One of the many reasons we thoroughly enjoy Road Scholar trips is their high quality lecturers. Wednesday morning, New Zealand journalist and author, Gordon McLaughlin, gave us a brief overview of this very young nation. Some interesting facts and figures:
New Zealand is the last land mass to be inhabited, settled by the Maori about 800 years ago. DNA analysis has proven that the Maori migrated from Taiwan, providing a perfect example of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. The long ocean voyage was an endurance test that only the strongest, biggest and fittest could pass.
In the 1840’s, the Maori were joined by settlers from the United Kingdom, with the those of European descent now making up the majority of the population. About 3.5 million live on the North Island, mainly in Auckland, with about 1 million inhabiting the South Island.
New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote, in 1893; at one time the top three government positions were held by women.
In 1898, New Zealanders instituted an old age pension, with free health care since 1938. Seems Kiwi are not horrified by the thought of “socialized medicine”. And it doesn’t seem to have impacted their quality of care because their life expectancy exceeds that of US males by 3 years, and a year and a half for females.
Both countries have similar percentages of those over 65, and under 15. Education is free, including some university and trade schools. Pensioners also enjoy a variety of freebies, such as train and boat transportation, admission to museums, etc. So how do they pay for all of the free services?
The top tax rate is 35%, with a 15% GST (goods and services tax) built into their prices. So, when dining out, a menu item priced at $25 means that you actually PAY $25. Tax has been included and the wait staff has been paid a reasonable wage, so tipping is only for extraordinary service, and even then is about half of what is customary in the USA. I guess if you are not bristling with weaponry and fighting senseless wars, you have money for such things.
New Zealand is geologically young –a mere 12 million years old. If you have ever walked along the Trail of Time in the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, you may recall that equates to only 12 of the trail’s 2,000 footsteps. If you haven’t been there, each footstep represents a million years. Samples of rocks from that particular era exhibited along the trail–starting 2 billion years ago, which is the age of the oldest rocks in the canyon.
Years ago, there were no mammals on New Zealand, so the birds had no predators, which resulted in flightless birds, like the Kiwi.
Sitting atop two tectonic plates, New Zealand has an abundance of hot springs, geysers, and mud pools, all of which we will see when we visit Rotorua. But for our second day in Auckland, we are scheduled to sail in Waitemata Harbor.
View of Auckland from the water.