New Zealand is a country of untold beauty; from the North to the South Island there are an abundance of natural sights that will take your breath away. There are mountain climbs that will elevate your view to more than 12,000 feet and scuba dives that will take you through an underwater paradise.
New Zealand is a country of great adventures and bucket-list activities. You can ascend the world’s highest waterfall Via Ferrata for the best view of Lake Wanaka or wobble across beams high up in the tree tops. You can sip wine at an exclusive wine estate and dine out at fabulous restaurants.
This is a country of multiple cultures, languages, religions and personalities. With a reputation as an exquisite destination for a holiday or a secure place to carve out a new life, New Zealand does not disappoint.
1. Defining moments
But to ignore the recent Christchurch mosque shootings would be to pretend that a massive, trumpeting white elephant had not just walked into the room. It was an event that left us all so shocked, reeling from grief and unsure as to how we would continue.
Our reaction to the event was a defining moment in our lives and for our gorgeous nation as whole; a badly thought out emotional response could have set us on a very clear path of negativity. If we chose to retaliate, to stand up and announce our determination to fight against “the enemy” we would set out on a trajectory that would insidiously creep into our very core. If we chose to embrace, nurture and stand together we would keep our soul intact as a nation. A nation that is open and welcoming to all.
That moment came when Jacinda Ardern held a woman, a wife, a mother and a victim in her arms and soothed her with kind words and heartfelt empathy.
That was our turning point; that was when our very hearts rose up and as one, we surrounded those people with love that were left reeling from the heinous acts of one man. We stood together and unanimously held hands, surrounding our brothers and sisters that were injured, their families that were shocked and left bereft with grief and of course we reached out to each other because we were all struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
2. More than a bucket list destination
And that, in a nut-shell is New Zealand and her people, a country where almost everyone’s favourite expression is “It’ll be alright.” Where differences are not only tolerated but truly honoured and appreciated and shared.
This beautiful country of endless vistas, long beaches, snowy mountain ranges, crystal clear rivers and lakes will always be beautiful. Every single New Zealander will see to that, whether that New Zealander is a migrant worker, a foreign student or an international visitor. When you arrive here as a stranger, we welcome you, you are us and we trust that you will hold our values as your own.
This country represents more than a bucket list of activities and adventures, it represents the young couple who marry straight out of school and start their own weaving business or the family who run their own fruit orchard. It sits in the heart of a young German women who came here 25 years ago to start a new life. It rests on the minds of the family who moved here to find peace from their own violent country. This country represents life and vibrancy, fresh air and clean water, hope and tradition, culture and food, innovations into ground-breaking technologies; this country represents growth along multiple dimensions.
3. Tourism at our hearts
We welcome visitors of all descriptions, ages and creeds because we grow from our interactions with the world at large. Each visitor brings a flavour of something that is new and each personality that we engage with leaves us enriched and better for the interaction.
Tourism is such a huge industry and every business that is involved in this industry is dedicated to providing the best experience for our visitors. And this mind-set flows down from the governing bodies to the tour operators to the bed & breakfasts, hotels and motels, from the adventure operators to the family resorts, we are each committed to providing a safe and happy experience for our guests.
4. Maori culture
So despite the events in Christchurch we still laugh at ourselves when we do silly things, we are quick to share a joke because we love funny stories and anecdotes. We hold our heroes high up on our shoulders, and we sing the praises of someone we admire. We are a nation that lives and breathes the values of personal well-being and guardianship of our natural resources. The Maori term Tiaki applies beautifully in our everyday lives, it means to care for people and place. New Zealand’s Maori culture is an integral part of Kiwi life, it adds such a unique experience for visitors to our country.
The lessons we learn from the custodians of our Maori culture teach us to lead by example, to aspire to integrity and to practice what we learn from both acquired and inherited knowledge. These values are at the core of our society, one that is unique to our country and one that we love to share. Te Reo Maori, the Maori language is only spoken in Aotearoa New Zealand; it is in use in everyday life by locals and visitors are encouraged to test out a few words! Kia Ora is always a good place to start, it’s just a simple hello.
5. A place with heart
And as our nation regains its composure in the aftermath of Christchurch and we move forward with a new determination, we smile at each other and we remember the values we hold dear. We are not a society who places much value on wealth and social status, we do not hold grudges, we say hello to strangers and freely offer assistance without being asked. And we love sharing our treasures with like-minded folks. See you soon!
Veronika Vermeulen is Director of Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. has been offering 100% tailored journeys and private guided luxury experiences in New Zealand since 2000.