Friends in New Zealand

by Vicki H. Budge

Print Share

    One day a fisherman named Kupe, his friend Ngahue, and their families set out in large canoes from a land called Hawaiki. One legend says they were following a giant octopus that had been stealing their fishing bait. After sailing into unknown waters for many weeks, Kupe’s wife sighted what appeared to be a long, low white cloud. She called, “He ao! He ao!” (“A cloud! A cloud!”) Kupe called the land they were nearing Aotearoa, which means Land of the Long White Cloud.

    This is the Maori legend of how the Polynesian people first discovered New Zealand about A.D. 900. Kupe and his companions did not remain in Aotearoa, but returned to Hawaiki to tell of their discovery.

    Nearly 400 years later, several families in seven large canoes set out to find Aotearoa and make it their home.

    Many years later, in 1642, Abel Tasma, a Dutch explorer, discovered these islands and the Maori people. He named the land Nieuw Zeeland.

    After Captain James Cook visited the islands in 1769, many settlers from England went there to live. The Maoris and the pakehas (white men) live together as friends.

    Children in New Zealand start school in February and begin their summer vacation in December.

    The kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird. You may read more about this unusual bird on page 13 of this magazine.

    New Zealand is the most isolated country in the world. Its nearest neighbor is Australia, and that country is almost thirteen hundred miles away.

    Glowworm Grotto, on the North Island, is a deep cave with thousands of glowworms on the roof of the cave. They look like tiny lanterns with blue-green lights. To see the glowworms, you must ride into the cave in a boat. At the slightest noise, the glowworms turn off their lights.

    Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauatamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is the longest name of a place in the world. It is the Maori name given to a sheep station on the North Island. The translation is: The summit where Tamatea, the circumnavigator, played his flute to his beloved.

    Did You Know?

    The Maori language has only fifteen letters in the alphabet: h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w, ng (as in ing), wh (as f), and the vowels a, e, i, o, u that have both a long and short sound.

    Seventy-five percent of the trees and flowers on New Zealand’s twin islands, North Island and South Island, exist nowhere else in the world.

    New Zealand is a country that has no land snakes.

    The kiwi bird lays an egg that is eight times as large as a chicken’s egg. The father kiwi sits on the egg for two and one-half months until the chick hatches; then the father kiwi protects the baby chick until it can take care of itself.

    The Stephens Island frog lives only in New Zealand. This frog can exist without water and is only one inch to one and a half inches long. As a baby, this frog is never a tadpole.

    On the South Island, the Southern Alps have snow that never melts.

    The gannet, a big beautiful white sea bird the size of a goose, is noted for its spectacular one-hundred-foot dives. It dives straight down at a speed estimated at ninety miles per hour when it hits the water. The impact of the bird’s body as it hits the sea stuns fish six feet below the surface. The gannet dives down below the fish, catching the prey in its mouth as it surfaces. Gannets are great swimmers, and some have been found eighty feet below the surface of the water.

    New Zealand is 1000 miles long, and nowhere is the sea more than 75 miles away.

    Maori Proverbs

    The Maori language was not written until after the arrival of people from Europe. The wisdom of the people was concentrated in short easy-to-memorize phrases. Here are three Maori proverbs.

    1. Na takaroa, na takahe. (Delay too long and the job will go wrong.)

    2. He manako te koura ikore ai. (Wishing never caught a crayfish.)

    3. Waiho, ma te tangata e mihi. (Let others say thank you to you.)

    Maori Terms and Pronunciations






    car - hor - re (e as in pet)

    good luck

    kia ora

    keea - ora


    ka pai

    car - pie


    ka knio

    car - ki - nor






    fah - re (e as in pet)

    be strong

    kia kaha

    keea ka - ha



    ta - hee



    roo - a



    tor - roo






    ree - ma



    or - nor



    fi - too



    wah - roo



    ee - wah



    te - koh

    Illustrated by Marilyn Miller