Portal:New Zealand/Selected article/2006

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Weeks in 2006

Week 1

See Pōhutukawa

Week 2

See Cinema of New Zealand

Week 3

George Grey

Sir George Edward Grey KCB (April 14, 1812–September 19, 1898) was a soldier, explorer, Governor of South Australia, twice Governor of New Zealand, Governor of Cape Colony (South Africa), Premier of New Zealand and a writer.

He was the most influential figure during the European settlement of New Zealand during the second half of the 19th century. Governor of New Zealand initially from 1845 to 1853, Grey was again appointed Governor in 1861 following the granting of a degree of self-governance to New Zealand, serving until 1868 before his nomination as Premier in 1877, in which capacity he served until 1879.

Places named in honour of Grey include Greytown in the Wairarapa region of New Zealand, Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the Division of Grey, an Australian Electoral Division in South Australia.

Recently featured: Cinema of New Zealand · Pōhutukawa · Invercargill · Archive

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Week 4

A typical view of The T & G Dome at night.

Napier is an important port city in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. It has a population (2001) of 53,661. Ten kilometres further south lies Hastings, Napier's twin city.

Napier is a popular retirement town and tourist resort, and has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade called Pania Of The Reef. Her statue is regarded in Napier in much the same way that the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen, and bears some similarities to its Scandinavian equivalent.

Recently featured: George Edward Grey · Cinema of New Zealand · Pōhutukawa · Archive

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Week 5

A memorial to the New Zealand Wars at the Auckland War Memorial Museum

The term New Zealand Wars, once called the Māori Wars, or sometimes The Land Wars, refers to a series of conflicts that took place in New Zealand between 1845 and 1872. The wars were fought over disputed land being sold to the settling population, by the various tribes, and so involved both the native Māori, and the new European settlers, known as the Pakeha, who were assisted by thousands of experienced British or Imperial troops. During the conflict, 16 British servicemen were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Recently featured: Napier · George Edward Grey · Cinema of New Zealand · Archive

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Week 6

Cabbage Tree at Piha

The Cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) or ti kouka, is a monocotyledonous tree endemic to New Zealand. It grows up to 15 m tall, at first on a single stem, but dividing into a much-branched crown, each branch forking after producing a flowering stem. The leaves are sword-shaped, 40-90 cm long and 3-7 cm broad at the base, with numerous parallel veins. The flowers are creamy white, each flower small, about 1 cm diameter with six tepals, and produced in a large, dense cluster 50-100 cm long. The fruit is a white berry 5-7 mm diameter.

Because their high carbohydrate content can be made digestible by cooking, they were a valuable food source for at least the first 800 years of the Māori occupation of the country. Radiocarbon dating points to use since about the year 1000. Related trees were probably valuable elsewhere in the South Pacific. Fern root was the only other substantial carbohydrate source.

Recently featured: New Zealand land wars · Napier · George Edward Grey · Archive

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Week 7

Michael Joseph Savage

Michael Joseph Savage (March 23, 1872 – March 27, 1940) was a New Zealand politician and the first Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand.

An excellent speaker, Savage became the most visible politician in the country during the depression, and led Labour to victory in the 1935 election. The first Labour government swiftly proved popular and easily won the 1938 elections with an increased majority. Savage was suffering from cancer at the time, but had delayed seeking treatment to participate in the election campaign. Savage was to die from this cancer in 1940.

A life long bachelor, Savage brought an almost religious fervour to his politics. This, and his death while in office, has made him become something of an iconic figure to the Left. The architect of the welfare state, his picture was reportedly found in many Labour supporters' homes. While younger generations are less aware of him, he is still revered by many older New Zealanders.

Recently featured: Cabbage tree · New Zealand land wars · Napier · Archive

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Week 8

Timaru is a major port city in south Canterbury, New Zealand, located 160 kilometres south of Christchurch and about 200 kilometres north of Dunedin on the eastern Pacific coast of the South Island. The territorial authority district of about 30,000 people in and around the former Timaru City includes a prosperous agricultural hinterland with links to smaller rural communities such as Pleasant Point, Temuka, and Geraldine. The town of Waimate is about 40 kilometres to the south on the road to Oamaru and Dunedin.

Recently featured: Michael Joseph Savage · Cabbage tree · New Zealand land wars · Archive

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Week 9

Vegemite on toast

New Zealand cuisine is characterised by its freshness and diversity. Diversity is owed to its relative youth, in world terms, which brings a willingness to experiment with food. Freshness is owed to its surrounding ocean and fertile lands. Its distinctiveness is more in the way New Zealanders eat - generally preferring to be as relaxed and unaffected as possible.

New Zealand’s cuisine has been described as Pacific Rim, drawing inspiration from Europe, Asia, Polynesia and its indigenous people, the Maori. For dishes that have a distinctly New Zealand style, there’s lamb, pork and cervena (venison), salmon, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters, paua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (both are types of New Zealand shellfish); kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit, tamarillo, feijoa, Hokey Pokey Ice Cream and pavlova, the national dessert.

Recently featured: Timaru · Michael Joseph Savage · Cabbage tree · Archive

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Week 10

Aerial topdressing is the spreading of fertilisers such as superphosphate over farm land. Aerial Topdressing was developed in New Zealand in the 1940s and was rapidly adopted elsewhere in the 1950s. Aerial topdressing is distinct from crop dusting, which is the spraying of insecticides and fungicides from the air.

Much of New Zealand's central North Island farm land, given to returned servicemen after World War I, had proven deficient in trace minerals such as cobalt, copper and selenium, forcing difficult topdressing by hand in rough country, or abandoning the land for forestry and the possibility of using aircraft soon occurred. Spreading Superphosphate by agricultural aircraft was independently suggested by two New Zealanders in 1926, but the first trials didn't occur until the late 1930s. By the end of the 1940s, aerial topdressing was an industry.

Recently featured: New Zealand cuisine · Timaru · Michael Joseph Savage · Archive

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Week 11

Apirana Ngata

The Honourable Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata (3 July 1874 - 14 July 1950) was a prominent New Zealand politician and lawyer. He has often been described as the foremost Māori politician to have ever served in Parliament, and is also known for his work in promoting and protecting Māori culture and language.

After the 1928 elections, Ngata became Minister of Native Affairs. He was ranked third within Cabinet, and occasionally served as acting Deputy Prime Minister. Much of his ministerial work related to land reforms, and the encouragement of Māori land development. Ngata continued to believe in the need to rejuvenate Māori society, and worked strongly towards this goal.

Ngata died in Waiomatatini on 14 July 1950. He is remembered for his great contributions to Māori culture and language. His image appears on New Zealand's $50 note.

Recently featured: History of aerial topdressing in New Zealand · New Zealand cuisine · Timaru · Archive

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Week 12

New Plymouth waterfrontApirana Ngata

New Plymouth is the port and main city in the Taranaki region on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The area where New Plymouth was founded had been the home for several Maori iwi for centuries. The ship William Bryant arrived in 1840 to disembark the first of the European settlers. The newcomers found it easy to purchase land at first, but as the years passed more and more Maori-owned fertile farming land was wanted. Many Maori were not interested in selling and this led to ten years of war in the area - see First Taranaki War and Second Taranaki War.

The city is a service centre for the region's principle economic activities including intensive pastoral activities (mainly dairy farming) as well as oil, gas and petrochemical exploration and production. New Plymouth is also a bustling financial centre as the home of the Taranaki Savings Bank. The population is about 49,000. Notable features are the excellent botanic gardens, a controversial 45 m high artwork called the wind wand designed by Len Lye, and the picturesque views of Mount Taranaki.

Recently featured: Apirana Ngata · History of aerial topdressing in New Zealand · New Zealand cuisine · Archive

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Week 13

A New Zealand Cadet Corps unit on exercise

The New Zealand Cadet Forces (NZCF) is the parent organisation of the three forces New Zealand Cadet Corps, New Zealand Sea Cadet Corps, and New Zealand Air Training Corps. Its members are civilians. Members have no obligation to head into the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF); however, some do choose to join the NZDF.

The NZCF is a disciplined and well structured youth development and leadership-training organisation, that comprises units from Kerikeri to Invercargill, which provide male and female teenagers from 13 – 18 years old, with an opportunity to experience a wide range of outdoor activities and develop leadership qualities. The structured training provides a 3-year programme and promotes teamwork, self-reliance, resourcefulness, perseverance and an ethic of community service. The training is developed by using the processes developed by and for the NZDF, modified to be implemented by civilian cadet force officers and undertaken by young and developing adults.

Recently featured: New Plymouth · Apirana Ngata · History of aerial topdressing in New Zealand · Archive

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Week 14

The hikoi moves down Wellington's Kent Terrace on its way to Parliament.

The New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy is a debate in the politics of New Zealand. It concerns the ownership of the country's foreshore and seabed, with many Maori groups claiming that Maori have a rightful claim to title. These claims are based around historical possession and the Treaty of Waitangi.

The foreshore and seabed controversy was sparked when, on 19 June 2003, New Zealand's Court of Appeal ruled, in the Ngati Apa decision, that Maori were entitled to seek "customary title" over areas of New Zealand's foreshore and seabed in the Maori Land Court. The ruling granted only the right to pursue establishing an interest, which was acknowledged by experts to be unlikely to result in ownership, but the prospect of a successful claim created considerable hostility in many sectors of society.

On 18 November 2004, the Labour/Progressive government passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which gave ownership to the state. Maori can, however, apply for "guardianship" of certain areas. The Act was highly contentious.

Recently featured: New Zealand Cadet Forces · New Plymouth · Apirana Ngata · Archive

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Week 15

Jean Batten's Percival Gull, G-ADPR, preserved at Auckland International Airport

Jean Gardner Batten CBE (September 15, 1909 – November 22, 1982) was a New Zealand aviator, born in Rotorua. Internationally, she was the most well-known New Zealander of the 1930s. In 1934 she flew solo from England to Australia. For this achievement and for subsequent record-breaking flights, she was awarded the Harmon Trophy three times from 1935 through 1937. In 1938, she was the first woman to be awarded the medal of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, aviation's highest honor.

World War II was the end of her flying adventures, and she retired from public life. She became a recluse and died alone in a Majorca, Spain hotel, from dog bite complications.

Because of her looks and perhaps her reclusive tendencies, she became known as the "Greta Garbo of the skies." The Auckland International Airport International Terminal is named after her.

Recently featured: New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy · New Zealand Cadet Forces · New Plymouth · Archive

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Week 16

Mud pool at Tikitere ("Hell's Gate"), Rotorua

Rotorua is a city located on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. It has a population of 53,000 half of which are Māori. The city is located 60 km south of Tauranga, 105 km south-east of Hamilton and 82 km north-east of Taupo.

Rotorua is a spa resort, well-known for the geothermal activity in the area. There are a number of geysers (notably the 20 m Pohutu geyser at Whakarewarewa) and hot mud pools located in the city, which owe their presence to the Rotorua caldera.

Rotorua is home to not only geothermal interests, but botanical gardens and some interesting historic architecture. Known as a spa town and major tourist resort for more than a century, many of the buildings hint at this history. The formal Government Gardens close to the lakeshore at the eastern end of the town are particularly worth of note.

Recently featured: Jean Batten · New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy · New Zealand Cadet Forces · Archive

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Week 17

NZ engineers busy at work on the Al Tannumah Bridge, Basra, Iraq. Circa 2004.

The Military history of New Zealand spans a period of nearly two centuries, during which New Zealand went from fighting under the control of the British Empire to fighting alongside its allies in various theatres.

Besides the wars fought on New Zealand soil, the Flagstaff War and New Zealand land wars, large numbers of New Zealand soldiers fought in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II. Significant numbers of New Zealanders also fought in the Korean War and Vietnam War. New Zealand also participated in, or sent observers to, a number of other 20th century conflicts.

More recently, New Zealand has provided peacekeeping troops to East Timor and Solomon Islands, New Zealand Defence Force personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force (including Special Air Service troops) have been in Afghanistan, and engineers assisted during the Iraq War.

Recently featured: Rotorua · Jean Batten · New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy · Archive

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Week 18

Shortland Street opening sequence title.

Shortland Street is a New Zealand soap opera set in a modern metropolitan hospital in the fictional suburb of Ferndale in Auckland City. It is New Zealand's longest running soap opera, and began screening on 25 May 1992. It is broadcast on TV2, one of TVNZ's free-to-air channels, five evenings a week at 7pm. According to the official website the show has a viewership of 700,000 per night. Shortland Street aired its 3,000th episode on June 23, 2004. It has also been shown in some regions of ITV in the United Kingdom, RTÉ in Ireland, and UK.TV in Australia.

The first episode included the line, "You're not in Guatemala now Dr. Ropata" which has since become one of the most widely recognised lines in New Zealand television.

Many New Zealand actors' careers have been launched by, or included a role on Shortland Street. The most recognisable (to New Zealanders, at least) are probably Temuera Morrison ("Dr. Hone Ropata") and Martin Henderson ("Stuart Neilson").

Recently featured: Military history of New Zealand · Rotorua · Jean Batten · Archive

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Week 19

Sir Brian Gerald Barratt-Boyes, KBE (1924 - March 8, 2006) was a pioneering heart surgeon from New Zealand.

In 1956 he pioneered the development of cardiopulmonary bypass in New Zealand, the first patient being operated on in 1958. While this task must have been made more difficult by New Zealand's relative remoteness and small population, the Greenlane Hospital surgical team quickly achieved an international reputation for innovative excellence. Indeed he suggested that Auckland's isolation conferred an advantage comparable to that enjoyed by the Mayo Clinic in small-town Rochester, Minnesota, making it less likely that day-to-day interruptions would interfere with the real purpose of their work.

In 1962 he introduced the human cadaveric aortic homograft for aortic valve replacement and for many years he worked to perfect valve preparation, emphasizing its inherent physiologic advantages and simplifying its surgical implant technique. He and his team's results became the standard for others to match.

Recently featured: Shortland Street · Military history of New Zealand · Rotorua · Archive

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Week 20

The central business district of Gisborne viewed from Kaiti hill.

The city of Gisborne is located at the north end of Poverty Bay. The white cliff headland of Young Nick's Head at the other end of the bay is visible from the city. This prominence was the first part of New Zealand sighted by the crew of Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour, and was named for the crew member who first saw it. A memorial to Cook stands on the foreshore, marking the point where he first stepped ashore in New Zealand on October 8, 1769.

At the other end of the bay is Kaiti Hill. This hill overlooks the town and magnificent views can be obtained by driving/walking to the summit.

The city maintains a rural charm and is a popular holiday spot. Local industries include agriculture, horticulture, farming and forestry. Wine production is also valuable to the local economy. Gisborne is sometimes known as the City of Rivers as the centre of town is the convergence of three different rivers.

Recently featured: Brian Barratt-Boyes · Shortland Street · Military history of New Zealand · Archive

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Week 21

Māori Moko in 1908.

Tā moko is the cultural practice of tattooing practiced by the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. It was brought by the Māori from their Eastern Polynesian homeland, and the implements and methods employed were similar to those used in other parts of Polynesia.

It is thought that in traditional society many or most high-ranking persons were tattooed, and those who went without tattoos were seen as persons of lower social status, although servants were tattooed with patterns that signalled that they were the slave of a high ranking chief.

The receiving of tattoos constituted an important milestone on a person's journey to maturity and was accompanied by many rites and rituals. The patterns used were highly significant of a person's rank, skills, knowledge, personal life history, tribal affiliations and genealogy. Another reason for the practice in traditional times was to make a person more attractive to the opposite sex.

Recently featured: Gisborne · Brian Barratt-Boyes · Shortland Street · Archive

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Week 22


The Tuataras are two species of reptile found in New Zealand. They are the only surviving members of the Rhynchocephalia, or Sphenodontia/Sphenodontida and have been classified as endangered species since 1895.

Tuataras, like many native New Zealand animals, were threatened by habitat loss, harvesting, and introduced species such as mustelids and rats, and were extinct on the mainland with the remaining populations confined to 32 mammal free offshore islands, until a first mainland release into the heavily fenced and monitored Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in 2005.

They resemble lizards, but are actually equally distantly related to lizards and snakes, which are their closest living relatives. For this reason, they are of great interest in the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes. The tuatara is most likely the most unspecialised living amniote; the brain and mode of locomotion resemble that of amphibians and the heart is more primitive than any other reptile's. The tuatara has a famous third eye on the top of its head (called the parietal eye).

Recently featured: Tā moko · Gisborne · Brian Barratt-Boyes · Archive

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Week 23

Tamati Waka Nene (c. 1785 - 4 August 1871) was a Maori chief in Northland. As a war leader of the Ngapuhi iwi, he took an active role in the Musket Wars or 1818-1820. Eventually, he became the highest ranking chief among his own people and one of the three primary chiefs of the area.

He encouraged many tribes to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. Although he had serious concerns over the workings of the Treaty, he fought with the British against Hone Heke in the Flagstaff War. When Hone Heke and Kawiti were ready for peace, they negotiated terms with Nene, who then told the Government that the war was over. He remained a valued advisor to the Government for the rest of his life.

Tamati Waka Nene died 4 August 1871 and is buried at Russell. The then Governor, George Bowen said Nene did more than any other Maori to promote colonisation and to establish the Queen's authority.

Recently featured: Tuatara · Tā moko · Gisborne · Archive

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Week 24

Part of Oamaru (New Zealand)'s Historic Precinct.

Oamaru is the largest town of North Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. The town lies on State Highway One, 80 kilometres south of Timaru and 120 kilometres north of Dunedin, on the Pacific coast. Its historic status as the second centre in Otago (after Dunedin) is under threat from the growth of Queenstown in Central Otago.

Many public buildings make use of a form of local limestone, quarried especially near Weston, and known as "Oamaru stone". The southern part of Oamaru's main business district is justifiably regarded as one of New Zealand's most impressive streetscapes, due to the many prominent buildings constructed from this material. This and another part of the town close to the harbour have been preserved as historic precincts.

Most of the streets in Oamaru are named after rivers in England, particularly rivers in the northwest and southeast of the country. The main street is Thames Street, and Severn and Tyne Streets are also major roads in the town.

Recently featured: Tamati Waka Nene · Tuatara · Tā moko · Archive

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Week 25

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell, Auckland.

Holy Trinity Cathedral is situated in Parnell, a wealthy residential suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. There has been an Anglican place of worship in the area since the founding of Parnell and Auckland in 1841.

The establishment of New Zealand's dioceses, and Auckland's fast growing population, meant that by the 1880s a larger church in the form of a cathedral was required. The existing church was demolished and in 1886 work started on a nearby site to build a new cathedral church of St Mary. This wooden Gothic church was designed by the prominent New Zealand architect Benjamin Mountfort and completed in 1897. The building served as the Pro-Cathedral and principal Anglican church of Auckland until the late 20th century, by when Auckland required an even larger cathedral.

In 1982 the wooden structure was moved, in its entirety, a short distance across the road to its present site closer to the present cathedral which was commenced in the 1930s. The two buildings, old and new, today form the cathedral complex of "The Holy Trinity".

Recently featured: Oamaru · Tamati Waka Nene · Tuatara · Archive

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Week 26

The Catlins is an area in the southeastern corner of the South Island of New Zealand, lying between Balclutha and Invercargill and straddling the border between the Otago and Southland regions. The area lies along the southern coast of the South Island; the South Island's southernmost point, Slope Point, lies in the southwestern Catlins. The Catlins is a rugged, sparsely populated area, noted for its scenic coastal landscape and its dense temperate rainforest, both of which are home to many endangered species of birds. Its exposed location leads to its frequently wild weather and heavy ocean swells, which are an attraction to big-wave surfers. Ecotourism is now a growing factor in the economy, which otherwise relies heavily on dairy farming and fishing. The region's early whaling and forestry industries have long since died away, along with the coastal shipping that led to several tragic shipwrecks. Only some 1200 people now live in the area, many of them in the settlement of Owaka.

Recently featured: Holy Trinity Cathedral · Oamaru · Tamati Waka Nene · Archive

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Week 27
Jonah Lomu's autobiography

Jonah Tali Lomu (born May 12, 1975) is a New Zealand rugby union footballer of Tongan descent who played 73 times (63 caps as an All Black) after debuting in 1994. Lomu, who is currently attempting a comeback after undergoing a kidney transplant in 2004, is generally regarded as the first superstar of rugby union's professional era.

Lomu's physique was particularly suited for rugby as he is large, fast, and strong - qualities he augments with aggression, skill, and an intimidating presence on the field. At 1.96 metres, Lomu is as tall as most locks, and at 120 kilograms is as heavy as most prop forwards (that is, 6 ft 5 in tall and 265 lb).

Like John Kirwan, his All Blacks predecessor at left wing, Lomu was a phenomenon, and spectators leapt to their feet whenever he touched the ball. At one time Lomu was considered 'rugby union's biggest drawcard', swelling attendances at any match where he appeared.

Recently featured: The Catlins · Holy Trinity Cathedral · Oamaru · Archive

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Week 28

Whitianga is the main settlement of Mercury Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. According to the Census of New Zealand 2001 the population was 3078, a small increase over the 1996 census. The town has undergone considerable growth since 2001 and this is expected to be reflected in the census figures from 2006.

Historically Whitianga was a centre for boat building, kauri milling, flax milling, gold mining and gum digging. For many years, it was a leading timber port, with sailing ships from Norway, Sweden, France, Italy and Great Britain coming to load timber. Over a period of sixty years, it is estimated over 500 million feet of kauri was exported from the Whitianga district. The first kauri gum was exported in 1844. It reached its peak in 1899 when over 11,000 long tons of gum was exported at an average of $120 per ton.

Today Whitianga serves as a small regional centre for the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula / Mercury Bay area and is a focal point for local fishing, farming and tourism industry.

Recently featured: Jonah Lomu · The Catlins · Holy Trinity Cathedral · Archive

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Week 29
Kauri tree Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) at Waipoua Forest (Northland, New Zealand).

Agathis australis (Kauri) is a coniferous tree native to the subtropical northern section of the North Island of New Zealand and is the biggest species of tree in the country, with trunk diameters that rival Sequoias. They attain heights of 40-50 meters and have smooth bark and small oval leaves.

Young plants grow straight upwards and have the form of a narrow cone with branches going out along the length of the trunk. However, as they gain in height, the lowest branches are shed to prevent epiphytes from climbing. By maturity, the top branches form an imposing crown that stand out over all other native trees, dominating the heights of the forest.

Kauri leaves are 3-7 cm long and 1 cm broad, tough and leathery in texture, with no midrib; they are arranged in opposite pairs or whorls of three on the stem. The seed cones are globose, 5-7 cm diameter, and mature 18-20 months after pollination; the seed cones disintegrate at maturity to release winged seeds, which are then dispersed by the wind.

Recently featured: Whitianga · Jonah Lomu · The Catlins · Archive

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Week 30

The Tangiwai disaster was the worst rail accident in New Zealand history. It occurred on December 24, 1953, when the overnight express train between Wellington and Auckland, hauled by a KA class steam locomotive, passed over the Tangiwai railway bridge. The bridge, which had just minutes earlier been weakened by a lahar from Mount Ruapehu, collapsed, sending the train into the Whangaehu River.

Of the 285 people on the train that night, 134 survived and 151 died. Of those that died 20 bodies were never recovered; it is believed they were washed 100 kilometres down the river and out to sea.

The cause of the lahar was the collapse of a natural volcanic ash dam that had blocked the outlet of the crater lake on top of Mount Ruapehu. When it collapsed, the water from the lake mixed with the material from the ash dam and rushed down the mountainside in a flash flood known as a lahar. Until this disaster, the danger posed by lahars from Mount Ruapehu was appreciated by only a few scientists.

Recently featured: Agathis australis · Whitianga · Jonah Lomu · Archive

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Week 31
Sir William Hayward Pickering.

Sir William Hayward Pickering ONZ KBE (December 24, 1910—March 15, 2004) was a New Zealand-American who headed Pasadena, California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for 22 years, retiring in 1976. He was a senior NASA luminary and pioneered the exploration of space.

His group launched Explorer I from Cape Canaveral on 31 January 1958 less than four months after the Russians had launched Sputnik (much to the surprise of the Americans). Explorer III discovered the radiation field round the earth that is now known as the Van Allen radiation belt. Explorer 1 orbited for 10 years and was the forerunner of a number of successful JPL earth and deep-space satellites.

Between 1977 and his death in 2004, Pickering also served as Patron of the New Zealand Spaceflight Association; a non-profit organisation which exists to promote an informed approach to astronautics and related sciences.

Recently featured: Tangiwai disaster · Agathis australis · Whitianga · Archive

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Week 32
Tokoroa Talking Poles: Tree Carving.

Tokoroa is the largest settlement in the South Waikato district and is located 30 kilometres southwest of Rotorua close to the foot of the Mamaku Ranges.

Tokoroa first developed around 1948, as a residential satellite for New Zealand Forest Products Limited's timber, pulp and paper mill at Kinleith, 8km south of Tokoroa. In 1948 the town could boast a population of 1100. By the early 1980's, Tokoroa had a population of 18,000. Since then the downscaling of NZFP's operations at Kinleith and reduction in other industries has resulted in a drop in population, and only 14,175 people resided in Tokoroa as of 2001.

About 35% of the population is Maori, and about another 20% is from the Pacific Islands (mainly the Cook Islands). The remaining 45% of the population is made up of people from dozens of countries around the world. Tokoroa has New Zealand's largest Pacific Island community outside of Auckland and Wellington.

Recently featured: William Hayward Pickering · Tangiwai disaster · Agathis australis · Archive

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Week 33
Poor Knights Giant Weta.

The weta family comprises around 70 insect species endemic to the New Zealand archipelago. They are large by insect standards, some species among the largest and heaviest in the world. Their physical appearance is that of a cross between a cockroach and a cricket with the addition of large legs. Their name (strictly, wētā) comes from the Māori language, but has been incorporated into New Zealand English, so the plural "wetas" may appear.

Weta have survived virtually unchanged since the Mesozoic era, possibly because they had few native predators. In this respect, they can be compared with the tuatara.

In the 19th century farmers believed that weta were responsible for the loss of sheep in high-country South Island pastures. It is now known such behaviour in weta is impossible because they are solitary and never hunt in groups; nonetheless, at the time the government instated a bounty on weta, which nearly wiped out weta in some areas.

Recently featured: Tokoroa · William Hayward Pickering · Tangiwai disaster · Archive

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Week 34

Footrot Flats was a comic strip written by New Zealand cartoonist Murray Ball. It ran from 1975 until 1994 in newspapers around the world, though the unpublished strips continued to be released in book form until 2000. There was also a stage musical, an animated feature film called Footrot Flats: the Dog's Tail Tale, and even a theme park.

The cartoon was based around the life of Wal Footrot's sheep dog, "Dog", on their farm Footrot Flats (hence the title), and the other characters, human and animal, that came into their lives. Dog's thoughts are voiced in thought bubbles, though he is clearly "just a dog" rather than the heavily anthromorphised creatures sometimes found in other comics or animation.

The humour was based around the foibles of the characters, which many, particularly farmers themselves, found easy to recognise around them. There was much "humour in adversity", making fun of the daily struggle that permeates farming life. The depictions of the animals are quite realistic and detailed, with a dose of comic anthropomorphism superimposed without spoiling the farming realism.

Recently featured: Weta · Tokoroa · William Hayward Pickering · Archive

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Week 35
Peter Jackson at the premiere of the The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in Wellington.

Peter Jackson CNZM (born October 31, 1961, Pukerua Bay) is a New Zealand-born filmmaker best-known as the director of the epic and most successful film trilogy of all time The Lord of the Rings, which he, along with his long time partner, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens adapted from the novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. He is also famous for his very successful remake of King Kong.

With his massive successes and innovative film-making, Jackson is now considered to be at the very top on the new generation of motion picture directors. Peter Jackson has even been described as the new Steven Spielberg of the present generation, and the combination of his unmatched commercial successes, along with the critical acclaim he has garnered, have made Jackson one of the most powerful film directors of the present era.

His current project is the film version of Alice Sebold's bestseller, The Lovely Bones, which he will be writing and directing.

Recently featured: Footrot Flats · Weta · Tokoroa · Archive

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Week 36
Town of Kaikoura with Seaward Kaikoura Range in background.

Kaikoura is a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located on State Highway 1 180 km north of Christchurch. According to the 2001 census, the permanent resident population is 2,104, a 5% decrease since the 1996 census.

The name 'Kaikoura' means 'To eat crayfish' ('kai'- to eat, 'koura' - crayfish) and the crayfish industry is a major contributor to the economy of the region. However Kaikoura has now become a popular tourist destination, mainly for whale watching (the Sperm Whale watching is perhaps the best and most developed in the world) and swimming with or near dolphins.

The town has a strikingly beautiful setting, as the Kaikoura mountains, a branch of the Southern Alps come nearly to the sea at this point on the coast. Because of this, there are many walking tracks up and through the mountains. A common one for tourists is the Mt. Fyffe track, which winds up Mt. Fyffe, and gives a panoramic view of the Kaikoura peninsula at the summit.

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Week 37
Glowstick poi.

Poi is a form of juggling with balls on ropes, held in the hands and swung in various circular patterns, similar to club-twirling. It was originally practiced by the Māori people of New Zealand (the word poi means "ball" in Māori). Women used it as an exercise to increase flexibility of the wrists and hands, and men used it to increase strength in the arms and coordination. It developed into a traditional performance art practiced mostly by women. This art in conjunction with others like waiata a ringa, haka and titi torea form the performance art of Kapa haka.

Today, poi extends far beyond the original Māori culture. In juggling circles, a whole subculture has sprung up in some places, surrounding poi spinning as a hobby, exercise, or performance art. Poi dancers can often be found performing alongside jugglers and staff spinners.

As with many subculture sports and pastimes, poi spinners often spend hours mastering their tricks, gaining respect from their peers for managing more impressive stunts.

Recently featured: Kaikoura · Peter Jackson · Footrot Flats · Archive

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Week 38

Rugby union is the unofficial national sport of New Zealand. Rugby, as it is generally referred to by New Zealanders, is an integral part of New Zealand culture. The national team, the All Blacks, are currently the top ranked international team in the world.

The sport has its origins in New Zealand in 1870, and the game now holds close ties with the culture of the country. The national club competitions are the professional Air New Zealand Cup and amateur Heartland Championship, and above them, Super Rugby, in which New Zealand has five franchises. The country hosted the first ever World Cup final in 1987, and have since won the rights to host the 2011 tournament.

The New Zealand Rugby Union is responsible for rugby in the country. The NZRFU was formed in 1892. The NZRFU joined the IRFB in 1949. There are 27 member unions within New Zealand. Every province also has its own union.

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Week 39

New Zealander Allan Wilson (19341991) was a pioneer in the use of molecular approaches to understand evolutionary change and reconstruct phylogenies. He was one of the most controversial figures in post-war biology.

Allan Wilson first came to world attention when he published a paper titled Immunological Time-Scale For Human Evolution in Science magazine in December 1967. Wilson argued that the origins of the human species could be seen through, what he termed, a "molecular clock". This was a way of dating, not from fossils, but from the genetic mutations that had accumulated since they parted from a common ancestor. The molecular clock estimated the length of time from divergence, given a certain rate of change.

In the early 1980s, as his findings for the age of the proto-humans were starting to be more widely accepted, Wilson again dropped a bombshell on traditional anthropological thinking with his best known work on the so-called "Mitochondrial Eve" hypothesis.

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Week 40

Wanganui is located on the South Taranaki Bight, close to the mouth of the Whanganui River. It is 200 kilometres north of Wellington and 75 kilometres northwest of Palmerston North, at the junction of State Highways 3 and 4. The urban area population is 38,900, and the district has 43,300 people.

Much of the city is on the river's northwest bank. The river is crossed by four bridges - Cobham Bridge, City Bridge, Dublin Street Bridge and Aramoho Railway Bridge (rail and pedestrians only). Close to the southeast end of the City Bridge is one of Wanganui's more unusual features, an elevator leading to a monument on the top of Durie Hill.

The Whanganui River catchment is seen as a sacred area to Māori, and the Wanganui region is still seen as a focal point for any resentment over land ownership. In 1995, Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui, known to local Māori as Pakaitore, were occupied for 79 days in a mainly peaceful protest by the Whanganui iwi over land claims.

Recently featured: Allan Wilson · Rugby union in New Zealand · Poi · Archive

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Week 41

Referendums (or referenda) are held only occasionally by the government of New Zealand. Eleven referendums have been held so far (excluding referendums on alcohol licensing, which were held triennially until 1989).

The government may call referendums on any issues on which it wishes. These will usually be on issues on which the government is split. For the 1997 referendum on retirement savings, the decision to hold it was part of the coalition agreement between National and New Zealand First.

The Citizens' Initiated Referenda Act 1993 allows for citizens to propose a referendum. These are non-binding referenda on any issue in which proponents have submitted a petition to Parliament signed by 10% of all registered electors within 12 months. It costs NZ$500 to file a petition asking for a referendum with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Normally, the poll must be held within 12 months. There is also a $50,000 spending limit on promoting the petition.

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Week 42
Ceremonial gates at Turangawaewae.

Turangawaewae Marae is a very significant marae of the Māori people of New Zealand and is the headquarters for the Māori King Movement (Te Kingitanga). Located in the town of Ngaruawahia in the Waikato region of the North Island, it is the official residence and reception centre of the head of the Kingitanga, currently Tuheitia Paki, and previously his mother, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. The name Turangawaewae means a place to stand.

The marae consists of a complex of buildings on a site of several acres on the banks of the Waikato River. Work on the complex began in 1920 under the leadership of the late Princess Te Puea, an aunt of the recently deceased Māori Queen.

Turangawaewae, along with the Kingitanga movement and the office of the Arikinui, has become a key institution to showcase Māoridom not only in New Zealand but the world. Countless world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II and many of her children have paid courtesy visits to Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu and the people of the Kingitanga.

Recently featured: Referendums in New Zealand · Wanganui · Allan Wilson · Archive

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Week 43
The statue of Richard Seddon outside Parliament House in Wellington.

Richard John Seddon (1845 - 1906), sometimes known as King Dick, was the longest serving Prime Minister of New Zealand (1893-1906). He is regarded by some as New Zealand's greatest political leader.

Unlike John Ballance, his predecessor as leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister, Seddon did not have any great commitment to philosophical liberalism — or, for that matter, to any ideology. Rather, he saw the Liberals as champions of "the common man" against large commercial interests and major landowners. His strong advocacy for what he saw as the interests of ordinary New Zealanders won him considerable popularity.

Seddon was a strong premier, and enforced his authority with great vigour. At one point, he even commented that "A president is all we require", and that Cabinet could be abolished. His opponents, both within the Liberal Party and in opposition, accused him of being an autocrat — the label "King Dick" was first applied to him at this point.

Recently featured: Turangawaewae · Referendums in New Zealand · Wanganui · Archive

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Week 44

Queenstown is a resort town in Otago in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island. The town is built around an inlet on Lake Wakatipu, a long thin "S"-shaped lake, and has spectactular views of nearby mountains. Queenstown is the largest centre in Central Otago, but for some administrative purposes it is considered part of Southland.

Queenstown is a centre for adventure tourism. Skiing, jet boating, bungy jumping, mountain biking and tramping are all strong promotional themes. It is also a major centre for snow sports in New Zealand, with people from all over the country and many parts of the world travelling to ski at the four main mountain skifields (Cardrona, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone).

Locally, Queenstown has a reputation as one of New Zealand's wine and cuisine centres. Neighbouring, historic Arrowtown features excellent restaurants and bars, and Queenstown lies close to the centre of a small wine producing region, reputed to be the world's southernmost. Pinot noir produced in this area fetches premium prices.

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Week 45

New Zealand music is a vibrant expression of the culture of New Zealand. As the largest nation in Polynesia, New Zealand's music is influenced by the indigenous Māori and immigrants from the Pacific region. The origins of New Zealand's musical culture lie in its British colonial history, with contributions from Europe and America.

The most popular styles of the late 20th century were rock and hip hop, both genres garnished with New Zealand's unique Pacific influences. By the 21st century, roots, reggae, dub and electronica were all popular with local artists. New Zealand has maintained a thriving alternative scene for several decades.

Māori have also developed a popular music scene, and incorporated reggae, rock and roll and other influences, most popularly including Te Vaka, who have Māori, white and other Polynesian members. Reggae bands like Herbs, Katchafire and Fat Freddy's Drop are highly popular. The 1990s saw the rise of hip hop groups like Moana & the Moahunters and the Upper Hutt Posse.

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Week 46
A selection of New Zealand wine.

New Zealand wine is largely produced in ten major wine growing regions spanning latitudes 36° to 45° South and extending 1,600 km (1,000 miles).

Both red and white wine are produced in New Zealand. Reds are typically made from either a blend of varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and much less often Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) or pinot noir. Recently from Hawkes Bay there have been wines made from Syrah, either solely or blends, and even Tempranillo, Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

In white wines Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc predominate in plantings and production. Typically Chardonnay planting predominate more the further north one goes, however it is planted and produced in Central Otago. There is no discernible difference in styles for Chardonnay between the New Zealand wine regions so far. Individual wine makers and the particular qualities of a vintage are more likely to determine factors such as malolactic fermentation or the use of oak for aging.

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Week 47

Sir Peter Henry Buck KCMG, DSO, MBChB, MD (ca. October 1877 – December 1, 1951), known for much of his life as Te Rangi Hīroa, was a prominent member of the Ngāti Mutunga Māori iwi.

Buck trained at Otago Medical School, where he also excelled in sport, becoming national long jump champion in 1900 and 1903. He became a medical officer to the Māori and campaigned successfully to improve sanitation in the small Māori communities around the country. From 1909 to 1914 he was the Member of Parliament for the Northern Maori electorate. He was a medical officer serving in World War I, served at Gallipoli, and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order. After the war, he became director of the Maori Hygiene Division in the Department of Health.

From the mid-1920s Buck carried out extensive anthropological investigations of many of the Pacific Island groups. He became widely known as a circuit lecturer in both Hawaii and the mainland United States, and in 1946, he was knighted, gaining a KCMG.

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Week 48
Hastings Town Square.

Hastings City is a city in Hawke's Bay, close to the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Less than 20 kilometres separates the centres of Hastings City and Napier, and as such the two often called "The Twin Cities" or "The Bay Cities".

Hastings is the largest city in Hawke's Bay. Now the region's main centre of commerce, industry and trade, as shown by the ever-expanding skyline of multi-story office buildings in its centre, Hastings has grown rapidly with the help of the smart and tidy gridiron city planning system, crisscrossed by the railway line running north-south and the main east-west artery, Heretaunga Street, which also links the city with its suburban centres of Havelock North and Flaxmere.

Commonly referred to as the 'Fruit Bowl of New Zealand', the main industries are largely agricultural, with food processing plants and canneries being major local employers. Honey is also a well-known local product.

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Week 49

The range of sports played in New Zealand reflect to a large extent its British colonial heritage. Some of the most popular sports in New Zealand, namely rugby, cricket and netball are primarily played in British Commonwealth countries.

New Zealand's most popular sport is rugby union - which is the national sport. Other popular sports include cricket, soccer and netball (the top ranking female sport by participation); golf, tennis, rowing and a variety of water sports, particularly sailing. Snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding are also popular. Equestrian sports are highly popular especially with women and participation numbers begin to overhaul rugby and other contact sports in older age groups.

New Zealand's national sporting colours are not the colours of its flag, but are black and white (silver). The silver fern is a national emblem worn by New Zealanders representing their country in sport.

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Week 50

There are 14 national parks of New Zealand, covering just under 25,000 km², 20 forest parks covering some 18,000 km², about 3,500 reserves covering around 15,000 km², and some 610 km² of protected private land and covenants that have been set aside for scenic, scientific or ecological reasons.

The Department of Conservation administers the majority of the publicly owned land in New Zealand that is protected for scenic, scientific, historic and cultural reasons, or set aside for recreational purposes. More than 80,000 km² – nearly 30 percent of the nation's total area – are administered by the department. It also has a role in management of the coastal marine area with 19 marine reserves and two other protected marine areas.

The National Parks Act 1980 provides for the establishment of national parks or reserves and also provides for the public to have freedom of entry and access to the parks.

Recently featured: Sport in New Zealand · Hastings · Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck) · Archive

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Week 51

Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins CBE FRS (15 December 1916 – 5 October 2004) was a New Zealand-born British physicist and Nobel Laureate who contributed research in the fields of phosphorescence, radar, isotope separation, and X-ray diffraction.

He was most widely known for his X-ray diffraction work in the early 1950s at King's College London which led to the discovery of the helical structure of DNA.

In 1960 he was presented with the American Public Health Association's Albert Lasker Award, and in 1962 he was made a Companion of the British Empire. Also in 1962, he, Francis Crick and James Watson were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.

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Week 52
The Taylor River in central Blenheim.

Blenheim is a town in Marlborough, in the northeast of the South Island in New Zealand. It has a population of about 35,000. The area which surrounds the town is well known as a centre of New Zealand's wine industry. It enjoys one of New Zealand’s sunniest climates, with hot summers and crisp winters.

The region has a wide range of leisure activities, from swimming with dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds to watching whales in Kaikoura; from walks through the bush and along the rugged coastline, as well as scenic boat cruising, fishing, water-skiing and kayaking. The relaxed lifestyle and the flourishing wine and gourmet food industry in Marlborough are enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.

The region's economy is rurally based with farming providing a major source of income. Lake Grassmere is the country's only source of salt, and fishing and mussel farming are also extremely important in the region. Grape growing has been one of the fastest growing industries and Marlborough is now New Zealand's largest wine producing region. Olive growing has also become popular in recent years.

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