NZ: A Small, Clever Country


In the Footsteps of the Flock

We must accept life for what it actually is - a challenge to our quality
without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Green and pleasant land: BreamTail Farm in the east of the North Island

by Max Davidson

I have just bought Sunday lunch in a supermarket in Oxford: Thai fishcakes with a chilli dipping sauce.  Irrelevant?  Not at all.  It is the ideal starting point for an examination of the New Zealand property market.  Forty years ago, in the same supermarket, I would have been buying New Zealand lamb, that great Sunday-lunch staple of the generation that grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.  In one of the minor miracles of the modern world, little woolly creatures, born 12,000 miles away, ended up in freezers in Guildford and Bromsgrove.  Millions upon millions of them.

The EU put paid to that arrangement.  Britain used to take 90% of New Zealand's lamb exports, but now takes less than 10% - with the result that a country of 3 million people and 60 million sheep has become one of 4.5 million people and 45 million sheep.  Don't waste any tears on New Zealand sheep farmers.  They are still doing very nicely, thank you.  But rub your hands with glee at the knock-on effect on the property market.  All over New Zealand, huge sheep stations are being carved up into smaller lots and sold as real estate.  And the best of that real estate is out of this world: classic landscape that makes your heart dance before you have seen a single lamb.  New-build on old farmland is all the rage.

Take BreamTail, an 1,100-acre farm on the east coast of the north island, about 90 minutes' drive from Auckland.  It is being divided up into 30 lots, ranging in size from 3 to 60 acres and with a starting price of little more than £500,000.  The setting is just glorious and it is not hard to see why John Greenwood, of Bayleys (, who is marketing BreamTail, has collared one of the best sites for himself.  "Just look at that view," he says, after we have clambered up a hill, dodging sheep-droppings, to inspect the plot of land where he plans to build his rural retreat.  "Isn't it something?"  It is indeed.  Green fields roll imperiously down towards a long sandy beach.  It would need a great painter to do justice to the harmonious blending of land, sea and sky.

John has always wanted to live on a farm and will have his wish.  The sheep that now graze the hillsides, a picture in themselves, will be looked after, on behalf of the residents of BreamTail, by a tenant farmer.  For those looking for seclusion combined with physical beauty, it would be hard to imagine a more paradisaical spot.

If changing patterns of lamb consumption in Britain have helped shape the New Zealand property market, my home city of Oxford, oddly, has also played its part.  It is where Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, the novel which, in its cinematic version, has done more than anything to put New Zealand on the map.  Before Lord of the Rings, people thought of the country as a mini-Australia without the kangaroos and the beach babes and the flaxen-haired leg-spinners.  Now, they can no longer ignore its unique, formidable scenery.  With more foreign buyers than ever before, the New Zealand property market is buoyant, rising steadily at about 10% a year.  "This is seen as a safe place to buy," one agent told me.  "The war on terror seems a long way off."

There are hotspots.  The entertainer Michael Barrymore now lives in Herne Bay, near Auckland, which is as trendy as its English equivalent is passé.  In the pretty city of Nelson, on the south island, house prices have doubled in three years.  No doubt a shrewd investor could make money in New Zealand without leaving his desk in Canary Wharf.  But it is also, without question, an extremely attractive place to live.

Chris and Andrea Chapman think so.  A 40-something plumber and nurse, respectively, from Surrey, they have just moved to the Maitai Valley, 5 miles from Nelson, with their teenage children, their dogs - and a wad of cash.  Their house comes with 18 acres of land and, were it not 10 minutes from the beach, could be a Swiss chalet in a pine forest.  It is a delightful home and, at just under NZ$1 million (about £350,000), cost less than half what they got for their Surrey house.  Their plan had been to emigrate to Australia but, when they found Perth too hot, they opted for New Zealand.  There was an amount of red tape to negotiate, as the property abuts a nature reserve, but the couple are now raring to go.  Chris talks of planting olive trees and Andrea has been to evening classes in sheep-farming.  Their interest in doing something constructive with their newly acquired land makes them, in local parlance, "lifestylers."

That is how New Zealand estate agents describe townies who want to play at being farmers.  Some of them slink back to the city, tail between their legs, having found out that growing peaches, say, is not as easy as it looks.  But they form a significant part of the market.

In the beautiful Bay of Islands area, Fred and Wendy Grindlay have also made the trek from England.  They sold a small bed and breakfast in Devon and replaced it with a larger, 4-star motel.  "Best thing we ever did," says Fred.  "The way of life is very relaxed and their winter feels like our summer."  Paying less than £100 a year for membership of the local golf club is another bonus.

How easy is it for Britons to buy property in New Zealand?  "If you have got enough money and speak English, we will take you tomorrow," jokes one agent.  It is not quite as simple as that, but there are few insuperable hurdles to emigration or outside investment.  A plumber, like Chris Chapman, qualifies for a skills visa, while those running a business like the Grindlays get in under a different category.

If you fancy trying your hand as a small hotelier, there is no shortage of opportunities.  I viewed properties ranging from a converted, 19th-century hotel in the wine-growing town of Martinborough to a grand seaside lodge on the island of Waiheke which gets plenty of wedding business.  "We get a lot of elopements," says the owner, with a wink.

Elsewhere, there are grand, £2 million houses overlooking Wellington harbour, £1.5 million architectural follies perched on the top of cliffs, dilapidated £1 million country estates surrounded by lush farmland and, for £500,000 or less, beachside houses.  If you fancy a gentle pace of life among natives who are far friendlier than their rugby team would suggest, you should include New Zealand on your shopping-list.

Source: 16 October 2004

How We Can Have the Best Quality of Life in the World

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.

- Alice Kahn

by Dave Breuer

Together we can create one of the highest qualities of life on the planet as a small, clever country

We are a capable, innovative people, living in one of the world's most well-endowed countries.  Our land, people and heritage potentially make us incredibly wealthy.  With this endowment we are capable of having one of the highest qualities of life in the world.

But is this how we see ourselves?  Or is this how we are?  Some think not.  We are deteriorating economically, socially and environmentally; we are fragmented.  We need to develop social cohesion, cooperation, environmental integrity and the ability to become wealth generators, not just good consumers.  Many feel we are losing our soul.

We are also rapidly becoming part of the global village with its opportunities and threats.  Our size means we must be exceedingly wise.  We need to develop our skills, wisdom and will to address both the opportunities and the threats.  How, then, can we create the country we all want?

We can develop a draft vision that is tested and further developed with the people to get it right.  A scorecard can be developed to support dialogue, assess where we are and how we are doing.  Then a people-focused strategy can be created to bring together the organisations and people to work toward these goals.  Leadership is then cultivated throughout society with the aim of renewing New Zealand.

The Herald's Common Core Debate has uncovered many of the issues facing us and has given hope.  One of the exciting contributions was Mary Quill's article headlined "Needed: Scorecard and Action Plan."

I agree with her, as do many people I am working with in a group called Anew NZ (  Our action plan accords with her vision.

A draft vision is being created by Anew NZ that we trust will be close enough to a public view to be tested.  This vision needs to reflect the core values of the country, not just a view that serves a few.  We see New Zealand as a small, clever country with one of the highest sustainable qualities of life in the world, socially, economically and environmentally.  We are a self-confident and self-determined people with a vital spirit who believe we can do whatever we set out to do.

We aim by 2010 to achieve one of the highest levels of economic well-being for all, social support and cohesion and environmental integrity - a vibrant, prosperous, healthy and just society.  The principles needed in an action plan include:

bulletIntegration - In the story of the six blind men and the elephant, each touched a portion of the body and erroneously decided what an elephant was like.  We need leaders prepared to be pragmatic and able to integrate the mix of even opposing ideas like leaders seeking the whole real elephant.  We need to draw value from the right and the left, from Maori and Pakeha, all ethnic mixes, from the academics and pragmatists and from the social, economic and environmental sectors.  The tensions between those last sectors must be transformed into a willingness to hear the viewpoints of others and work together toward common goals.  All three are then integrated into decision-making and goal-setting.  The larger the overlap, the higher will be the quality of life, as shown in the diagram.  The goal is to merge.  Substantial change can happen only when all levels of society are engaged.
bulletEthics - form the foundation of society and are our guiding principle.  We want a caring society that is just, inclusive, respectful, equitable, transparent, honest, tolerant and open to alternative views.
bulletPeople focus - The anti-nuclear movement is a good example of the power of people to create change.  This was a grassroots movement that the political leaders followed.  We are in need of real change (for example, moving from dependency and lethargy to the renewal of the core values of a caring, creative, can-do society).  It can only come from the people, with our politicians getting in behind it.  The vision must be shared across the country, not driven by a public relations agency.
bulletPublic deliberation - We encourage open deliberation and debate on all subjects that affect the well-being of New Zealanders - a pathway to real change.
bulletNew thinking - We need new thinking on New Zealand's future.  Einstein said:

"You can't solve a problem with the same thinking that created it."

bulletLeadership - that responds to the spirit of the people is required throughout society.  This values-based, vision-driven leadership models ethical behaviour and is dedicated to the renewal of New Zealand.

A scorecard is being developed, similar to Mary Quill's ideas, to record the goals, initial measurements, benchmarks, and a running account of progress.  This encourages dialogue for improvement and enables further strategies to be created.  A number of cities have developed scorecards for measuring progress, including Manukau and Christchurch. Manukau measures sustainability and community well-being through social, economic and environmental development and governance criteria.  Strategies are then created to ensure meeting each goal and put in action by all levels of leadership across the coUntry.  Each person throughout society has a role to play in implementation, from policy-setting to personal education, waste recycling and so on.

There are issues to debate and discuss.  New Zealand often goes through dramatic swings in policies and strategies.  We need strategic stability independent of political changes that will allow us to develop the long-term capabilities we require, such as in education.

Can this be achieved through the stability of a common consensus held by the people?  And can we, at the same time, have the flexibility to renew ourselves?  We need both.

Globalisation is an overriding driver.  We are being urged to take advantage of some of the opportunities inherent in the knowledge economy and it is crucial that we do.  We need an opportunity to be more informed and debate the issues rigorously, so we have choice over our future.

New Zealand has a dilemma.  It is an integral part of the globe and while we hold a goal of sustainability, this can't really be achieved if the social, economic and environmental fabric of the globe is in jeopardy - and it is.  We face serious global crisis in all three areas.  How can this small, isolated country have any influence on such monumental issues?

Auckland branding strategist Brian Richards has pointed out that Sweden gifted the world the Nobel Prize and set standards that are accepted as the highest level of excellence in science.  New Zealand could do the same for quality-of-life standards and present annual awards to those people and countries making significant contributions to global stainability.

In this small way New Zealand could have a huge impact on global sustainability and at the same time be developing one of the world's highest qualities of life.  We could take the high ground and benefit from it economically, socially and environmentally.  This position would pay off, earning us overseas revenue and also giving us a great place to live.

These issues can be part of the debate and goal-setting as we face a rapidly forming new world order.  It will challenge our self-determination, yet we can do what we set out to do, and together create one of the highest qualities of life in the world, as a small, clever country.

Dave Breuer is the founding director of Anew NZ.

Source: New Zealand Herald (date undenoted)

I found the article a bit simplistic, but I've included it here because I really liked the diagram.

Lest I've made New Zealand sound worse toward immigrants than they are on any page in this section, there's this:

Home at Last, Say Iranian Refugees

by Kim Ruscoe

A refugee couple, accused by the Australian Government of throwing their children overboard from an overcrowded boat, are making a new life in Lower Hutt.  Khalil Alibrahimy, his wife Bushra Alkhafaji and their 10-year-old daughter were the focus of Australian Prime Minister John Howard's "children overboard" scandal two years ago.  The Howard government had accused the boatload of asylum seekers of throwing their children into the sea to force a rescue by the crew of the Adelaide in October 2001.

Photographs of the so-called "abominable" act were circulated worldwide and held up as an example of why such people were not wanted in Australia.  The claims were later revealed to be "political fiction".  A Senate committee found in October last year that the government had deliberately lied to boost its re-election chances when it claimed the boatpeople had thrown children overboard to blackmail Australia to take them in.  The report said that though Mr Howard, his office or his department had been told on 13 occasions that the story was false, there was no proof that he knew the truth.

The family shown in the photograph were held by Australia on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea for 14 months before being rescued by New Zealand in January last year.  Now living in Lower Hutt, the family saw the controversial film footage and photographs of their rescue for the first time two months ago.  Mr Alibrahimy said the Howard government had "lied" about their tragedy in order to win an election.  "We would not throw our children into the ocean to protect ourselves.  We left Iran to protect them and give them a life.  I feel more concern for them than for myself."

Two days earlier, the boat had broken down and begun to rock violently.  It finally succumbed to the weight of the water that lapped over its sides and sank.  "He (Mr Howard) could see the boat was sinking.  Where were the children going to go - they were not going to fly."

Mr Alibrahimy was appalled by the treatment of asylum seekers at the Manos detention camp.  They were treated like criminals, physically abused by Australian guards and kept in line with electric cattle prods, he said.  "We used to love Australia so much but, now we have seen how they treat asylum seekers, no more."  New Zealand had given his family the first home they had known since they were children.  "In two years, we will become New Zealand citizens."

Source: 10 January 2004

For more articles on immigration, emigration, undocumented workers, overstayers, how to get in: NZ and Australia, costs, H1-B workers, scams, and quality of life please click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this Immigration section.

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