I was considering how to write this post. Whenever you do something new, like move countries, there are difficult times as well as great highlights and experiences. But, true to say, I have some observations about my new country and it’s quite possible that these observations could upset some of my Kiwi readers. So I was contemplating how to approach the topic when, lo and behold, I was saved from bothering.

Whilst hubby was being operated on, I fretted and kept myself busy by reading an entire novel (Tracy Chevalier’s The Virgin Blue: actually re-reading this book. She is one of my fav authors). After finishing this great book, I picked up a copy of North & South (March 2010) that was lying on a table in the Day Patient’s Waiting Room. This publication is touted as the magazine for “Thinking New Zealand”. The cover caught my eye, announcing an article inside entitled The Great Divide.

You mean there is a divide between the North and South Islands of New Zealand? Ah, yep sure is. I picked that up in Wellington recently when someone told me that people in the South are “rednecks” (to use his words and he questioned my sanity for selecting the South over the North). Aucklanders are referred to as JAFAs (Just Another F****** Aucklander).  But I had no idea of the real extent of this divide.

I also didn’t know that I live on the Mainland, which apparently people here call the South Island. Mainland what? People in Tasmania call Australia the “mainland”, which one can understand with Tassie being a little island and Oz being a big slab of a continent. But why on earth would the South Island be referred to as the Mainland? Surely, the North and South Islands are relatively similar in size (yes, I know that the South Island has a 33% larger landmass than the North Island but it’s not as unbalanced as the size of the Australian mainland compared to Tassie). Apparently, the North Island is called the Pig Island (I think this is because descendants of the wild pigs that Capt James Cook brought during a visit are still on the loose).

So here’s what I discovered from the article:

  • North Islanders tend to look down on South Islanders as being conservative, parochial, bland and narrow in outlook. (I’m actually not going to disagree with this. I’d add to this by saying that people in rural NZ are highly suspicious of anyone who is an outsider or foreign. They can actually be quite aggressive towards newcomers. I find people in Christchurch though just the same as those in Wellington or Auckland really).
  • three quarters of NZ’s population live on the North Island so the South Island has only 7 people per square kilometre compared to the North’s 28 people.
  • North Islanders are more likely to have visited the Gold Coast in Oz than visited Greymouth on the Westcoast. Whereas Mainlanders are more likely to travel to and visit the North Island.
  • Aucklanders are seen as self-obsessed (I call Auckland Sydney For Beginners). Mainlanders scoff at Auckland’s Super City status and celebrity culture.
  • there is more ethnic diversity on the North Island (that confirms something I found surprising – there don’t seem to be as many Māoris in the South. In fact, Māoris comprise 15% of North Islanders but only 7.3% in the South).
  • in the early days of Pakeha settlement (pakeha being the Māori term for New Zealanders who are not of Māori blood lines), the South Island was the more populous due to the gold rush. From 1911, the population drifted North and there’s some suggestion that Mainlanders think the North stole their power.

I guess I’m a bit surprised by all this because I thought New Zealanders had a coherent sense of identity. More so than Australia. But quelle horreur seems I’m wrong.

Coming from New South Wales, Australia I can tell you that:

  • we think of Queenslanders as being a bit slower, a bit more laid back;
  • Melburnians are a bit toffee-nosed and think of themselves as being as sophisticated as Paris;
  • Tasmanians are inbred (of course, they’re not);
  • people from Adelaide, well we don’t think of them really;
  • Territorians (ie those from the Northern Territory) are living on the wild west frontier; and
  • Western Australia thinks of itself as a separate country.

Generalisations yes, but I never thought that New Zealand suffered from the same stupidity.