The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail: Part Two

The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail: Wairarapa

From Hawke’s Bay, head south down The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail on State Highway 2 to the Wairarapa region.

A wonderful stop on the way south is at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre. Here you can see the world’s only white kiwi in captivity, as well as plenty of native New Zealand wildlife.

Wairarapa boasts some of the country’s most iconic wine producers. It is most noted for its pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and aromatic wines. Martinborough is the most prominent of the Wairarapa regions. It is home to around 30 wineries that are mostly family owned. Most of the wineries are within walking distance from Martinborough’s picturesque colonial town centre. Biking to the wineries is also very popular, and a great way to explore the area. There are some excellent vineyard cafes and restaurants, as well as boutique stores and quality accommodation. The Martinborough Wine Centre is also a great stop if you are short on time, and would like to taste a variety of wines from the region at one place. Greytown, a Victorian country village in the Wairarapa, has a mix of boutique shops, art galleries, antique stores, cafes and restaurants, making it one of New Zealand’s top shopping destinations. Schoc Chocolates is highly recommended for any chocolate lover! Wairarapa celebrates its wine legacy with a variety of festivals, including Toast Martinborough (in November) and Wairarapa Wines Harvest Festival (in March).

DOC gets increased funding to support New Zealand’s wildlife and landscape

One of the major treasures of New Zealand is its stunning and unique wildlife, landscape and native bush. Given the growing attraction of this country for increasingly large numbers of tourists, the challenge is afoot for New Zealand’s government and its Department of Conservation to ensure that this treasure is maintained and protected. Sustainable tourism is essential, if New Zealand is to retain its beautiful natural environment.

New Zealand’s government has recently announced its 2018 Budget, which delivers a significant funding boost for the Department of Conservation, with an additional $181.62 million to be delivered to DOC over the next four years:

  • $81.28 million to help New Zealand’s unique wildlife thrive by controlling and eradicating predators
  • $16.24 million for strengthening DOC’s organisational capacity and capability
  • $5.5 million for managing the impacts of more visitors to public conservation land
  • $2.6 million for protecting plants, wildlife and landscapes in the Mackenzie Basin
  • $76 million as a contingency to fund biodiversity initiatives across land, freshwater and marine ecosystems.

It’s one of the biggest ever funding increases for the Department of Conservation and will benefit New Zealand’s distinctive native plants, wildlife and natural landscapes.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds provides a fascinating glimpse into New Zealand’s history. It was here on 6 February 1840 that the first 43 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown, whereby (the British Crown claimed) British sovereignty was established. The Treaty House was built in 1832 and was originally a home of British resident James Busby. It is now preserved as a museum. The iconic carved meeting house – Te Whare Rūnanga – is stunning. The fine carvings on the meeting house represent the main Maori tribes.

We can also highly recommend the cultural performances at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which take place during the summer. You can experience the thrill of a challenge from a Māori warrior as you make your way through the grounds. If you pass, you’ll continue on to Te Whare Rūnanga where you’ll encounter a traditional Māori welcome, and an energetic cultural performance by the resident performing arts group – Te Pitowhenua. After the show you can return to the café for a delicious hāngi dinner – cooked in a traditional Māori earth oven – in which your food is steamed to perfection.  Expert hāngi chefs will educate you on the cooking process as they tantalisingly reveal your feast.

You can get a glimpse into what awaits through this video clip filmed at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds: Waitangi Treaty Grounds


Anzac Day: 25 April

Today is Anzac Day. April 25. To me, Anzac Day conjures up vivid images of my university time in Auckland, when on this day each year my friends and I would get up in the dark, and walk through the Domain to the Auckland War Memorial (by the Museum). We would gather in small groups, whispering, and waiting for the first rays of light, and the emotional moving sound of a solitary bagpipe, that indicated the start of the ceremony. Most people were well wrapped up against the cold, but all would be wearing a red paper poppy somewhere on their jackets, to mark the day.  Wreaths, decorated with poppies, would be laid around the memorial, and returned servicemen decorated with medals would be an intrinsic part of the ceremony, many often in wheelchairs.

In this way, thousands of New Zealanders and Australians in New Zealand, Australia and all around the world today attended dawn ceremonies and parades to commemorate Anzac Day. This public holiday (in both Australia and New Zealand) commemorates all New Zealanders and Australians killed in war and conflicts and also honours returned servicemen and women who have fought and protected our country.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps – the “Anzacs” – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders. Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians.  Among the dead were around 2700 New Zealanders, about a sixth of those who served on Gallipoli, and over 5000 New Zealanders were wounded.

New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke at a dawn service at Gallipoli today. I found her speech very moving. You can see it here:

Gallipoli – Anzac Day 2017


Auckland Arts Festival 2017

Between 8 – 26 March, New Zealand’s largest city will be hosting a huge range of performances at The Auckland Arts Festival. From dance to poetry and visual arts to circus, the Festival is one of the biggest arts festivals in the southern hemisphere. It draws performers and audiences from around the world, and includes many free events and lots of family-friendly offerings.

In last year’s festival, 1,160 artists from 41 countries descended on Auckland to provide locals and visitors to the city with exceptional arts experiences. For 19 days, at more than 100 locations, Auckland was delivered a brilliant cross-cultural, cross-geographical and cross-generational programme of music, performance and events.

You can find out more about what’s on this year by clicking on the following link:

Auckland Arts Festival

It’s all happening in Auckland

If you are visiting Auckland in the next few months, there are some exciting events coming up. Here’s a run-down:

17-22 November 2016: Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary

In 2016, the Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary. There will be an International Naval Review as part of these celebrations in Auckland from the 17th to 22nd of November. A number of foreign navies, including the US Navy, are participating. The ships will enter the Waitemata Harbour in formation on Thursday 17 November. There will also be a march by 1000 sailors down Queen Street, public open days on New Zealand and international naval vessels, and an exhibition at The Cloud on Queens Wharf.  For more details see the Navy’s website here:

14-21 December 2016: Youth Sailing World Championships

From the 14th to 21st of December, Auckland will host the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships. This is expected to attract about 400 young sailors to New Zealand. Torbay Sailing Club (on the North Shore) is hosting the tournament, in conjunction with World Sailing and Yachting New Zealand.

2 – 14 January 2017: ASB Tennis Classic

The ASB Classic takes place from the 2nd to the 14th of January 2017. In a major coup for Auckland’s annual international tennis tournament, Serena Williams will be playing. Other internationals confirmed for the 2017 tournament include Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Jack Sock, John Isner, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer. The Auckland tournament continues to be a hit with top international players, winning the players’ choice WTA Best Asia-Pacific International Tournament 2 years in a row. To buy tickets, see the ASB Classic Tennis website:

28-30 January 2017: Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival

The Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival takes place in the Viaduct Events Centre and Viaduct Basin over Auckland Anniversary Weekend (28 – 30 January 2017). Enjoy three days of traditional and contemporary Maori culture, from emerging and established Māori musicians including Sammy J, Maisey Rika and Ria Hall, as well as traditional and modern kapa haka performances. Wander the village marketplace and discover delicious kai from Māori chefs and a variety of authentic arts and crafts. Experience traditional Māori games, storytelling, and workshops, plus exciting waka experiences on the Waitematā. There will also be a ‘Koro Lounge’ where pakeke (older visitors) can sit down, relax and have a complimentary cup of tea or coffee. Here is a link to the full programme: Tamaki Herenga Programme

9-12 February 2017: Auckland Lantern Festival

The Auckland Lantern Festival takes place between the 9th and 12th of February, and is Auckland’s largest cultural festival. Hundreds of handmade Chinese lanterns are set amongst the heritage trees and gardens of the Auckland Domain, while food stalls showcase delicious, authentic Chinese cuisine. There are performances, martial arts displays, arts and craft stalls, and a fireworks show at the end of the Festival.




New Banknotes in New Zealand

In May this year, New Zealand’s new $20, $50 and $100 notes were introduced into circulation by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. These beautiful new notes highlight some of the New Zealand native birds at risk from predators like possums, stoats and rats. Fortunately the New Zealand Department of Conservation and various community groups and trusts are working to help protect these special birds. Hopefully featuring them on the new banknotes will also highlight the risk facing these vulnerable birds, and contribute to the protective efforts already in place.



The New $20 Banknote. Image: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

One of New Zealand’s fastest birds can be found on the new $20 banknote: the kārearea or New Zealand falcon. The bird can reach speeds of over 100 km/h and catch prey larger than itself. This species is at-risk and it is estimated only 5,000 to 8,000 birds remain. Community groups including the Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust and Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust are working to ensure the survival of this special bird. Also to be seen on the new $20 note is the Marlborough rock daisy which appears in front of Tapuae-o-Uenuku, the highest peak in the northeast of New Zealand’s South Island. (You can find this daisy on the Kaikoura coast, where it can be seen growing off many of the steep rocky bluffs.)



The new $50 Banknote. Image: Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

The new New Zealand $50 banknote is the only note in the world to feature fungi (the blue mushroom, known as werewere-kōkako in māori.)

The kōkako (the native bird also featured on this banknote) are another bird species at-risk, specially known for the clarity and volume of their song which carries far across the forest. (In the mid 1990s the New Zealand Department of Conservation and the Auckland Regional Council started a joint project to protect the remaining 21 North Island kōkako in the Hunua Ranges. The population has grown slowly with the protection of nests from predators, close monitoring of nesting birds and trans-locations. A census in 2015 found 55 kōkako pairs!)



The new $100 Banknote. Image: Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

The new $100 banknote features the South Island lichen moth, mohua and Eglinton Valley in Fiordland National Park.

The South Island lichen moth (also known as the zebra moth) is known for its unique colouration and camouflage techniques within Fiordland beech forests. The mohua (also known as the yellowed) is a small bird found only in the southern half of New Zealand. It nests in tree holes, which make it highly vulnerable to predators like possums, stoats and rats.  A predator plague in 2000 drove the last mohua out of the Marlborough Sounds and caused population crashes in many areas of the South Island. DOC’s battle for our birds programme this year aims to give birds such as the mohua another chance at survival through pest control operations.


For more detailed information on all of the new New Zealand banknotes, as well as the new $5 and $10 notes issued in October 2015, check out the following site:

Go the All Blacks!!!

Many clients have told me that they have been following the All Black games during the Rugby World Cup in England over the past month. And I can totally understand how even non-kiwis get drawn in by this incredible team! They were AMAZING! After each spine tingling Haka at the start of the games, the All Blacks convinced fans and opponents alike with their grit and determination and out-standing skill. There is a great video on the Rugby World Cup website: “Unrivalled Brilliance: New Zealand’s Golden RWC Moments”, which shows many of these magical moments – Unrivalled Brilliance: New Zealand’s Golden RWC Moments

It’s just awesome rugby! The All Blacks made history by being the only team in the world to have ever successfully defended the Rugby World Cup title, by winning two Rugby World Cups in a row (2011 and 2015). For a little country of four and a half million people, that is an amazing achievement. Go New Zealand! Go the All Blacks!!!