A LONELY PARADISE
The New Zealand weekend tells you a great deal about this country of three million people and ninety million sheep. The first carpenter to land in New Zealand went on strike the moment his feet touched the beach in the 1840’s.
“I’m on strike for a forty-hour week,” he said, thinking of all those free weekends. Like so many of the settlers, he was determined not to bring the mistakes of the old world with him.
A man called Charles Parnell then became the leader of a strong union movement and negotiated agreements with employers to carry out wishes like these. By 1900, workers had their free weekend, women had the right to vote and the foundations of a welfare state had been laid.
Many of the settlers were Anglo-Saxon Christians, mostly Protestants, and for them the weekend was equally important. They made sure that Sunday was a day of rest. The kiwi weekend (the kiwi bird is the national emblem of New Zealand) has not changed much since.
The cities are silent, and everything is closed. Christians influenced New Zealand life in other ways too. They felt strongly that drinking alcohol was sinful and, in the early days, the country was ‘dry’ (without alcohol).
Until 1968, pubs closed at 6 pm and, even now, they close at 10 pm. What is more, hotels are still only allowed to sell alcohol with meals on Sundays. This is remarkable when you think how many hard-living gold-hunters came to New Zealand when gold was found in Otago and on the west coast of the South Island in the 1860’s, and then stayed on.
They brought a totally different set of values with them, but it was the original settlers, the Protestants and trade unionists, who laid the foundations of present-day New Zealand. The paradoxes, or conflicting side of New Zealand life remain, however. The people are very conservative; and yet the socialist government in the early 1980’s became famous for its efforts to create a nuclear-free zone.
It has a reputation as a successful multi-racial society, where the island’s original inhabitants, the Maoris, have always mixed peacefully with the white population. The number of Maoris has, however, gone down dramatically.
When they started using European arms, tribal wars became a blood bath and, for them, European illnesses such as measles and the common cold were killers. As the Maoris slowly took to Christianity, their culture and community life suffered too, and they certainly had no say in the setting up of the State.
Recently, though, things have improved and steps are being taken to increase their birth rate and preserve their way of life. The main attraction of New Zealand for visitors, of course, is its scenery. It varies as you move from a sub-tropical climate in North Auckland to the bleak cold climate of Steward Island off the coast of 4 the South Island.
In the North Island, there are hot springs and a number of active volcanoes. There have been earthquakes during which whole mountains move and ships suddenly find themselves on dry land. In the south-west of the South Island there is the Fiordland, where 6000-foot emerald-green mountains plunge vertically down into the deep blue of the sea.
A landscape of this kind makes men and women seem very small and insignificant and also makes communication and travel difficult. Even nowadays there is no regular ferry service between Wellington in the North Island and Christchurch in the South across the Cook Strait, as this is one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world.
Wellington, the capital city, is beffeted by almost continuous strong winds as the warm air from the north of the country meets the cold air from the Cook Strait. It is understandable that those who came from Europe settled there with the intention of creating a mini-England in the South Pacific.
White New Zealanders usually enjoy a life style similar to that of the upper classes in England. But now they are beginning to come to terms with a Polynesian culture and question whether they are New Zealanders or merely a group of Europeans who look on Britain as their mother country.
Mark the best choice.
1. In New Zealand, .
a) people work at the weekend b) there are often strikes
c) no inhabitants existed before the 1840’s d) there are more sheep than people
2. Thanks to the union movement, in New Zealand .
a) women are entitled to vote b) a welfare state is being founded
c) agreements with employers are negotiated d) workers have to fight for free weekends
3. Due to the attitude towards alcohol in the country, .
a) Christians influenced the lifestyle b) hotels do not sell alcohol except on Sundays
c) drinking alcohol is considered sinful d) Both (b) and (c).