can be playing golf surrounded by these snow covered mountains yet be in shorts and polo and feeling hot. But that is how it is.
On to the afternoon and my personal highlight – The Wanaka golf course. Wanaka is what Queenstown once was and I hope does not become. Where Queenstown is the raucous child with 42 bars (and my son later told me after a 4.30am finish to his evening, two strip clubs) Wanaka is the middle aged parent with less of the bluster and nightlife a more sedate outlook on life.
The golf course in Wanaka was superb – not too hard and not too easy. Rolling fairways and greens all seemed to have a view up the lake to the Mount Aspiring National Park. New Zealand’s second largest peak at over 4000m was majestic in the extreme.
Again we Aucklanders had trouble reconciling the heat we were playing in down at ‘lake level’ with the fact we were literally surrounded on all sides by ranges of soaring snow covered mountains.
Our nights were filled with bars and eateries, bottles of world class but very affordable local wines and the best local produce that could be squeezed between two hamburger buns!
Our final day was special treat day – Jack’s Point. Voted in the top ten courses in New Zealand it presented a challenge that only experienced golfers should tackle (and preferably not on a hangover as I tried). I almost cannot describe it. Nestled by Lake Whakatipu a howling westerly was blowing off the lake. Again strangely warm but the moisture was all left on the other side of the Southern Alps as the moisture laden breeze was forced up and over the South Island’s lofty greywacke spine. All we were left with was a moisture sapping breeze that required 6 irons to play 80 metres at times.
Google this golf course as I cannot do its beauty justice (and golfing terror in such a wind). Think mountains high enough to pierce the sky, dry rocky hillsides covered in brown tussock hissing when the wind blows, lenticular clouds forming over the mountain peaks as the air is forced up by that coming in behind it and air so clear that you feel you can reach out and touch mountains that are at least 15 kilometres away.
Through this golf course are scattered rock walls created from the local schist, houses built of the same materials sat low in the landscape where millionaires and rock stars stay for a few months of the year escaping when winter bites.
I am a 20 handicap golfer who could do with a few lessons and I found it a real challenge (for the record I scored 104). I had trouble concentrating to be honest. And it wasn’t just the hangover. Every hole was perfectly designed, the views that surrounded them almost surreal. How can any place have such mesmerising presence?
I flew the one and a half hours back to Auckland with sore feet, an aching body and a sore head but as always wondering what I am doing wasting my time living in Auckland.
If there is a God he most surely lives in Central Otago.
Recently I had a client flying in for a whirlwind five days to check out New Zealand. Quite how you can do justice to a landmass of 270,000 square kilometres in five days is a bit of a mystery to me but they were going to give it a good go.
Like most visitors they had heard about the Bay of Islands and wanted to head up there. These are folks of means and I suggested that they hire a private helicopter for their time here so they could see a lot of the country.
I also suggested for a taste of a significantly different New Zealand (culturally and geographically) they visit Queenstown and its surrounds - the virtual desert dry landscape, mountain vistas, vineyards and food.
A night or two in Auckland as well to round it all off.
They took my advice and saw all three. Personally I believe the Bay of islands is over rated – in summer it is sublime but these clients were visiting in September which is spring and the weather up there can be very changeable.
The one place I forgot to mention was Waiheke Island but luckily they found out about it themselves and spent the best 24 hours of their trip there.
There are a few special places in New Zealand that I really love and feel a real connection with. One I have written much about is Lang’s Beach where we are lucky enough to have a beach house. This is situated 160 km north of Auckland where a beach of golden sand rings the Pacific Ocean. Only last weekend I watched as a huge pod of over 200 Common Bottlenose Dolphins fished their way through the shallows. Tail slapping and body slamming the water to herd the fish into ever tighter bunches. Last summer I watched from the deck of our beach house a pod of Orca chasing and catching sting rays. Apparently only in New Zealand do Orca hunt and eat sting rays – you have never seen a sting ray fly as far out of the water as when he has a three tonne Killer Whale on his tail. Several ended up on the beach. Frying pans and fires!
This last weekend I had the pleasure of once again spending a couple of days on Waiheke Island to support my brother-in-law Greg’s Jassy Dean Trust annual garden safari. The Trust raises money for the families of sick children of Waiheke.
My wife and I climbed on board the high speed ferry at 4pm and enjoyed the first glass of Waiheke Island produced Pinot Gris. Pulling away from the wharf in downtown Auckland I could feel the stresses of a hard week being left behind. The wine probably also helped……
Around 40 minutes later we berthed at Mateatea wharf to a different world.
Off to Greg’s house in his recently purchased cabriolet. Soft top down, sun in our eyes, breeze in our hair and all that. His house stands proudly on a hilltop overlooking regenerating native forest with views out to the Pacific Ocean. Tuis wheeled and dived over the tree tops and fat Kereru (native wood pigeon) flew heavily through the early evening air. Skinks (native lizards) scuttled around over fallen logs while bumble bees laboured between blooms of nectar bearing native flowers.
This island is very steep for the most part with rolling hills running down its spine. No one seems to live more than an easy stroll to some secluded cove or wide, sandy bay.
This island feels like a world apart from the bustling, car choked city 40 minutes back up the harbour. It is idyllic. Winding roads and native forest give way to vineyards, groves of olives and sheep farms. The extremely wealthy with their helicopters and super yachts live side by side with New Zealand’s less well off. Waiheke used to be a hangout for hippies – they have either island hopped out to Great Barrier (even further out in the Hauraki Gulf) or they have become middle class aspiring artists, real estate agents or website developers. There is always a holiday feel in the air.
Saturday morning dawned fine and warm – an almost cloudless sky. I instantly regretted what had to have been around three bottles of local Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc the night before. Two rapid action paracetamol under the belt and into the car we climbed (gingerly).
Being the idiot I am I had left my hat at home but plastered my nose and face with sun screen. We are getting to that time of year when the burn time is down to single figure minutes. The temperature was predicted to be a warm 22 degrees with no chance of rain. Waiheke has 25% less rainfall than downtown Auckland and it never seems to rain when I am there. I am told it does but this is what makes it so good for the olives and grapes – cool winters, terrible soil and baking hot summers.
We were off on our Garden Safari.
Whether you are into gardening or not as a migrant you can learn an awful lot about not just this island but our society, the things we have in common, the things we care about, what serious money can buy or for that matter what you don’t need money for.
Some of the gardens were so big they covered several hectares. So big in fact the owners employ full-time gardeners (full-time gardeners are a real rarity here given the cost of labour yet some of these gardens had three full-timers working in them). Some gardens were very small. All were equally loved. Most used native trees and shrubs and plenty displayed wonderful local sculpture and art in many different forms.
Many of the gardens ended in jagged cliffs. Others meandered their way down to the sea. Some disappeared into native forest that surrounded them.
All that walking gave us an appetite so it was off for lunch at Te Motu Vineyard. The wonderful thing about eating out in this country and, nowhere more so than Waiheke, is the local fare and wine. Especially seafood. We are spoiled for it. Plates of raw marinated fish, main courses of fresh caught snapper and shell fish. Early season strawberries and other local fruit and of course (some more!) local wine. It certainly is not cheap but sitting out under the cover of sun sails, a half hour lying in the grass under a huge, clear blue sky surrounded by vineyards while the lunch went down, it was hard not to just smile. Life can be much much worse than a weekend on Waiheke Island I was thinking.
If you are local or hoping soon to be one, mark your diary for about this time next year. Buy yourself some tickets online to the Jassy Dean Trust Garden Safari. Head out on Friday night and stay the weekend. Make sure you get out to some of the local cafes and restaurants, drink the local wine, and you will get to enjoy some of the most stunning gardens, homes and and vistas anywhere in New Zealand – and buy yourself a Lotto ticket while you are at it so if you win it you can join the ‘other half’ and build the house of your dreams.
Actually the truth is this island is still very affordable to us mere mortals as well. There is some small corner for everyone out there. The best parts of the island – the beaches, ocean, forests and views -are all free.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man