I think I can predict, that those three words will be a safe summary of the next weeks blog entries.
New Zealandâ€™s history is fairly short when it comes to human involvement. Even the indigenous Maori have only been here for about 900 years. Before that it really was a land devoid of man – and large mammals in general to be honest of you. New Zealand is bird country.
As there were no large predators, the birds ruled. Everyone has heard of the Kiwi, a nocturnal flightless bird that has become the national emblem. But have you heard of the Moa? This flightless bird could grow to 3.5 metres in height, about 12-13 feet tall! Unfortunaly, this was pretty much made extinct by the arrival of the Polynesian peoples that became the Maori. It was a large bird, a great food source and was stupidly friendly, ala the Dodo. It seems that the white Europeans are not the only ones that can destroy and ecosystem.
The Maoris also brought possums, and other non native species. The Europeans brought even more ecological damaging things, such as rats, certain flora that has become rampant, and most of all just themselves.
When the English set out to colonize New Zelanand in the mid 19th Century, they wanted to do something different that had been done elsewhere. They wanted instant civilization. Rather than convicts and other undesirables (Australia), religious extremists (North America), Christchurch was the first such settlement that set out to attract the middle and upper middle class. It was to be the new Britain, and very quickly it began to take shape. The majority of the names are all too English. For example, I am in a hotel on Worcester St, in the city of Christchurch, that sits on the river Avon, and lies with the region is called Canterbury. Just outside our hotel is the main square in which sits a wonderful cathedral. This Anglican catherdral is home to the Archbishop of Cantebury, the other one.
New Zealand was the Britain of the south. And it still is. The streets we wandered about could have come from any place in the UK. The coffee bars, the shops, the squares. This place is so different to Australia, which was a blend between the UK and the USA. NZ is purely UK. And possibly more so. You can go punting of the Camb, ahem sorry, the Avon (Really they should have called it the Camb â€“ which is the river through Cambridge and is famous being the English Venice).
This place is all too familiar. It has the things I really miss about the UK, but also some of the things I donâ€™t. Either way, I know for sure it is not going to be as crowded as the UK. In the whole of New Zealand there are only 3.5 million people. In the South Island, where we are spending most of our time, there are less than 1 million people.
Queenstown, one of the most popular places in New Zealand to visit, has a permanent population of only 11,000.
As far as human population goes this place is pretty much empty, and it is glorious for it.