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New Zealand at a crossroads

By Robert Pimm, Globe Correspondent

Boston Globe, November 7 2004

WANAKA, New Zealand — Lewis Verduyn gestures with an oar. “To pick tea from a tea tree,” he says, “take the older growth, not the tips. You don’t want to damage the bush.”

We fan out across the riverbank and gingerly begin to gather the dark green leaves. Verduyn moors the raft, then heats river water in his Volcano, a hollow flask filled with burning twigs. For a few blissful moments, the only sounds are the crackle of the fire and the rushing of the great, green, glacier-fueled Upper Clutha River.


Much of New Zealand remains spectacular – here near Mt Cook (Photo: Robert Pimm)

We hear the jet-boat before we see it. A growl swells to a roar as the yellow and purple monster bursts around a bend in the river. We stare as the boat flashes past. How can they see anything at that speed? Then we’re alone again.

My children, Owen, 11, and Anna, 9, watch Verduyn, a wiry outdoor type with a wry sense of humor, as he whirls a pail of tea around his head.

“It must be seven times, for flavor,” he says. “We have a strainer, because even in the wilderness, you can still be sophisticated.”

We savor the refreshing brew, and our idyll is restored. Almost. Because if Verduyn and his bittersweet tea show why New Zealand is a must-see for ecotourists, that jet-boat is a symbol of how everything could turn sour.

Tourism in New Zealand is booming. In the last six years, international visitor numbers have risen 41 percent. But that success poses challenges for a country whose unique selling proposition in the global tourism market is spectacular, unspoiled nature. We found New Zealand’s outdoor activities and wildlife outstanding, but under pressure.


Journalism index


This is a selection of my journalism.  Because most of my FT articles from 2003-2006 are now archived, I have reproduced them here. For other newspapers, there are still some live links.  NB the titles were inserted by the sub-editors.

– 1 August 2003, Financial Times, “Behind every great woman…” (the challenges of being a male partner of a famous or successful woman)

– 8 August 2003, Financial Times, “Where the wall came down” (a walk around the Berlin Wall)

– 6 September 2003, Financial Times, “Island with well-hidden treasures” (Lundy Island)

– 13 December 2003, Financial Times, “A tale of two all-in resorts” (German vs French holiday resorts)

– 7 February 2004, Financial Times, “Rag’n’bones to riches” (birthday of Mary, an 80 year-old from Arsenal)

– 27 March 2004, Financial Times, “Austrian idyll far from the well-worn pistes” (Lech)

– 27 March 2004, Financial Times, “When dinner becomes the last supper” (the joys of German waiters)

– 30 April 2004, Financial Times, “Enough Buddhas for today” (Bangkok)

– 10 July 2004, Financial Times, “We’ll soon all beg to fly business” (how airlines plan to make us upgrade)

– 17 July 2004, Die Welt, “Im Dienst Ihrer Majestät” (women’s diplomatic careers)

– 31 August 2004, Financial Times, “Balmy breezes and beach bars in Berlin

– 23 October 2004, Financial Times, “Where even experts fear to tread” (guided ski-ing in Austria)

– 23 October 2004, Financial Times, “Sole mates” (Strolz ski boots)

– 7 November 2004, Boston Globe, “New Zealand at a crossroads” (NZ tourism)

– 20 November 2004, Financial Times, “The Penguin’s Distressed. We’d Better Go” (NZ eco-tourism)

– 29 January 2005, Financial Times, “The Joy of Roaming the English Countryside” (long-distance footpaths)

– 29 January 2005, Financial Times Magazine, “All the Rage in Berlin” (Little Traffic Light Men)

– 19 February 2005, Financial Times, “From Tears to Triumph” (Lech ski school)

– 19 March 2005, Financial Times Magazine, “All the Rage in Lech, Austria” (heated ski lift seats)

– 20 August 2005, Financial Times, “Rattle and Roll to the Alps” (night ski-trains)

– 21 January 2006, Financial Times, “Charmed By the No-Frills Alternative” (basic Austrian country hotels)

– 5 February 2006, Boston Globe, “A flaming end to Carnival and winter’s woes” (Cologne Carnival)

– 24 April 2006, Financial Times, “When Tourist Reinvention Spins Out of Control” (the over-development of Barcelona)

– 25 June 2006, Boston Globe, “A Temple to Faith, Time and Resolve” (Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia)

– 8 July 2006, Financial Times, “Nice Buildings, Shame About the Events” (Can hosting sporting events give you good PR?)

– 3 September 2006, Boston Globe, “When hush, crowds descend” (Vienna Zentralfriedhof)

– 2 September 2007, Boston Globe, “History in the Tropics” (St Helena)


StH long
Anyone who can identify the buildings in both pix on this page – let me know.  

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