The first thing that one has to mention about New Zealand is that it really is the end of the earth. Arriving at Auckland airport one cannot escape the impression that to go any further would be to fall off the edge of the map, and within hours one will find oneself desperate to do so, because, in all truthfulness, New Zealand is simply the most god-awful place to which I’ve ever been.
For some reason New Zealand is currently in vogue as a holiday destination, and the attraction of the ‘Welcome to Narnia/Middle Earth’ advertising campaigns I’m sure are part of its success. Beautiful the country may be, but the similarity to those fictional lands lies less with the stunning scenery and more with Lewis and Tolkien’s white supremacism.
I was staying with my cousins in the countryside outside Wellington and sitting around a dinner table one night, wallowing in post-colonial guilt, when particular discussion was given to the massacres in Tasmania where the natives were hunted like animals, to the extent that Tasmania no longer has an indigenous population. “That’s what they should have done here” was one of the Kiwi responses. He was not being ironic.
Terrifyingly this kind of talk was apparent everywhere we went. It seemed that people were unable to refer to Maoris without the addition of some derogatory epithet whilst all views on immigration were firmly in the “flog ‘em and send ‘em home” camp. Some were, of course, worse than others but whilst I was not surprised to hear my cousin talk of how the non-white girls were ostracised at school (she is the sort of person who would have fitted into 1930s Germany very nicely), my aunt, who probably held the least objectionable views, having been brought up in Britain, still admitted that Maori babies “were probably better off dead”.
It seems so incongruous that such a poisonous society lives in such an idyll. At one point we drove through Masterton’s most impoverished suburb, and yet despite the one abandoned car, the place was filled with little wooden houses with half acre gardens basking in the sunshine. Maybe I was just unfortunate that I was stuck where I was, and that maybe things are slightly better in the comparatively cosmopolitan north, but given the fact that the people I was meeting were all members of the educated middle classes (although not educated enough, it seemed, to know that the Punjab was an area of India/Pakistan rather than just a racial slur) gave me little hope.
For a country with such a low population density, one would think that people would be open to immigration, particular for the much needed expansion of the workforce. Yet, apparently, all the immigrants want to do is live off welfare (a topic of particular prevalence in kiwi conversation). Upon the suggestion that the economic boost given by immigration may help New Zealand become more significant as a global player the response was along the lines of “But we are; we have the best rugby team in the world”, quite how that will get them a permanent seat on the UN security council I don’t know, and anyway, is it not the case that their team is composed mainly of “lazy islanders”?
If ever tempted to consider going to visit New Zealand, I would advise you to consider the other 194 more exciting countries to which you could go. Because the essential problem with New Zealand is that it is backwards and boring, an insignificant, cultureless void on the Pacific Rim. For half the price and flight time I would recommend one went somewhere more interesting; Russia, the Middle East, or maybe even the Punjab.