Every country has its quirky side, but New Zealand is definitely a country that embraces it! From the funny place names to the national wizard, there’s a bunch of weird facts about New Zealand that you don’t really need to know but it’s fun to know anyway.
Travelling through Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, will present many fun and weird moments for you, but we can’t resist in giving you a few spoilers in this list of weird facts about New Zealand! Impress your fellow backpackers with your Encyclopedic knowledge of New Zealand and discover some stellar ice-breaking conversation starters.
So grab a cup of tea or a German schnitzel or whatever you find appropriate and sit down to these weird facts about New Zealand!
1. There is a Big Obsession for Big Things
It’s not as dodgy as it sounds, but New Zealand towns really like to make their presence known by displaying large sculptures to let everyone know what they are famous for. There’s a giant kiwifruit in Te Puke, a giant kiwi bird in Otorohanga, a giant soft drink bottle in Paeroa, and even a giant doughnut in Springfield. There are so many of these giant sculptures that we made an entire list dedicated to them.
2. A Railway Line Passes Through an Airport Landing Strip
New Zealand isn’t exactly pushed for space when it comes to public transport, but they still decided to put a railway line right through the middle of an airport anyway. The Palmerston North-Gisborne railway line passes right through the middle of Gisborne Airport. In fact, steam train tourist trips take place a few times a month on this very railway line.
3. The National Park Boundaries are All Too Obvious
Dairy farmers have taken the Egmont National Park boundary all too literally in Taranaki, so much so that you can almost see a perfect circle in the landscape from aerial shots. The national park boundary draws this circle up to around 9.5km (6 miles) away from Mt Taranaki’s peak. Nevertheless, this dark vegetation marks some incredibly dense native forest that you can enjoy through a variety of walks in the area.
4. It’s Encouraged to Run Over Possums
No matter how cute and cuddly possums are, they are actually considered a pest in New Zealand. Possums, which are a protected species in Australia, were introduced in New Zealand for the fur trade in 1987. Since then, their population has boomed in New Zealand to a point where they are chomping through about 20,000 tonnes of vegetation a night, destroying the eco-system of native birds.
5. You Can Watch Rockets Launch into Space
New Zealand is not the first country that comes to mind when you think of rocket launches, but as of 2017, Mahia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay has become the place to be if you want to watch a rocket launch with your own eyes.
6. It’s Home to the Longest Place Name in the World
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu is the place name that all your family would hate if they had to send you birthday cards. The 85-letter town in Hawke’s Bay is in the Guinness World Records for the longest place name in the world.
7. And Other Hilarious Place Names
There seemed to be no shame when naming some of the English place names like Hooker Valley and Shag Point. Some Maori place names imply something a bit dodgy to English-speakers. For example, the ski field, Whakapapa, is pronounced “faka-papa”.
8. Go to Southland and You Will See the Southernmost of Everything
We get it, Southland, your region is pretty freakin’ south! The region of Southland, which encompasses Invercargill and Stewart Island, is proud to hold some of the southernmost landmarks and industries in the world… and you will be constantly reminded. It starts off with hearing about how Invercargill is the world’s southernmost city and ends somewhere in Stewart Island where there is a plaque marking out New Zealand’s southernmost woolshed.
9. The New Zealand Badminton Team was Once Called the “Black Cocks”…
… But, as you can imagine, they were coming on a bit too strong for most. The gimmicky publicity stunt was to attract sponsors and interest, but after about a year, the Black Cocks had to scrap the name.
10. There is an Official Wizard of New Zealand
In 1990, the prime minister of New Zealand appointed Ian Brackenbury Channell as the official Wizard of New Zealand. The pointy-hatted robe-wearing bearded wizard has a history of politics and entertainment in Christchurch, but can be seen often with a young apprentice at major Canterbury events throughout the year.