New Zealand; an impression

This page deals with the time we had in NZ's North Island, another page covers our time in the South Island.

At the time of my visit I had been a resident of Australia for 74 years and in that time, while I had visited about 40 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America, I had never visited what is Australia's closest neighbour, if not geographically the closest, at least in a demographic and historical sense.

Australian and New Zealand cultures both predominantly came from Britain. Of course both countries had their Aborigines and they are very different peoples (NZ's Maoris are of Polynesian origin and have only been in NZ for a few hundred years, while Australia's Aborigines have been here for up to 60,000 years). But the majorities in both countries are ethnically European Caucasian.

Australia is a big, largely flat, mostly dry country. New Zealand is much smaller (not a lot bigger than the second smallest of Australia's six states), largely mountainous, and mostly very well watered. Australia has about five times the population of New Zealand.

This page was started 2019/10/31, last edited 2020/06/15 – ©
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

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Our visit to NZ was from 2019/09/25, when we flew direct from Adelaide to Auckland, to 2019/01/13, when we flew from Dunedin via Wellington and Melbourne back to Adelaide.

A typical North Island New Zealand view (if there is such a thing?)
Typical view?

Having a long interest in geology, the geomorphology of NZ fascinated me. The geomorphology of the North Island struck me as being dominated by volcanism and water erosion. The hills behind this house, like many in the North Island looked liked being of volcanic origin.

In other parts of the North Island that we saw the geomorphological history of the landscapes were harder to work out; certainly volcanism had a big part to play in many places, and water erosion has since modified them. In many of the drier parts of Australia one can see bare rock, which provides clues; bare rock in NZ is not often seen because the higher rainfall results in widespread vegetative cover.

Auckland, The tour begins

My wife and I landed in Auckland on the evening of 25th of September. We had previously arrange AirBnB accommodation in a suburb called Mangere Bridge. The hostess kindly picked us up from the airport and took us to an Indian restaurant so that we could pick up takeaway food. We had ordered and were waiting for our dinner when the power supply in the whole district failed. The restaurant staff lit candles.

This was the only time during our two and a half weeks in NZ that there was a power failure.

My habit is to get up earlier than most people. On our first morning, while waiting for the arrival of our Daughter and her family from Perth, I went for a walk and came across this cemetery.

How many Chinese there are in NZ I have no idea, but quite a few of the headstones in this cemetery had Chinese names and Chinese writing on them.

In the opposite direction from our hostess's house was a moderately sized hill of volcanic origin; my first sighting of many in NZ.

We toured with our daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.

The grandkids on their first day in NZ enjoying touring through the beautiful countryside.

They and their parents had had an overnight flight from Perth of about seven hours.


Waitomo area


A panorama of Waitomo Farmstay where the whole six of us spent our first two nights together. At Hangatiki, near the Waitomo Glowworm caves. The fence is fairly typical of those in NZ, thin wooden posts closely spaced with tight plain wires between them.

The landscape is chaotic, no indication of sedimentary bedding.

(Click to see the image in high definition. Use back-arrow to return.)

Feeding lambs
The woman who ran the farmstay was very informative and very friendly, obviously loved interacting with visitors, including kids.

Anna and Beth loved the lambs, rabbits and Guinea pigs. There were also duck, geese and cattle.

A belted Galloway cow and a highland steer at Waitomo Farmstay

Road to caves

On the morning of 2019/09/27 I walked part way from the Farmstay to the Waitomo Glowworm caves. This, and the view at the top of this page shows the attractive country that I walked through.

Unfortunately there were few places that the others could safely stop by the roadside to pick me up. Much of the road shoulder was boggy and not very wide. I kept in touch through messages and found a good spot where there was a private driveway before the family came by.

Solar power
We saw far less solar power in NZ than can be seen in Australia, or for that matter, in Japan.

This installation was near one of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves buildings.

Solar power in NZ

The slow take-up of solar power in NZ would be partly due to the limited amount of sunshine, but I wouldn't think there'd be less potential than in places like Japan and Germany, which have taken solar power far further than NZ. At the time of writing Wikipedia said that there were no government incentives for the take-up of solar power in NZ.

According to Wikipedia, NZ had 90 MW of solar power as of January 2019. It also reported that Australia had 13,900 MW of solar power in September 2019; more than 150 times the amount in NZ. Japan had 50,000 MW at the end of 2017. At the time of writing, in Australia about 20% of homes had solar power, the figure for NZ was 1%; solar power was generating about 5% of Australia's electricity, but only 1% of NZ's.

NationSize (km2)PopulationSolar PV (MW)
New Zealand270,0004,796,00090
For comparison, the area of NSW, Australia's fourth biggest state, is 801,000 km2; the area of Victoria, Australia's fifth biggest state, is 227,000 km2
All figures on the table above were from Wikipedia, 2019/11/03.

The relatively high take-up of solar in Australia, run mainly by three political parties (Liberal, Labor and National) who are all devoted to preserving the coal industry, compared to the very low take-up in NZ is remarkable. Some sort of an accident of history rather than a planned thing, I suspect.

(Also see geothermal power, and NZ electrical generation energy sources, elsewhere on this page.)

lichen-covered wooden fence

I don't remember exactly where this lichen-covered wooden fence was; somewhere in the Waitomo caves area or further to the west. My phone recorded a location, but I'm not sure that it is correct.

The colours have been slightly intensified using a photo editing tool.

I'd be pretty sure that I've never seen such a luxuriant crop of lichen on any fence in Australia.


Marokopa Falls and Falls Walk

The Marokopa waterfall is a few hundred metres off the road along a well made track. It is near the west coast in what appears to be a very well watered forest.

From left to right: granddaughter Anna, daughter Julia and granddaughter Elizabeth.

Perhaps because my family and I all live in areas that are much drier than the west coast of NZ we were amazed at the amount of plant life in NZ forests.

In South and Western Australia tree trunks are usually bare, with the occasional exception of some of the tougher lichens. On the western side of both main islands of NZ epiphytes cling on everywhere; it is often difficult to see the bark of a tree for the covering of epiphytes.

Marokopa waterfall

The photo has been edited using Photomatix. The lighting was poor, it was raining on and off all the time we were at the waterfall and on the Falls Walk (as it often was during our time in NZ).


Hobbiton movie set

Hobbiton is between Waitomo and the next place we had planned a couple of nights, Rotorua.

I took very few selfies in NZ, I generally take very few selfies. In front of one of the hobbit holes seemed a good place for one.

I had read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to my kids thirty or so years earlier. We had all seen the three movies of the Lord of the Rings. Hobbiton was a must-see for us all.

The scenery in The Lord of the Rings movies (which were filmed in NZ) was a contributing attraction and reason for going to NZ.

A general view of a small part of Hobbiton.

All the plants are living except the big tree on top of the ridge. That is artificial. There's a long story to it; if you go to Hobbiton you'll no doubt hear it.


An view of Hobbiton from toward the top of the hill shown in the previous photo. All that can be seen of a number of Hobbit holes from this angle is the chimneys. The Green Dragon Inn can be seen in the right background.

There are many advantages in living underground in the real world too. I had a cellar made that I use as a bedroom, store-room and bushfire refuge. I have very rarely used heating and never needed cooling in the cellar.

Fake lichen
Fake lichen on a section of fence. I'm unable to say whether or not the post and rails are real wood.

Compare this 'lichen-covered fence' with the real thing above. This one looks more like the hardy, sparse, Australian lichen than the luxuriant NZ lichen.

Green Dragon Inn

A panorama of the Green Dragon Inn, Hobbiton

Green Dragon interior
The bar area of the Green Dragon. A free drink was included with the Hobbiton tour that we did.

I was particularly impressed with the timber beams of the roofing.

The inn is a beautiful piece of architecture, remarkable to consider it was built just as a film set.

The mill and bridge; the Green Dragon Inn was to the left of this scene.


Hot spring

One of the many hot springs in Kuirau Park, near the town centre of Rotorua. This one had a particularly attractive garden nearby. Maintaining this park must be a substantial expense for the council of a not particularly big city.

Rotorua has a distinctive smell: H2S, hydrogen sulfide, rotten egg gas. I found it noticeable quite a bit of the time we were in and near the town, in some places more than others. I did not find it oppressive.

Hydrogen sulfide can be a toxic gas, even at very low levels such as 300 parts per million; however, it becomes noticeable by its smell at very much lower levels that that, about 0.5 parts per billion.

Hot spring

Another view of one of the thermal pools in Kuirau Park, this photo was taken the morning after the previous one. My daughter, Julia, and granddaughter, Beth, came with me this time.

I believe that much of the domestic, commercial and industrial hot water in Rotorua comes from geothermal sources. The motel we stayed in had a naturally hot geothermal spa.

Geothermal energy is also used to generate a substantial part of NZ's electricity.

Te Puia in the Te Whakarewarewa Valley, Rotorua

Te Puia is a cultural and thermal reserve on the outskirts of Rotorua.

This was a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony at the beginning of an active display of Maori culture at Te Puia. My Son-in-Law, Shayne Uren, on the left, was elected/appointed/dobbed-in as honorary chief of the visitors.

We found the traditional Maori buildings and building decorations very beautiful.

A Maori performance; following the traditional welcome.

A few of the girls and women in the audience got to do some poi dancing. My granddaughters in the foreground. The white balls on strings are the pois.

A few of the males in the audience, including my Son-on-Law and me, got to try doing a haka. I won't show any photos of that!

The main geyser at Te Puia, Pohutu. It erupted for perhaps half an hour every hour or so.

Pohutu again, up close.

The water and steam did not show up well against the fully clouded sky. I edited this photo to increase the contrast.

On a clear day it would be spectacular.

A modern replica of a Maori war canoe, still in Te Puia, Rotorua. It gives some feel for the skill and artistic talent of some of the Maori people, as well as their highly developed culture.

Redwood Tree Walk, Rotorua

Tree walk
The Redwood Tree Walk is on the outskirts of Rotorua.

Californian redwoods were tried for the NZ forestry industry, but eventually found to be not as profitable as Monterey pines (Pinus radiata).

Some of the redwoods are claimed to be 75m tall and around 120 years old.



Wairakei geothermal power station

Power station

NZ electrical generation energy sources
Wairakei geothermal power station, north of Taupo.

The viewing area was obviously on the wrong side of the bridge!

With all the volcanism in NZ geothermal power has been successfully harnessed and according to Wikipedia, provides 10% of the nation's electricity.

Also see Solar power in NZ, above, and Westwind Wind Farm, on the South Island page.)

Taupo and Lake Taupo


A panorama of the city of Taupo with Lake Taupo, the biggest lake in NZ, in the background. Without the cloud the snowcapped mountains of the Tongariro, Ruapehu group would probably be visible in the distance. Of course views in NZ are rarely without clouds; the country is not called "The land of the long white cloud" for nothing.

Anna with her new poi's on the left, then Denece, Julia, Beth and Shayne.

Taupo did not have the hydrogen sulfide smell that was so ubiquitous in Rotorua, but there were many steam vents scattered around the city.

Lake Taupo partly fills the caldera that was formed following a super-volcanic eruption. The lake's area is about 616 km2 with a maximum depth of 186 m.

A few quotes from Wikipedia will give an idea of the size of two of the eruptions of the Taupo super volcano:

"The Oruanui eruption of the Taupo Volcano was the world's largest known eruption in the past 70,000 years, with a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 8. It occurred around 26,500 years ago and generated approximately 430 km3 of pyroclastic fall deposits, 320 km3 of pyroclastic density current (PDC) deposits (mostly ignimbrite) and 420 km3 of primary intracaldera material, equivalent to 530 km3 of magma."

"The Taupo eruption [about 200 CE] (also known as the Hatepe eruption) represents the most recent major eruption of the Taupo Volcano, and occurred about 1,800 years ago. It represents the most violent eruption in the world in the last 5,000 years."

"The main pyroclastic flow [of the Taupo eruption] devastated the surrounding area, climbing over 1500 metres (5000 ft) to overtop the nearby Kaimanawa Ranges and Mount Tongariro, and covering the land within 80 kilometres (50 mi) with ignimbrite from Rotorua to Waiouru. Only [Mount] Ruapehu [2,797m] was high enough to divert the flow."

A sign outside the Crafty Trout Brewing Company's shop in Taupo.

See the next photo...

Angelic kids doing what the sign said they should...

Huka Falls

Huka Falls
Huka Falls on the Waikato River.

The Waikato River is the longest in NZ, but not the one that carries the most water, that is in the South Island.

The Huka Falls are between Lake Taupo and the Aratiatia Dam (below).

Aratiatia Dam and Rapids

Aratiatia Dam is 16 km from central Taupo. The dam gates open daily at 10am, 12 noon, 2pm and 4pm for about a quarter of an hour to allow water down the Aratiatia rapids. (The opening hours differ in the colder half of the year.)

At other times it seems that the water all goes through the hydro-power station downstream of the rapids.

The photos below show the increasing flow in the Waikato River as the flow comes down the river from the dam.

Photo 1 Photo 2
Photo 3 Photo 4

The Aratiatia power station was the first hydroelectric power station on the Waikato River.

It rained steadily all the time we were at the dam and rapids.


Swimming pool
The motel/cabin complex we stayed in in Taupo had a swimming pool, water slide etcetera complex that made use of the naturally geothermally heated water.

The weather during our time in Taupo was fairly rainy. I don't remember previously swimming in hail.


Tongariro area

We reached an altitude of a little over 1000 metres driving south from Taupo toward Wellington while passing through the gap between Mount Tongariro and the Kaimanawa Mountains.

This patch of very icy snow was the first time Beth and Anna had seen snow.

Surprisingly, a week or so later and several hundred kilometres further south, on the South Island, we didn't see snow on the ground until we got to about 1300 metres.

I don't think we saw a clear view of Mount Tongariro at any time, either while in Taupo or while driving through the mountain pass.

This cloud covered the mountain top while we were passing by.

There is little human habitation on the highway driving south from Taupo after leaving the lake and before getting into the lower altitude country south of the mountains.

This very pleasant cafe in the little town of Waiouru provided a welcome coffee break.

The small black thing on the wood stove was a thermoelectric fan, powered by electricity generated from the temperature difference between the stove-top and the air above the stove. I had only seen one previously. I bought one after getting back to Australia.

Air heated by something like a wood stove tends, due to convection, to rise straight up the the ceiling, where it does little to warm the people in the room. A fan on top of the stove mixes some of the warm air above the stove with the cooler air in the room.

Whether a little thermoelectric fan such is this one mixes enough air to be of much value is questionable, but it is a good conversation piece.

I have written more on heating efficiencies elsewhere on these pages.



Our approach to Wellington was one of quite a few times when we drove through heavy rain while in NZ.

Australia was in drought all the time we were in New Zealand.

A view of Wellington from the top of the hill serviced by the cable railway.

We were only in Wellington for one night, returning a hire car and catching the ferry to the South Island the next day.

Cable car
Going back down into the city in the Wellington cable car. As you can see by the way we were dressed, the weather was cold, in spite of it being early October.

My impression was strongly that the cable car is mostly used by tourists.

Early morning
On our way from our one-night flat to the ferry terminal in the early morning. It was within easy walking distance.

The ferry took us from the North Island to the South Island.

My daughter, Julia, in the middle, did a great job of organising the whole trip. Accommodation and vehicle hire was all arranged before we left Australia.

Cook Strait
Looking back toward the North Island from the ferry as it entered Cook Strait between the two main islands.

There was enough swell to move the ferry in Cook Strait, but most of the journey we were in the shelter of the North Island or Queen Charlotte Sound.

Westwind Wind Farm could be seen from this vicinity, but we had far better views of it from the plane when we later flew from Dunedin back to Wellington on the way home.


Related pages

External sites...

Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of NZ

Deforestation and the settlement of New Zealand

On this site...

Pages that are largely based on a photographic record...



On this page, North Island...

Auckland, The tour begins
Gandalf and eagles at Wellington Airport
Hobbiton movie set
Lichen-covered fence
Marokopa Falls and Falls Walk
NZ electrical generation energy sources
Redwood Tree Walk, Rotorua
Related pages
Solar power in NZ
Te Puia in the Te Whakarewarewa Valley, Rotorua
Tongariro area
Wairakei geothermal power station
Waitomo area
Westwind Wind Farm, near Wellington

Companion page; South Island...

Blue Pool, on the Haast Pass road
Cardrona ski-field
Chasm, The
Crown Range Pass area
Fox Glacier
Glacier country
Homer tunnel vicinity on the Milford Sound road
Haast Pass
Kia; on the road into Milford Sound
Japanese garden, Nelson
Lake Matherson, near Fox Glacier
Lake Wanaka
Larnach Castle, Dunedin
Milford Sound
Pancake Rocks
Puzzling World, Wanaka
Queen Charlotte Sound
Steepest street, Baldwin Street, Dunedin
Thunder Creek Waterfall near Haast Pass
Wanaka town and more of Lake Wanaka