My previous post lauded the revitalization efforts of my university and the government of New Zealand when it came to Māori culture and language. The topics were made accessible to tourists and foreigners, as well as the Kiwis. It got me thinking about the way New Zealand protects many pillars of their culture—not under lock and key, but by sharing and educating.
I joined the tramping (hiking/backpacking in Kiwi-speak) club at Victoria University. It was a fun group that blasted smooth jazz during its PowerPoint presentations, welcomed new members with bearded exuberance to Taco Tuesdays, and had a mountain goat as a glorious mascot. This group of students (and alumni, and random outdoor enthusiasts met at the Welsh Dragon pub) coordinated carpool trips and gear rentals for people in need of adventure. They had an expert on everything from avalanche safety to rock climbing to caving—and they’d direct a newbie down the right path for any information. The goal was to have a great time and to share the outdoors, safely. It wasn’t about hoarding secret hideaways, it was about making New Zealand accessible.
New Zealand is known for gorgeous landscapes (Sweeping shots from the Lord of the Rings and all) alongside a robust Department of Conservation. The trails are well kept, hut passes are at most $5 for a night on the trail, and there are no animals that’ll kill you out in the New Zealand wilds (although some flightless Weka will try to steal your food) so it’s easy for anyone to jump onto the trails for the weekend. Even the Tongariro National Park Alpine Crossing, home to Mount Doom, was only a day trip and completely complete-abale for a jog-but-never-run-unless-being-chased girl like me. I even kayaked through Abel Tasman National Park despite having only a quick rental out in Wellington Harbor a few weeks prior.
I say this not to humble-brag, but to share. I jumped at the chance for these adventures because I was told about them by friends in New Zealand. They’d done it, and I figured I could, too. New Zealand made the outdoors accessible to me, someone who’d previously been too nervous to backpack without a hired guide on class trips, and that access made me value it more.
The same goes for Māori culture and language. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it without having access to sate my curiosity and without the channels to dig in deeper and recognize the value of something as simple as bilingual signage.
In times of fear, where people are tempted to stow away language or the wilderness in order to protect them, I think it’s something to realize that value comes from sharing and educating what makes such things important. So hopefully sharing some of these pictures will spark some curiosity in others to see what all the hubbub is about in New Zealand!