Tag Archives: New Zealand

Touring Aotearoa in Flight: Part 2

100% Middle Class

Auckland to Melbourne: NZ721

Leaving home—returning home

the in-flight magazine sings a cheery “Kia Ora”

and in its glossy pages not a fantastic tripling

just one, simple version of Aotearoa/New Zealand:

100% Middle Class

On the cover, a hand-illustrated map of New Zealand points to local restaurants, street eateries and chefs. An easygoing fantasy of 100% comfortable, 100% cosmopolitan, 100% carefree affluence. Drifting through the snappy prose of cheery feature articles, we tour London craft breweries, South Sea pearl farming in Broome, we absently consider the righteously aesthetic parsimony of Japanese-inspired “tiny homes” and repurposed native wood furniture, and of course sample an endless stream of fashion accessories and gourmet delights.

No mention of elves, rangers or Hobbiton here—the theme of fantasy Impirialism is both more explicit, and less fantastic. Like many other Pacific “destinations”—most notably, in my experience, Vanuatu—here the pitch of tourism blends with real estate prospecting.

one example—a full-page ad for a rural development in Queenstown—offers

“stunning panoramic views”


“ultimate lifestyle experiences”

Echoes of the eighteenth century “Brighter Britain of the South”, to be sure, but this land grab is presumably pitched at affluent New Zealanders as much as foreign tourists and other prospective “settlers”:

“Create your dream lifestyle at Bendemer”

“Our range of house and land packages start from $1.8 million”.

And in the pages of “Kia Ora” its not just picturesque pockets of Aotearoa that are for sale, but the palm-fringed fantasy beachscapes of other Pacific locations as well. Another prominently placed full-page ad sells Nanuku resort:

“On 500 acres of Fiji’s most desirable beach, the properties at Nanuku Ocean Estates offer a Sanctury for the discriminating few”.

The dreams of resort tourism offered as everyday lived reality:

“Here is your opportunity to create a very private waterfront residence, where an idyllic lifestyle is enhanced by the services and amenities of Fiji’s preeminent luxury resort and spa. Homesites from $600,000 USD”.

So I finish my tour of in-flight tourism literature, and we begin our collective descent. The familiar stretch of Victoria’s Eastern coastline creeps into view, and I return as a tourist to my own 100% Middle Class paradise.

drovers’ hut, Mamaku Ranges

Drovers Hut - Mamaku Ranges

State Highway 5

just off the roadside

on a gentle rise of hill

watching over the traffic

abandoned now—empty and gathering moss

while the wires above

and the road below

clamour on with the incessant buzz of humanity

but not very long ago

its own once upon a time

of sweat and mud

smoke in the chimney

spring lambs and winter catastrophes

old jokes

warm cups of tea

and shelter

Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

Touring Aotearoa in flight: Part 1

NZ722 – ascending – MLB to AKL

An encounter with Aotearoa in flight

going home—leaving home

(perhaps it is always the case that the habitus of getting there is first experienced in the transit of leaving—airport drop-offs, check ins, departure lounges, carry on, buckling in, safety videos…)

The chatter and casual bustle of stowing bags is saturate with the familiar

A fellow Melbournian-kiwi slumps beside me and nods to my copy of Michael King’s Penguin History of New Zealand—re-reading, fittingly at the part about Abel Tasman.

“good read that one”

having trouble with his buckle and his belly

departing—on our way—already there.

and how to forget

the graceful curving

wristy-finger twisting

of a beautiful hula dancing stewardess who once showed me the correct way to buckle up 1,000ft high and rising over Hawai’i


The seatbelt light is off and those time honoured words of greeting emblazoned on the in flight screen in front of me

“Kia Ora”

“from Maoriland” the old postcards would have added

But the in-flight safety video features no dusky hula beauties, just Bear Grylls, chomping on a glowworm.

And—shudder—an infomercial selling 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand (Extended Edition)

“Unveil your very own middle-earth experience in a place that will forever keep you under its spell. Traveller, your dreams are waiting right here in New Zealand”.

A place of “your very own”? With all those disputes over ownership and sovereignty? With soaring house prices? New regulations for first time home owners? Surely not…

This must be a Middle Earth that is completely


from that Aotearoa/New Zealand of law and politics.

Surely not…

The irony of Aotearoa being re-colonised by yet another a dreamscape of fantasy inhabitants is not lost many of those its citizens who are not elves, dwarves, goblins, wizards or hobbits. Way, way, way-way back when the first Lord of the Rings movie was released (is it possible to remember that far?) and ‘Middle Earth tourism’ was only just begining to re-saturate the leisurescape with this new 100% Middle Earth, I clearly remember a casual conversation with a young Maori bookshop assistant on Queen St. Assuming I was tourist (I am), she asked with a cheeky smirk, “are you here to look for hobbits? I’ve heard they’re all over the place down south.”

But here, on NZ722 and in this little teaser, I witness not a decoupling but a deft interweaving of at least three key tourist fantasy leisurescapes: there is “Ao-tea-roa”, there is “100% Pure,” and there is “Middle Earth”.

Not a doubling, Paul Carter, but a veritable tripling!

In the short film, and like Michael King’s Penguin History, there begins of course a primordial, ecological, cosmogonic creation story. This is a world in which giant eagles (Pouakai) “once ruled the skys,” and “where creatures dwell in ancient caves” (Cave Weta in Waitomo).

Having created this wonderland, it is to be peopled: First come the “Warrior Princesses” of old-world tourism’s Ao-tea-roa—dusky maidens, “who know how to warm your heart.” Then come Pakeha wine-merchants—“wizards,” of production, consumption and capitalism.

And, finally, this world of indigenous magic and cosmological wonder is a world to be toured by touring tourists.

“Where you can play on mountains protected by Gods, it is a place that will forever keep you under its spell. Traveller, your dreams are waiting.”

The inhabitants—Maori guides, Pakeha wizards, and presumably hobbits—are of course endlessly, smiling, welcoming, happy to chat with those travellers. Greying leisure seekers chomp gourmet food and wizardly wine, and luxuriate in sunsets and on golf courses. Adventure seekers and backpackers, beachside families, Asian tourists, and hobbit hunters form an endless parade in happy-snappy montage. And so this is not explicitly Middle-Earth, nor is it some Colonial-inspired Maori-land, nor is it even that 100% Pure Aotearoa/New Zealand of glistening rivers, deep green rain forests, and lake-reflected mountain peaks.


it is all of these