New Zealand Citizenship vs. Permanent Residency

new-zealand-654980_640I’ve lived in New Zealand for over half my life, but I’m not a New Zealand citizen. I’m only a permanent resident.

People are often surprised at this. Why haven’t I gone for citizenship, they ask?

Because I’ve never had to. New Zealand permanent residents have pretty much the same rights as citizens. We can vote, we can come and go as we please, and we have access to free healthcare, education and, should we need it, the benefit.

That, and going for citizenship would be extra hassle and cost a lot. My parents never applied when my sister and I were children because it would have cost thousands to do the whole family at once.

I’ll apply one day, when I can afford it. When I do, I’ll go for dual citizenship. I definitely don’t want to give up my British passport – it gives me the option of living and working anywhere in the EU indefinitely! A New Zealand passport only gives you that option for Australia.

The option of living and working indefinitely in Australia is one of the few advantages that New Zealand citizens have over permanent residents. Luckily for me, I have no desire to live in Australia.

The other things New Zealand citizens can do that permanent residents can’t are stand for public office and represent New Zealand at international sporting events. I have no desire to do those things either.

So it would seem I don’t ever need to apply for New Zealand citizenship. I mean a New Zealand passport would entitle me to New Zealand consular protection, which could be important one day. And it would mean that I could never be deported from New Zealand, which would be an unfortunate occurrence. Not that I’m planning on doing anything that could result in my deportation…

Like I said, I’ll apply one day. It would be nice to actually be a New Zealander, having spent most of my life in New Zealand. I’m still definitely British to everyone that meets me, though – the existential crisis of the immigrant child.

There have been a couple of times when not having a New Zealand passport has inconvenienced me. I don’t mind having to wait in a longer queue at the airport when returning to New Zealand, but I’m extremely annoyed by the following:

Sometimes, you’re asked to give identification in the form of either a driver’s licence or a New Zealand passport. And I don’t have a driver’s licence. (I know – oh my god – I’m twenty-three and I don’t have a driver’s licence! In New Zealand, not having a driver’s licence is like not liking rugby. Maybe I’m not qualified to be a New Zealander after all.)

wallet-26089_640Thankfully, I’ve only encountered this flawed identification system twice. If your company uses it, PLEASE change it. I don’t want to have to either learn to drive or go through the New Zealand citizenship application process just to prove to you what my British passport, my HANZ identification card, my student ID and my bank statements already prove.

But that’s by the by.

10 Totally Awesome New Zealand Holiday Tips

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New Zealand has so many great places to visit. I’ve written about a lot of them, here and on other websites. Lately, though, people have been asking me for some more general New Zealand holiday tips. So here they are.

1) Wear sunscreen.

Seriously, even if you think you won’t get sunburnt, you will. Hole in the ozone layer and all that. People have come to New Zealand from Sub-Saharan Africa and got sunburnt.

2) Swim between the flags.

The sea around New Zealand is dangerous, with strong currents that drag you under even when the waves are small. Don’t ignore the Surf Life Saving warnings, and don’t try to swim when the flags aren’t out.

yelloweyedpenguin3) Respect the nature.

New Zealand is an island nation with a delicate ecosystem. So many of its native plant and animal species are endangered. Think carefully about what you bring into New Zealand, resist the temptation to take natural “souvenirs” and try not to kill anything.

4) Be careful with your money.

New Zealand’s more expensive than people think. Some of the tourist attractions are extortionate, but you’ll be shocked by food and fuel prices too. If you’re on a tight budget, New Zealand’s the perfect country for couchsurfing, what with Kiwis being so friendly and laidback. To save money on food, shop at supermarkets and Asian grocery stores, but be prepared for shops to be closed on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and public holidays, especially in more rural areas.

5) Learn the road rules.

Warning SheepPublic transport here isn’t the best. No wonder so many tourists see little choice but to hire a car in New Zealand. The most important rule to remember is to DRIVE ON THE LEFT. (That did need to be in capitals. A surprising number of tourists forget this with occasionally fatal consequences.) When you’re driving in New Zealand, you also need to keep in mind that the country is bigger than you think, and full of hills and windy roads. The speed limits are probably lower than you’re used to as well. It’s easy to underestimate journey times.

6) Hire a campervan.

If you can afford it, this is easily the most convenient way to travel around New Zealand. You can hire campervans cheaply in New Zealand, especially in winter.

7) Don’t rely on your mobile phone.

When you’re travelling around New Zealand, you’ll enter some pretty remote areas and find yourself without a signal. Even the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, for example, which is on the edge of New Zealand’s largest city, has very limited mobile coverage. Always tell someone where you’re going before you trek off into the wilderness.

8) Decide what kind of holiday you want before you come.

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Lake Tekapo, a point in favour of the South Island

The North Island is very different from the South Island, and you shouldn’t try to do both unless you’ve got at least a month to spare. Basically, the North Island has beaches and volcanoes; the South Island has glaciers and mountains. I go into more detail in The North Island vs. the South Island on Not Australia.

9) Beware Kiwi-isms.

New Zealand is an English-speaking country, but some of the vernacular may catch you out. Take, for example, the seemingly innocuous ‘yeah-nah’. When a Kiwi says this it can be, as a friend of mine put it, “affirmative, negative, or neither, or both.” Listen carefully. For more Kiwi-isms, see 10 Silly Things Kiwis Say.

10) Don’t go to Huka Falls.

All the tour buses go there and all the tourist information sites tell you to go there. They’re New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction. But they’re not THAT great. There are better places to see in your limited time here. Less crowded places. Trust me.

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What’s Wrong with New Zealand’s Education System?

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Originally posted on POMS AWAY!:

Seriously, I’m asking you.

People are always complaining about how bad New Zealand’s education system is, yet it’s ranked amongst the best in the world by the OECD. And I got through it okay.

I moved to New Zealand from the UK at the end of July, 2001. I was ten years old and had just finished Year Five. In New Zealand, the school year begins in February, not September, so I was short-changed on my summer holiday and thrown straight into the local primary school. The question was should I be put into a Year Five class or a Year Six class – do one-and-a-half years of Year Five or half a year of Year Six? The problem was solved by putting me in a combined Year Five and Six class with the intention of deciding where I belonged on the basis of how well I did.

My primary school in England had a uniform My primary…

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Hilarious Misconceptions about New Zealand

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Over the years I’ve heard some pretty funny things about New Zealand. A worrying amount of these things were said in all seriousness. By adults.

The following list of Common Misconceptions about New Zealand comes from www.not-australia.co.nz. If you’ve got anything to add to it, leave a comment below.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #1: NEW ZEALAND IS PART OF AUSTRALIA

Of all the misconceptions about New Zealand, this is the most common. Australia and New Zealand are, in fact, two completely separate countries. Saying that New Zealand is part of Australia is like saying that Canada is part of the United States of America. It’s just wrong. Not to mention New Zealanders get rather tetchy about it.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #2: AUCKLAND HAS A “HARBOUR BRIDGE” THAT LINKS IT TO SYDNEY

As stated above, New Zealand and Australia are separate countries. How separate? Two thousand effing kilometres of effing salt water – that’s how separate! Would you like to build a bridge that’s two thousand kilometres long? Yes, Sydney has a harbour bridge. Yes, Auckland has one too. No, they do not join up.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #3: NEW ZEALAND IS FULL OF DANGEROUS ANIMALS

No, you’re thinking of Australia again. New Zealand has absolutely no dangerous animals. Unless you count goats as dangerous. And maybe you should. I saw someone gored by a goat once, and that was in New Zealand. New Zealand did used to have a giant, man-eating eagle, but it went extinct centuries ago.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #4: ALL NEW ZEALANDERS ARE FARMERS

Let me put it this way: I live in New Zealand. I don’t know any farmers.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #5: NEW ZEALANDERS LEAD PROVINCIAL LIVES DEVOID OF MODERN LUXURIES

While New Zealanders like to see themselves as honest, unpretentious nature-lovers, New Zealand is still part of the Western world, and just as slave to its vices as any other First World country. People eat fast food, have flat screen televisions, and wrap their Christmas presents in shiny paper. (For some reason, my English grandmother thought that wrapping paper wouldn’t be available in New Zealand.) Rest assured that New Zealand’s cities are just as much rubbish-strewn concrete jungles as yours.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #6: NEW ZEALAND IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET

You couldn’t be reading this article if it wasn’t. While Internet access may be more expensive in New Zealand, as there are fewer people here to purchase it, it’s definitely present. For those New Zealanders that complain about how slow our Internet is: I’ve recently travelled through Britain and Europe, and their Internet is just as bad. So there you go.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #7: NEW ZEALAND IS “100% PURE”

This common misconception is New Zealand’s own fault. The “100% pure” campaign is stupid. New Zealand has so many great things it can advertise to tourists, so why say something that isn’t true? Tourists get the impression that New Zealand is somewhere you can, for example, frolic through pristine nature, drinking from clear, fresh streams as you go. The truth is you should NEVER drink directly from a stream in New Zealand. Intensive dairy farming has produced a national water pollution problem.

New Zealand simply isn’t the clean, green utopia that people think it is. It often seems that way because we have such a small population, but, per capita, our environmental record actually isn’t very impressive.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #8: NEW ZEALAND IS SO SMALL THAT EVERYONE KNOWS EACH OTHER

New Zealand, by area, is bigger than Great Britain, and it has a population of about four and a half million. Not everyone knows each other. They do say, however, that whereas the rest of the world has about six degrees of separation, New Zealand only has two. Still, New Zealand isn’t a village. You’d be silly to think, as many tourists do, that you’d be able to see the whole country in a week or two. That’s something to consider if you hire a car or campervan in New Zealand.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #9: NEW ZEALAND HAS KANGAROOS

Again: Australia. The only kangaroos New Zealand has are in zoos. Our national animal is the kiwi. (Which can’t fly.)

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #10: NEW ZEALAND HAS CANNIBALS

No, now you’re confusing us with Germany! Kidding. Back in the days of Maori tribal warfare, cannibalism did take place, but New Zealand isn’t like Papua New Guinea or some lost island in the Pacific. There aren’t any “savage” tribes living deep in the bush, waiting to kidnap the unwary tourist and put them in the pot. New Zealand is a thoroughly modernised country.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #11: NEW ZEALAND HAS VIKINGS

New Zealand is not a medieval fantasy land! Nor is it “somewhere near Iceland”. (Maybe the people who think that are confusing New Zealand with Newfoundland?) We do not have any Vikings, nor did we back when the Vikings were out “viking”. Although it would be cool to find some archaeology suggesting that Vikings had sailed this far…

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #12: NEW ZEALANDERS DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH

The primary language of New Zealand is English. It may be spoken in a lazy, mumbling way that makes it practically unintelligible, but, believe me, it’s English.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #13: ALL NEW ZEALANDERS SPEAK MAORI

No. Not even all Maori speak Maori. Maori is an official language of New Zealand, however, and you’ll often find signs in both English and Maori. Some Maori words are used in everyday New Zealand English, such as “koha” – if you’re at a free concert, you might be asked for a koha, a small donation for the band.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #14: THE CAPITAL CITY OF NEW ZEALAND IS CALLED “ORCLAND”

This is so wrong that it’s wrong in two different ways. One: it’s AUCKland, not ORCland. The name has absolutely nothing to do with Lord of the Rings. It was named after the Earl of Auckland, who was Viceroy of India, in 1840. Two: Auckland is not the capital city of New Zealand – that’s Wellington.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #15: THE ENTIRE COUNTRY LOOKS LIKE ALORD OF THE RINGS SET

Much as I wish this were true, it isn’t. New Zealand is chock-a-block full of amazingly beautiful scenery, much of which was used in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, but its towns and cities are quite ordinary. In fact, they look far lessLord of the Rings-y than many towns around Europe, due to the lack of historic buildings. Of course, there is one place in New Zealand that remains a perfect Lord of the Rings set: Hobbiton. I heartily recommend you go – it’s fantastic.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #16: NEW ZEALANDERS LIVE IN HOBBIT HOLES

Hobbits don’t actually exist. J. R. R. Tolkien made them up. New Zealanders live in houses, although they differ slightly in style from European houses. Few homes here are built of brick; the wooden, colonial-style bungalow is more common. But while they might not live like hobbits, New Zealanders do tend to have tough feet from walking around barefoot…

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #17: THEY HAVE “DODGY FOREIGN” FOOD IN NEW ZEALAND

If you’re the sort of unadventurous person who mistrusts “foreign” food, New Zealand is probably a good place for you to come. Everyday New Zealand food is very similar to the food you get in Britain and North America. New Zealand being a cultural melting pot, however, you can sample cuisine from practically anywhere in the world.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #18: THEY DON’T HAVE DEMOCRACY IN NEW ZEALAND

There are many New Zealanders who would say (in Internet comment sections) that New Zealand isn’t a democracy, but, political whinging aside, it is. It’s actually one of the better democracies in the world. Foreigners always seem surprised when you tell them that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. Well it was. Back in 1893.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #19: EVERYONE IN NEW ZEALAND SHEARS/RIDES/INAPPROPRIATELY INTERFERES WITH SHEEP

You know the last one is a joke. At least I hope you do. If you don’t, you’re confusing New Zealand with Australia again. The middle one is also a joke. The first one, at least, is not unfounded: sheep shearing is a thing and it exists in New Zealand. Hardly anyone in the country has actually done it, but there are lots of places in New Zealand where tourists can watch sheep being sheared. I don’t see the appeal myself. Seriously – why would anyone pay to watch that?

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #20: NEW ZEALAND IS PARADISE

Of course New Zealand isn’t paradise. It’s a country just like yours. There are good things and there are bad things. Well, okay, it’s probably closer to paradise than your country… I mean it does have an abundance of beautiful scenery… And, yes, it is one of the safest places on the planet… But, no, it’s not paradise. Sometimes it just seems like it.

Eating Out in Auckland Central

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The centre of Auckland City is heaven for food lovers. There are delights from all over the world to suit every budget. Deciding where to eat is quite a challenge.

Last week I found myself standing on Queen Street, alone, with an entire day to fill. That evening, I would be meeting my boyfriend for a posh dinner to celebrate our third anniversary, but, as yet, I hadn’t had any breakfast. I set off in search of a nice café.

It was nine in the morning, so not that many places were open. I didn’t feel like a big breakfast. Besides, fry-ups tend to be unreasonably expensive in New Zealand cafés. I found a place that did bagels and toast, but I wasn’t sure. I was about to give up and get a cheese toastie from Starbucks when I found a lovely tapas bar tucked away behind Whitcoulls.

Mezze Bar on Durham Street East is very pleasing to look at. The décor is warm and welcoming with an interesting flair. It opens at seven in the morning on weekdays, and its range of breakfast dishes is impressive. I ended up having a plate of feta dipped in dukkah, with warm Turkish bread.

SushiUsually, when I’m out in Auckland, I’ll have sushi, it being the cheapest food you can get that’s also healthy. That day, I decided to treat myself a little. The plate of feta cost $10.

By lunchtime, I was keen for something hearty and filling, but not so filling that it would ruin my anniversary dinner. I ruled out Forte Street’s Velvet Burger on those grounds, despite the temptation. What I ended up having was not so healthy, but it sure did the trick.

No. 1 Pancake is somewhere every visitor to Auckland to go. It’s just a kiosk, and you have to queue on the pavement, but their Korean pancakes are cheap, satisfying and SO GOOD. It’s near the library, on the corner where Lorne Street meets the art gallery side of Wellesley Street. I always have the $3 sweet red bean pancake, but you can get savoury ones like beef and cheese too.

Having had the gorgeous Korean pancake, I forced myself to resist the delights of Toro Churro and Mrs Higgins Cookies on Queen Street. Distractions were provided by shopping.

My next culinary stop was Vulcan Lane’s Belgian Beer Café, The Occidental. It’s part of a chain, but a good chain. Their food is very nice, but of course it’s not what you go there for. When you sit down, you’re presented with a ‘Magna Carta Fermenta’ – a shockingly expensive beer menu. The cheapest tap beer there is about $8. If you want to try something more exotic, you’re looking at about $15 a bottle.

belgianbeerBut I’d already resolved to treat myself. I’d only have one, and the only beer I’ve found I actually like is Belgian beer. I was excited to see that The Occidental sold two of the beers I’d discovered and loved when my boyfriend and I were in Bruges. They were sold out of the coconut beer, so I had a bottle of Delirium Red – at 8.5%, it’s a good thing it’s so expensive. I suppose you could have one Delirium for the same price and alcoholic effect as three cheap beers.

My boyfriend joined me in the pub. I finished my Delirium feeling slightly peculiar, and was very glad I hadn’t consumed any other alcohol. Delirium’s logo of little, pink elephants dancing is certainly fitting.

A while later it was time for our anniversary dinner. The Foodstore, beautifully situated in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin, is my favourite restaurant for this reason: every dish I’ve ever sampled there has given me multiple food-gasms. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. My starter was scampi tails and black pudding with cauliflower puree for $20. I relished every bite. For mains, we both had the $36 quail and truffle pie. I’ve never had such an exquisite pie. The quail was so soft and creamy.

Outside, golden city lights shimmered on the black water of the harbour. It was so romantic. The Viaduct Basin buzzes with fancy bars and eateries. My family likes sitting in the leather armchairs in front of the fireplace of Danny Doolans, an Irish bar with a flagstone floor. You have to do this in the afternoon, though, as it gets too clubby later on.

Around Auckland 018Unfortunately we couldn’t go for another drink, as we had to catch the train home. (Auckland trains don’t run late enough, in my opinion.) Our Auckland culinary adventure wasn’t over yet, though. A couple of days later, before we drove back to Hamilton, we met up with a friend for dinner. He showed us two awesome-looking areas to eat that I couldn’t believe I’d never found before.

The first was the City Works Depot. It’s an area of stylish sheds and fairy lights, just up Wellesley Street from Victoria Park. It includes the swanky (in a down-to-earth, Tracy-Island-toy-on-the-bar sort of way) craft beer brewery and bar, Brothers, and the Food Truck Garage, which aims to create delicious, healthy versions of fast food. Our friend swore they do the best burgers in town. (Even better than The White Lady burgers, he said, which is high praise indeed.)

We’d didn’t end up going there, though. Instead, our friend led us to Elliot Stables. The place looks like something out of a Victorian period drama; “an epicurean village”, according to the website. It’s basically a food court, but with sumptuous surroundings and picturesque dishes, rather than bright lights, plastic chairs and suspiciously radioactive-looking curry. You can get curry there, but it’s rather more upmarket. You can also get Spanish food, Italian food, French food, German food, Japanese food, Caribbean food… and lots of nice wine.

I want to go back to both the City Works Depot and Elliot Stables at some point to explore them properly.

Auckland 5When my money’s built up again, that is.

My Experience of the Auckland Sky Tower’s Revolving Restaurant

Why New Zealand’s Got the Best Food in the World

Nerds of New Zealand Unite for Armageddon

NZNerdsHamigeddon

For me, Armageddon is an annual certainty. (I’m talking about the sci-fi/fantasy/anime/comic/gaming/cosplay convention, not the actual end of the world.) I usually go to the Auckland Armageddon, but I live in Hamilton now, and I’ve just experienced my first ‘Hamigeddon’.

The Hamilton Armageddon is, of course, a lot smaller than the Auckland Armageddon. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. It turned out to be my best Armageddon yet!

When we got there, I was shocked at the sheer length of the entry line. I mean you don’t expect Hamilton to have so many people, let alone so many nerds. It was with some trepidation that we trekked to the end of the queue. That trepidation was only increased by the presence of a Dalek screeching:

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“It. Is. Three. Hours. To. The. Head. Of. The. Line!”

Thankfully, the Dalek was lying for comic effect. The line moved very quickly and it only took us fifteen minutes to get in.

Fifteen minutes and one jeer from a passing car full of Muggles with backward baseball caps. Apparently they didn’t like our costumes, many of which were quite excellent.

Once we were in, I immediately appreciated one difference from the Auckland Armageddon: I could move! I could actually get to each of the stalls without battling through a mass of sweaty bodies in anime costumes. I immediately set about sifting through the mountains of nerdy novelty items – what treasures would I find this year?

I always spend more than I should at Armageddon. After all, does anyone really need light-up lightsaber chopsticks or a Firefly/Serenity ‘leaf on the wind’ necklace?

Well, apparently, I do. My favourite mementos of this Armageddon, however, weren’t the Pikachu T-shirt, or the Game of Thrones dragon cuddly, or even the ornamental Sting heavily discounted because of its slightly damaged hilt. This year, my favourite Armageddon mementos were memories.

Me feeling a bit too much like Joffrey...

That’s me aiming a crossbow and feeling a little too much like Joffrey…

I had a great time shooting cushioned crossbow bolts at a heavily armoured Viking. I had an even greater time duelling my boyfriend in a combat ring with various LARP-safe weapons. After fighting each other, we went up against an experienced warrior: two on one.

“Unfair advantage,” a spectator observed. “Unfair for them, I mean.”

Indeed it was. We got pummelled.

Other activities on offer at this year’s Hamigeddon included lasertag, League of Legends, a cosplay parade, a Magic the Gathering tournament and a ‘Dinosaur vs. Zombie Alley’, which was kinda lame. I mean the zombie actors were quite good, but I didn’t see them fighting any dinosaurs.

Attribution: Gage Skidmore

John Rhys-Davies / Attribution: Gage Skidmore

For me, the absolute best part of this Armageddon was the John Rhys-Davies panel. Before he was Gimli in The Lord of the Rings, I mostly knew John Rhys-Davies for the Indiana Jones movies. In person, he was wonderful. He didn’t just sit there with the mike and answer awkward questions; he paced the stage and actively engaged with the audience. He gave both funny and intelligent answers, and he wasn’t above doing the ‘dwarf tossing’ line. He’s currently in New Zealand filming for the new epic fantasy series based on Terry Brooks’ Shannara, in which he plays an elf KING – take that, Orlando Bloom! (His words.)

Manu Bennett was fairly awesome too, going off on long, yet ultimately rewarding stories. He’s in Shannara as well, and he said he was stoked to be back in New Zealand.

mountain-310155_640Graham McTavish, or Dwalin from The Hobbit, said something particularly nice about New Zealand. It’s like one of those fantasy islands you draw as kid, an island that has everything you could possibly want on it. J.M. Barrie created Neverland to be like that. New Zealand is Neverland: adventure is never far away.

The funniest panel was with Martin Klebba, (the short guy in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies,) and Adam Brown, (Ori in the Hobbit movies, currently filming for the new Pirates of the Caribbean with Martin Klebba. I know – like we need ANOTHER Pirates of the Caribbean film! I got the impression that when Martin joked about it being just a paycheck at this stage, he wasn’t actually joking.)

clipart-orc-warrior-256x256-7ae3Many of Martin’s answers had Adam comically facepalming in despair. Like when he told a hall full of nerds that he’d never watched The Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek, or Doctor Who, or, in fact, anything represented at the convention, (except Pirates of the Caribbean.) He actually refuses to watch The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit on principle, and has a considerable amount of beef with Peter Jackson for not casting real little people as dwarves or hobbits.

You can kinda see his point, as there must be so few roles come up for little people that actually have a character beyond ‘little person’. There aren’t enough Tyrion Lannisters out there!

So, yeah, the 2015 Hamigeddon made for a very enjoyable weekend. I’ll definitely be going again next year. Hopefully, there’ll be some more interesting people coming – I’m still dreaming of the day New Zealand gets David Tennant or Nathan Fillion.

Interview with the Larper: Having a Larp in New Zealand

What Hobbiton’s Like

My review of New Zealand’s own vampire comedy, What We Do in the Shadows

Nerds of New Zealand Unite!

Nerds of New Zealand Unite!

The Mysterious Beauty of Bethells Beach

The mysterious West Coast (Bethells Beach)

Te Henga, or Bethells Beach, is a properly mystical place. No wonder so many films, TV series, music videos and commercials are shot there. Being on the west coast of Auckland, its sunsets are especially spectacular. Many’s the time I’ve watched blazing threads of gold weave themselves into the pink sky above the wine-dark sea. I wouldn’t say it’s New Zealand’s best beach, but it’s pretty damn close.

The sand is a sparkling, bluish black that feels like velvet on your feet. As you walk along, you notice a haze over the dunes and the towering rocks that extend into the water – a mist over the ruins of a lost civilisation. A sort-of island – a chunk of cliff disconnected from the rest – rises out of the waves, cloaked in bush. The curves of its hills look like the Earth Mother sunbathing. Seriously, from the right angle you can see the swell of her breasts, stomach and colossal thighs.

A cave winks at you from the end of the beach – the left end, if you’re facing the sea. You can explore it at low tide. If you go right, you’ll find another cave waiting for you in O’Neills Bay. It’s a charming tunnel, a magical gateway to a “secret” beach beyond.

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Bethells Beach is a great place to surf and bodyboard, but don’t do it when the Surf Life Saving people aren’t there. It really is dangerous. Keep between the flags and don’t go too far out. If you’ve got small children, they can swim in the lagoon. (Yes, there’s a lagoon. It’s really pretty.) Incidentally, the Surf Life Saving tower makes for a rather striking silhouette against the Bethells sunset.

Between the lagoon and the car park, there’s a locally owned outdoor café. The food’s nice, and during the summer months, on Friday nights, they host various local bands. It’s a lovely community event. People come with blankets and deckchairs, and sit around drinking and being served pizza, later getting up to dance on the sand.

The Bethells locals often complain about Aucklanders (city slickers) and tourists overrunning “their” beach. Some even warned me, (jokingly, I think,) about publishing this article. I’m flattered they think my blog reaches so many people.

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Bethells Beach is a special place. It has the wild, rugged beauty of Auckland’s other west coast beaches, like Piha and Muriwai, but it also has a mysterious beauty. There’s something otherworldly about it; something that draws people back again and again. I’ve already written about the necessity of visiting the amazing Muriwai gannet colony when you’re in Auckland, but do that during day and then, before sunset, head to Bethells.

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