This remote island country in the South Pacific Ocean has a scant Kiwi population of 4.1 million and is home to the unbeatable All Black Rugby team. New Zealand may be small but the Kiwis lead the world on many human rights issues. In 1840 the Waitangi Treaty was signed giving Maori and the European alike equal rights. It was the first country in the world to give women the vote in 1893 and in 1899 the first country to introduce the 8-hour day.
This youngest country in the world spawns pioneers. It is the scene of possibly the first flight ever made by man – Richard Pearce flew his homemade aircraft 150 yards in early 1903. Legendary Auckland born Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. Lesser known but just as remarkable is the achievement of Ernest Rutherford, known as the father of nuclear physics, who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1905 and more recently 28 year old Eleanor Catton the youngest woman ever to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for her second novel The Luminaries.
New Zealanders credit their innovation and successes to their country’s isolation and their ‘can-do’ attitude to life. The term ‘Number 8 Wire’ is common usage in the New Zealand vernacular. It is Kiwi shorthand for a bloke or a ‘blokess’ who can turn his/her hand to anything. It is believed that with a length of a Number 8 baling wire and some string and they can fix anything.
And if you want to see examples of # 8 Wire ingenuity at its best visit director Sir Peter Jackson and special effects guru Sir Richard Taylor’s home base at Miramar a suburb of Wellington. It would be easy to miss Weta Cave as it is situated in a timber house typical of the area. But inside you will find a museum and workshop. The Weta companies provide the magic of special and digital effects used in a string notable movies – Avatar, King Kong, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. Here you can browse the museum, buy movie memorabilia, take a selfie with a life size Gandalf, enjoy a free documentary showing the Weta team at work, inspect Frodo’s prosthetic feet or take a live workshop tour to watch the Weta talented artists create.
The advent of Peter Jackson and the subsequent growth of the NZ film industry have seen Hollywood directors tracking to this distant city at the edge of the Cook Strait. In 2011 Lonely Planet called Wellington The Coolest Little Capital In The World and voted it the fourth best city in the world. It has more restaurants and cafes per capita than New York, which came in at number one on the Lonely Planet list of top cities. Besides fine dining, a coterie of gourmet producers and coffee roasters it offers the most exciting waterfront al fresco eating on a summer day beside its glittering harbour.
Wellingtonians affectionately call it the Windy City. Wellington is without doubt the windiest place in New Zealand with an average wind speed of 29km per hour at Wellington Airport and recorded gusts up to 248km per hour.
There was talk of putting up a sign, the latest informal title of Wellington – WELLYWOOD – on a hill close to the Wellington airport so the visiting world could bond with the blooming NZ film industry. But New Zealanders are a modest lot who felt that Wellywood was unoriginal and crass. Instead they voted for what is known as the Wellington Blown Away sign. That is white bold letters of WELLINGTON across the hillside with the last few letters looking as if they are about to fly away. Just right I think for the Windy City and innovative Kiwis.