On our last day in New Zealand we slept-in after finally getting a decent nights sleep, and then took it easy. Queenstown is a nice city. It’s one of the larger ones in New Zealand, but is more like a large town compared to the big cities of other countries. Due to the size of New Zealand, development is smaller and more spread out so there’s a real sense of being on the frontier. It’s still possible to live comfortably somewhere not too far from a city, but be out in the countryside You get the feeling that things may well change rapidly over the next few decades, much as they have in some European cities. There could be a lot of opportunities in the future for immigrants who want to be there when things start to grow and change. There are also numerous smaller towns for those who want to return to a quieter, slower-paced lifestyle that’s more in tune with the surrounding nature. But for those who like high-tech big city life, this isn’t the country for them – some of the towns can feel quite dead, rather than relaxed.
It’s been interesting travelling though New Zealand over the last three weeks, even though we’ve only really scratched the surface of a vast country. A young country too, where the Maoris were relative newcomers before the colonists showed up not too long ago. The Maoris seem to have been a lot more wise in the ways of the world than their Australian counterparts who got a very raw deal. Instead, the Maoris seem to have done quite well for themselves. Reminiscent of the bizarre archaic laws that you see listed in forwarded emails, some of the legal agreements still in operation seem somewhat nuts.
Take, for example, Lake Taupo. The gist of how things work there is that the Maoris own the land the lake is on. The government owns the water (the surface of the lake equating to the island of Singapore) and the contents, in other words fish. The government rents the storage space from the Maori for the water and fish they own. And that’s got to run to a pretty massive yearly bill. There are also various financial incentives if you’re a Maori when it comes to things like education. The rules for qualifying as a Maori seem comparable to being eligible to play for the Irish football team – you play the grandmother/grandfather rule. Our shuttle2u driver explained how he’s Australian and his wife was adopted by a Maori couple. Although neither of them are Maori, their children are counted as Maori by virtue of their grandparents, even though there’s no blood relationship there. According to him, with inter-breeding, virtually every person born in New Zealand these days has some fraction of Maori in them. I guess before long the obligation to fork over large amounts of cash to some people only, will literally be bred out of the country as everyone claims some Maori heritage in their distant past.
We finish off our time in Queenstown by returning to Sombreros, a Mexican Restaurant serving generous portions of good food. In the typical on-off fashion of New Zealand weather, we’re on a rainy day. This means tomorrow will be dry. It’s been running like clockwork for the last week. Random articles of wet clothing still litter our room. We’ve come to the conclusion that there’s just no way to live neatly out of a rucksack. Within a few hours of getting a new room, items will be piled in heaps on every available surface. It’s not that we’re terribly messy, it’s just that without fail, every time we look for a particular item it’s guaranteed to have buried itself at the bottom of the rucksack. After emptying the contents and repacking several times you give up and leave it all out until it’s time to move on. This is one element of life on the road that I definitely won’t miss when we get home.