So having told you a bit about the background, what is it like today?
New Zealand has a population of 4 million and being roughly the same size as Britain, you can get an idea of the amount of unpopulated land there is. The old joke about there being more sheep than people is certainly true…
The fact that there is such a small population sounds idyllic and in some ways it is. Although traffic is busy in the main centres, you can drive out in the country and not pass another car for miles. You do not queue long, if at all, in shops or banks and it is unusual to queue for the cinema.
But on the other hand, because there are relatively few people, it means there is not the choice you will be used to. Whether it be in clothes, furniture, newspapers or television programmes, I suddenly began to realise the vast choice I had taken for granted.
There are very few fads that reach the market place. You never find a phenomenon sweeping the country such as “Mr Blobby” Stock in the shops seems slower to change, with limited outlets for different products.
Far less selection can have its advantages in some ways though, as things like choosing school shoes suddenly become simple - you either have those or go without!
Life is slower and more relaxed and New Zealanders seem relatively easy to please and do not expect too much. On the whole I do not think they enjoy the same material standard of living as the average person in England, but quality of life can be much better.
It is a clean, green country with blue seas and many deserted sandy beaches. Some people experience a feeling of isolation when faced with an empty beach, but to me it is part of the attraction.
There is a lot of unique flora and fauna in New Zealand but it is mostly found in the countryside. In the cities, gardens can be quite ‘English”. In some surroundings you definitely know you are in New Zealand and in others you could be in England.
The hole in the ozone layer over New Zealand is a very real problem and great care should be taken with sun protection.
Weather forecasts in the summer show the “burn time”, or maximum time you can stay unprotected in the sun. Everybody is encouraged to wear sun-hats and to use suncream liberally. The clarity of light is noticeable and sun-glasses are a must some days.
When you go to some beaches, they can be uncrowded and spotlessly clean, I remember lying on the beach looking at the clear blue skies and sparkling water and then thinking “I hope someone comes along selling ice creams in a minute” … they won’t.