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Bernard Connelly 28th July 1902 - 21st March 1988
This was written during a round the world trip which ended 1969
Impressions of New Zealand, by Bernard Connelly, (Superannuated Employee)
Sailing into Wellington at 7am. On a lovely sunny morning, is an unforgettable experience. Tier upon tier of wooden houses, iron roofed, painted in gay colours - set in the hillside around the bay, and a profusion of flowers, give a welcome only outmatched with the hospitality of the New Zealanders themselves.
City and towns passed on route to our destination New plymouth are apt to give the visitor from Great britain and atmosphere of "Westerners" as seen on films and T.V. Shops with wooden verandah supported by pillars at the edge of pavement emphasise this impression. Flowers overgrowing onto walks make up for some unevenness and cracks.
It´s a shock to find shops closed on Saturdays and Sundays. When a Monday holiday follows, then all the shops close three consecutive days. Only diaries are excluded from this order. Here it is accepted - although there is a "rumble" for Saturday morning opening.
Recent conferences of Retail Trades and Shop Assistants Union, both organisations stated unanimously "they would fight to keep trading days as presently operated".
In the evening, after shops close, even a city can look like a back town village. There is a casualness about New Zealand life they are determined to keep. In Newzealnd, Trade Union membership is compulsory for trade, shop and general workers. Exceptions are - under 18 years of age; owners; and shop managers. (Why the latter is hard to determine). Yet the membership of the union catering for shop workers is not so large as one would expect. Perhaps the "exceptions" are the reason.
An astonishing feature of New Zealand everyday life is the large number of private cars on the road, considering the smallness of the population. Most families have at least one many have two, some three and others four. Few People move around without them. They are used for all sorts of chores, especially shopping. When dad is at work, mother puts family in car and merrily goes on her way. At week-ends all the family go to the beach or get into the garden. Car licences are granted at 15 years, so often Dad's or Mum's car is used to get to school. The status symbol for "teenagers " is the number of surfboards one has on roof of car. It does seem an anomaly that a youngster can drive a car in a busy city, yet if under 21 years found in a public bar can be charged. Luckily the 6 O´clock " swill" has gone into oblivion, with the extension of drinking hours till 10.00pm. Prior to this closing hour of 6pm made many swill down in a short hour from 5pm when they left work, more than they could stand - with disasterous results. Somewhat proudly, New Zealand men regard themselves as beer swillers. Advertisments appear in the local press at times notifying admission to a private or social function Gents 1/2 Gee. Ladies a Plate. This means that the gent takes along a half gallon beer, the lady a plate of cakes, scones or sandwiches.
City buses are one man operated driver/conductor. Still they run at a loss. Probably so many have own car making some services superfluous. My first sight of a city bus caused me to stare. I thought the corporation was running a removals service. Held on front of bus by hooks were four prams. When I got over the shock (coming from such a City of decorum - Edinburgh ), I realised how practical it was, saving embarrassment and confusion to mothers with babies and passengers.
Post Office enterprise is also to be commended. But don't expect mail to be delivered to your home. With most houses having a fair walk to them - all have fitted up at foot of path a box. This comprises space for letters ( which enables a "postie" to deliver without getting off bicycle ). A space for parcels. A roll of tin to put papers into and a box for milk. It says much for the honesty of the citizens that very rarely are coins missing from the bottles put out overnight. This honesty permeates most spheres of domestic life in New Zealand. This is the only country I know where tobacco and cigarettes are on self-service sale the same as other commodities. Speaking of my surprise to a super-market manager, he assured me that the leakage is minimal. This I thoroughly believed.
Telephones like cars are considered a necessity, and just as extensively used. Local calls are free. So whenever a thought comes into the mind affecting someone else - then onto the phone. Even the youngest school children ring each other to see whats "brewing".
Traffic lights at City crossings is a tourist sight. The signal "Pedestrians Cross Now" actually means cross in any direction. When the buzzer goes, the waiting crowd is like a herd of frightened deer. They go right, left, diagonally and criss cross in all directions - but its fun.
Schools in number are adequate. State are free, but many "religeous" are staffed by brothers and are fee paying. They have excellent records and well patronised.
While Great Britain has a reciprocal agreement with the National Health service in New Zealand, it cannot compare with that obtaining in the home country ( as I learned to my cost, on consulting a doctor ). With some pressure from the right quarters it could be considerably improved with little extra cost to the New Zealand tax payers.
Taking all in all the standard of life is good. New Zealand is a great country especially for young people. On the brink of many developements due to natural gas and oil findings, and a steady expanding sheep, cattle and dairy produce industry, opportunity exists for those willing to work. And with an outdoor life in a sunny equable climate, what more could one wish for.
Since writing my first impressions of New Zealand we have moved into May and here it is Autumn. Most trees are green all year round. It is a rare and beautiful sight to see the Autumn tints of oak and elm, as we did in the lovely avenues of Cambridge. This the most English of towns in the North Island has an appeal like to that of our Home Counties. In the Waikato district we saw hot springs and boiling mud pools of Rotorua. If the springs happen to come up in your garden then use is made of it to cook food and wash clothes. At Waikrakei the gothermal steam is harnessed to genrating power.
ANZAC day is a National holiday much observed in it´s original idea. Dawn services of remebrance are held at 6.30am throughout the country. Then before noon City, town and village commeration takes place at the local memorial. Later bands leading representatives of Military and lay organisations, and public walk to the church service.
Travelling in the Bush and forest regions we experienced and were impressed by the fire precautions. In the very dry areas particularly "Fire Risk meters" signs are easily seen. Standing 20ft high on steel props and 6ft broad, made to look like the upper half of a clock. Divided into four tapering sleeves, that of a painted green background has LOW sign; yellow background is MEDIUM; dark yellow is HIGH; and red background is EXTREME. Whatever colour the large hand points to - that is the extent of the danger. Bush and forest fires are so destructive in an economy so dependant on land, that the message cannot be ignored without criminal responsibility.
A " Western" movie atmosphere is often created in approaching a place where the name of the village or town is printed on a piece of wood nailed onto a tree by the wayside. In this connection too, much appreciated are the many "rest areas" for the motorists and other travellers. Well sign posted and often in a vantage point with scenic views. Tables are tree trunks sawn and split, flat sides up. Same for seating with shortened tree trunks support for both seating and tables. Very substancial - almost impervious to the waether, and much used. Never did I see any subject to vandalism.
My home for the Holiday was in the TARANAKI area - this compares with a county. driving one day to a shopping centre my companion stopped to make a call for what I thought was a purchase. While he was speaking to a friend, I couldn´t but notice the stream of man and women, reasonably well dressed most driving up by car and going into the premises with an outdoor sign T A B Office. This puzzled me, and on remarking "New Zealand" must have a very good social security scheme, when so many call at the "Taranaki Assistance Board", my friend replied "You simpleton, thats the Totaliser Agency Board", In other words a betting shop. I felt like a country boy come to town. Still one travels, one learns. I have been in a town on a Public Holiday looking for a shop to get a "Cuppa". The only place open was the TAB Office, and that was very dry.
Previously I have remarked on the teenagers status symbol - surf boards on the car roof. Recently I have noticed a growing one for households, i.e. A private swim pool in the garden. Some have had this built with the house, others as an annexe. When built with the house they are more easily heated and used all year round. All in all a costly symbol - but in a developing standard of living country who is to say what has priority in the matter of status symbol.
Most visitors to New Zealand appreciate the freedom which seems part of life, lived here. One offence they must never commit is to try and bring in plants, trees or anything that could be the cause of foot and mouth desease. In this, custom officials are very strict and rightly so. This country depends almost entirely on the land, cattle, sheep, forestry, farm produce. Should such an epidemic occur, ( unlike other countries with other basic industries ) it could be catastophic. So however much you would like to bring in a sprig of heather - "Don´t".
Age is a big question just now before the elections (1968/69). Not so much the old but the young. Until 21 years one cannot vote nor can they drink in a public bar. It is a regular feature of the courts to impose fines on minors, not for drinking but merely being in licenced premises. Canvassed opinion seems to favour altering the age, but most feel dropping the age three years at one go would be unwise. A gradual lowering of majority age might be the answer. Yet rarely questioned is the granting of license to drive cars at 15 years. Teenagers driving acquire a terific responsibility. Perhaps it is the adults who havn´t reached maturity in judgement allowing this.
Probably we can learn a little from Milk distribution in New Zealand. It is quite efficient and I think less costly. In months I have never seenor heard my milk delivered. tokens in envelopes of one or two dollars value are bought at the shops, not necessarily milk shops, classed as general shops. One token dropped in the number of bottles required, taken down in the evening to the box at the end of the path is all that is required. This box, by the way has a space for post, bread, papers as well. At present Milk Vendors Association are seeking permission to allow evening delivery, start 4pm and 6pm. Summer - instead of at present between midnight and 7am. Vendors, self employed, obtain milk from co-operatives. Runs take up to four hours and most vendors have another job during the day.The secondary job, however is somewhat discouraged, having a PAYE tax of 25% od secondary earnings.
I was surprised to see so few Maoris about Cities and towns. There are some areas in which they congregate forming the majority of the population. They have their PAS (villages) and carved meeting houses. These ornate carvings depict Maori legends. It is considered polite to smile first on meeting a Maori. A large smile in return is the usual answer, to a PAKEHO, (white foreigner to them).
In a country like New Zealand, slightly larger than Great Britain, with a population of some two and a half million of whom only 180,000 are Maori, the question is often asked can Maori culture survive. I was privaliged to be invited to a Maori Culture Group concert. In harmony rhythym, colour and action, it was sheer delight. Like all minority groups, there will always be those whose ambition it is to foster, maintain and promote Maori culture.
On our coming to New Zealand we were met with "MAERE MAI", (Welcome). On leaving we fondly say "HAERE RA", (farewell)!
I cannot conclude these notes without a reference to the South island to which we toured. We visited Christchurch, the "Startford on Avon", Dunedin the "Edinburgh" of the south with place names like Portobello - beautiful TE ANAU where we rested in motel before going to see the glow worm caves. Sailing on Milford Sound amid a veritable Switzerland of mountain with the background of the famous Mitre Peak. The recently opened HAAST Pass which rough road we were warned against, but the majestic beauty through, we travelled more than compensated for the discomfort. Queenstown, much akin to our Fort William, I though captivated us with its charm. A detour gave us a snap of Franz Joseph glacier was worth while. Again a venture through LEWIS Pass, then onto lovely wee port of LYTTELTON and ship accross the COOK straits to NORTH ISLAND and home to NEW PLYMOUTH, TARANAKI. A never-to-be forgotten holiday in lovely New Zealand
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