Wednesday, 27 April 2016


The challenges of growing New Zealand’s visitor numbers

All the world wants to come to New Zealand to experience the wonderful scenery, the outdoor adventure activities, and world-class friendly service for which the small country Downunder is famous. But more and more, the No Vacancy sign is showing. For a large part of the year New Zealand is full.

Lake Wanaka is a magnet for touring photographers
Tourism, directly and indirectly, is a great generator of business opportunities and employment. Tourism can be such a successful industry that some nations prosper solely from it. New Zealand has many industries that earn foreign exchange, but in recent decades tourism has taken the leading role. Now the industry and government have declared that they are embarking on a record-breaking period of growth and expansion. Industry forecasts are predicting that the numbers, particularly from Asia, will grow by millions per year.

But what will New Zealand have to do to achieve the new goals?  Is it just a simple matter of bringing in the No Vacancy sign? No. Not by a long shot.

New Zealand desperately needs to improve its infrastructure. It must also include all the population in the pride that holds tourism as the nation’s most important industry. The clean, green image must become clean, green, capable, efficient and safe, where no-one does it better. It’s one thing to get visitors into the country once. It takes planning, dedication, expertise, service and variety to get them back again and again.

Peter Blakeborough, the author of nine books, has been a
 tour driver, guide and tour operator for 37 years
The whole nation, every individual, needs to be aware that it may only take one incident (unprofessional, unsafe or unfriendly) to destroy tourism and employment for a generation. Every individual, whether employed directly in tourism or not, must be ready to protect and defend tourism and the tourist. Without tourism, New Zealand would be ranked as one of the world’s poorest nations.

New Zealand needs more than a forecast to make tourism grow. There needs to be a comprehensive plan to expand the tourism infrastructure. Rotorua and Queenstown cannot continue to cope with the growing demand for beds, excursions and adventures. Milford Sound is at the end of the country’s longest no-exit road, and in the location most exposed to accidents and natural disasters. That is a potential calamity that needs urgent attention. In the meantime, the Milford Road should only be available to holders of full New Zealand driver licences. There should also be a plan to build an alternate highway into the Sound from Jackson Bay in the north, that would not rely on the Homer Tunnel. Such a highway, making a round-trip possible, could improve safety while increasing visitor numbers.

The road to Milford Sound is full of scenic delights, but it
 is not a road for distracted amateur drivers.
The tourism plan should also include upgrading existing roads in places like Coromandel, Northland and Urewera National Park to mention a few. Tourist highways should always provide for round-trips. Most tourists, when faced with a choice between a round-trip and a return on the same road, will almost always opt for the round-trip. Time costs them money. This is a prime reason why the Bay of Islands has failed to compete with Rotorua. It’s great scenery with every hill and corner, but doing it all again on the return journey makes it tiresome. Why would anyone want two consecutive sittings of the same movie?

New and improved highways in scenic areas will quickly attract hotels and attractions, and take some pressure off Rotorua and Queenstown. But the highways must come first. The new highways will also give visitors another reason to make return visits to New Zealand.

When people travel to foreign lands they like to think that they will be served by people who know what they are doing. Tourism, travel and hospitality courses are readily available and many people enrol in them and obtain a diploma. But that is of little use if their future employment does not put them at the coal-face. Too many tour drivers and tour directors are untrained and unqualified. Many are merely outgoing personalities with initiative, who will make an impression and survive anywhere. But these same individuals can also fail spectacularly through a lack of training. Every tour guide in New Zealand should have a tour guide licence.

In New Zealand there is a great opportunity for a tour coach operator to become an innovator. Normally, they hire a coach and driver to a tour operator, while the tour operator engages the tour manager or guide, and finds the passengers. Often it is the blind leading the blind. Someday, soon I hope, a coach operator will contract to provide both driver and guide, one senior and one junior, one teaching the other, both eventually capable of doing both jobs professionally. A captain and co-pilot team working together, each with his or her own level of certification.

The one thing that most tourists want to know about, more than anything else when they book their travel, is safety. Destinations that become unsafe, for whatever reason, are avoided like the plague.  New Zealand has its share of potential natural disasters, so we must work extra hard on the hazards that can be reduced. Road accidents in New Zealand cause more deaths and injuries for tourists than any other cause, and the tourist plan must include improvements in road safety.

New Zealand drivers, 90% of whom believe they are of above average ability, are well below average ability for drivers in developed countries. This is reflected in our road crash statistics. The reasons for this are many and varied, but can be briefly attributed to poor knowledge and training, lack of respect for the law, and inadequate roads. In recent years there has been a growing trend to blame tourists for accidents, particularly tourists who inadvertently drive on the wrong side of the road. But with 90% of the worlds roads build for travelling on the right, I believe that it is us who are driving on the wrong side. As self-drive international travel explodes in the future, New Zealand and other similar countries must address this killer problem. Changing sides, as a nation, is not as difficult or as costly as it may at first appear. The best way to make our roads and drivers safe for tourists will be to adopt the best international standards.

A tour coach like this can carry a load equal
to ten full cars, but only requires
four car spaces for parking
Central government may also be obliged to take over some of the responsibilities of local government if the tourism industry is to continue being successful. Already parochial policies are restricting tourism growth with unfair and discriminatory treatment of freedom campers and parking for tourist coaches. This is a nationwide problem and needs a national solution. Any place that is available for parking a car without restriction should also be available for parking a self-contained camper or a tour coach without restriction.

Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua and Queenstown all have insufficient parking for tour coaches. In Rotorua, tour drivers required to take visitors to city restaurants, must drive to the edge of town to park. This means that the driver will miss a meal or will keep the visitors waiting while he has a mandatory 30-minute rest period. Another predicament for tour drivers is signage that limits parking time to minutes or two or three hours, even though a driver is required to have a 10-hour rest period in each 24-hour period.

In Queenstown, with few exceptions, tour coaches are forbidden to park anywhere in the town overnight. Daytime parking is severely limited. However, in all these cities and towns, cars get the first preference for parking. The attitude in some councils appears to be, we want your tourist dollars but just send us your money without actually travelling with it. Central government should take control of parking in the national interest, or at least lay down some firmer rules for councils to follow.

Good planning and a population dedicated to making tourists welcome, safe and satisfied will go a long way to making 5-10 million visitors a year a reality. And the environment would not need to suffer in the way it would if the same income was earned in any other way.






Wednesday, 6 April 2016


The New Zealand Tour Commentary

by Peter Blakeborough

The following are extracts from the revised edition of this handbook for New Zealand tour drivers and guides


Chronology of New Zealand History                                              6                                           
The Tour Commentary                                                                    39
Sample Commentary – Auckland                                                 48
Sample Commentary – Wellington                                               78

Tourist Routes – North Island
Auckland-Waipoua Forest-Bay of Islands                                    88
Treaty of Waitangi                                                                          100
Auckland-Waitomo-Rotorua                                                        109
Pokeno-Rotorua via Coromandel                                                127
Rotorua-Wellington                                                                       148
Taupo-Wellington via Hawkes Bay                                              159
Government in New Zealand                                                        167
Tourist Routes – South Island                           
Cook Strait                                                                                       174
Picton-Hokitika                                                                              178
Hokitika-Queenstown                                                                   193
Queenstown-Milford Sound                                                         207
Te Anau-Dunedin                                                                           217
Dunedin-Omarama                                                                        228
Queenstown-Christchurch                                                            235
Christchurch-Picton                                                                       254
Notable New Zealanders                                                                261
Population, Mountains, Rivers & Lakes                                       271
References & Acknowledgements                                                 273        
Index                                                                                                  275

From the Chronology of New Zealand History (Starting on Page 11)

1832 James Busby, a minor clerk in the New South Wales Government, is appointed British Resident in New Zealand. His status is less than that of a consul and the appointment is regarded as a sideways shift rather than a promotion.

1833 Busby takes up residence in the Bay of Islands.

1834 Without authority, Busby encourages 25 northern chiefs to adopt the United Tribes flag.

1835 Again without authority, Busby encourages 34 northern chiefs of the Confederation of United Tribes to sign the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand. Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga invade the Chatham Islands where they kill or enslave local Maoriori. William Colenso lands New Zealand’s first printing press at the Bay of Islands and prints New Zealand’s first book, which is also the first book to be printed in Maori.

1836 The Confederation of United Tribes fails to meet in assembly, or pass any laws, and becomes defunct as tribal warfare continues.

1837 The first Australian possums are released in New Zealand to start a fur trade. Baron de Thierry returns to the Hokianga with 60 followers and declares himself the Sovereign King of New Zealand.

1838 Busby becomes increasingly isolated in his efforts to establish a form of self-government in New Zealand. He is regarded as irrelevant by the authorities in London and Sydney, and by Maori and white settlers. Rabbits are first released in New Zealand.

1839 William Hobson is sent to New Zealand to establish British rule as a dependency of New South Wales. The first honey bees arrive with a Miss Bumby (Correct spelling).

1840 William Hobson, with assistance from his clerk James Freeman, and Busby, drafts the Treaty of Waitangi. Missionary Henry Williams translates the document into Maori. Hone Heke is the first chief to sign Hobson’s Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February. Three women also sign the Treaty. Eight copies of the Treaty are produced in Maori for signing in other parts of the country. The copies are not exact replicas of the original. The first New Zealand capital is established at Okiato, near present day Opua and named Russell. French colonists settle at Akaroa. Rawiri Taiwhanga becomes New Zealand’s first dairy farmer near Kaikohe. The first bank, the New Zealand Banking Company, opens for business in Kororareka. The first New Zealand Company settlers arrive in Port Nicholson. The first newspaper The New Zealand Gazette is published at Petone. Petone carpenter Samuel Parnell declares he will not work more than eight hours a day.

1841 The capital is moved from Russell (Okiato) to Auckland. New Zealand is separated from New South Wales to become a British colony in its own right, and Hobson’s status changes from Lieutenant-Governor to Governor. The first European settlers arrive at New Plymouth.

1842 Governor Hobson dies and his place is taken by Robert Fitzroy. William Martin is appointed by the Colonial Office in London as New Zealand’s first Chief Justice and establishes the New Zealand Supreme Court. New Zealand is no longer subject to the laws of New South Wales. Maketu Wharetotara is hanged in Auckland, witnessed by about 1,000 Europeans, for the murder of the Roberton family at the Bay of Islands. This is New Zealand’s first official execution and sets a precedent in which British law now applies to Maori also.

1843 Twenty-two European settlers and four Maori are killed in a land dispute at Wairau. The first thoroughbred horses are imported from Australia.

1844 Hone Heke begins the War in the North.

1845 George Grey becomes governor.

1846 The War in the North ends at Ruapekapeka. The first Constitution Act is passed by the Imperial Government paving the way for New Zealand to be divided into the provinces of New Ulster and New Munster. Grey refuses to implement the provisions of the Act.

1847 Wellington is granted a Lieutenant-Governor.

1848 Dunedin is founded by Scottish settlers. Coal is discovered at Brunner. A major earthquake in Marlborough damages most Wellington buildings. Land is set aside for the creation of Hagley Park in Christchurch, to be named after Hagley Hall, the home of Lord Lyttleton.

1850 The first organised settlers arrive in Canterbury.

1851 The first deer are released near Nelson.

1852 Another New Zealand Constitution Act is passed providing for an elected General Assembly and six provincial councils. The first navigation beacon in New Zealand is established at Pencarrow Head. Charles Ring discovers gold at Coromandel, but the gold rush quickly ends.

1853 New Zealand’s first general election is held on 4 July with the voters including about 100 Maori. Only male land owners are permitted to vote. The first ministry (cabinet) is led by James Fitzgerald (the office of premier is yet to be created) with Henry Sewell, Frederick Weld and Thomas Bartley as ministers.

1854 The first meeting of the General Assembly (parliament) takes place in Auckland with 37 Members representing 24 electorates. The powers of the Assembly are severely limited by the appointed Legislative Council and the British Government.

1855 An 8.1 magnitude earthquake strikes Wairarapa and Wellington resulting in a ground movement of 17 metres. Adhesive postage stamps are on sale for the first time. Robert Wilkin introduces hedgehogs.

From Auckland-Rotorua via Coromandel Section (Starting on Page 134)

Mercury Bay was named by Captain James Cook (actually Lieutenant Cook) when he landed here in 1769 to claim New Zealand for King George III of England, and to observe the transit of Mercury. The Maori name for Mercury Bay is Te Whanganui-o-Hei which translates to the great bay of Hei.

The main purpose of Cook’s first voyage of discovery was to claim New Zealand and Australia for the King, while observing the transit of Venus and later Mercury, was just a front to disguise the real intention from the French who were also interested in the region.

Cook had earlier landed near the present day city of Gisborne after land (Young Nicks Head) was first sighted by 12 year-old Nicholas Young, who was rewarded with five gallons of rum. History has not recorded how long it took young Nick to polish off the rum, or indeed, if the rum polished him off first, but, because of this rum transaction, the lad could have rightfully claimed to be the first person to sell New Zealand.

Cook’s landing and observations were commemorated in 1969 with a re-enactment of the historic events at Shakespeare Cliff on the southern side of the bay, and the unveiling of a plaque. Taking part before a large crowd were Queen Elizabeth II (as Cook) and this writer’s uncle, Harold Brown (as a Maori chief, even though he was born in America), who was the then chairman of the former Coromandel County Council. Unfortunately, it later transpired that the original landing was more than a kilometre away at the other end of Cooks Beach, and so Mercury Bay could also be known as the place where VIPs got lost.

 Mercury Bay is a popular game fishing place with marlin being present. The fishing is boosted by the location nearby of Cathedral Cove and its associated marine reserve where fishing is prohibited, but fish stray from the protected zone and get caught in large numbers.  Yachting is also popular here and the Mercury Bay Yacht Club was the official club of challenge for New Zealand’s first America’s Cup challenge in 1987.

From Te Anau-Dunedin Section (Starting on Page 221)
Milburn, since 2007, has been the site of a correctional facility with almost 500 inmates.

Meanwhile, Milburn limestone is known all over New Zealand for its use in cement and fertilizer.

Unlike Milton, Milburn was named after a person; Morris Milburn, born in the north-east of England, arrived here in 1858 after walking 450 kilometres from Christchurch.

Waihola The spelling for Waihola, and nearby Lake Waihola, have been corrupted with the passing of time. The true Maori place name is believed to be Waihora, which means spreading water. There is no letter L in the Maori alphabet.

The shallow lake is tidal and connected to the sea, five kilometres away, by the Taieri River. The lake and nearby wetlands are popular for water sports including water skiing, sailing, fishing and hunting. About 60 species of native birds inhabit the area.

Mosgiel, once a borough with 10,000 people, is now a suburb of Dunedin City.

The name Mosgiel comes from Mossgiel, the Ayrshire farm of Scottish poet, Robert Burns. A nephew of Burns, the Reverend Thomas Burns, was one of the founders of the Otago settlements in 1848.

The district got a boost from the discovery of gold in 1861 and Arthur John Burns, a son of Thomas Burns, founded the Mosgiel Woollen Mills. The mill was a major employer and nationally recognised brand until its closure in the 1980’s. For a time Mosgiel had a factory producing white ware but distance from the larger population centres forced its closure also.

Copies of The New Zealand Tour Commentary can be ordered from Gypsy Books, PO Box 110, Ngatea 3541, New Zealand, for NZ$45.00 including postage.
Telephone 07-211-9876 or 021-115-0543.