New Zealand ho!

As I mentioned a while back, I’m traveling to New Zealand for about a month, just for fun—though I would be glad to give a few talks (or have discussions) on science, humanism, atheism, free will, etc.. I’ll be arriving in Auckland on March 17 and immediately flying to Queenstown on the South Island. I’ll then have a month to travel around, slowly working my way north to leave in Auckland on April 17.  It’s a pretty free-form trip, as I don’t usually have rigid itineraries on vacation jaunts. But, as I wrote before, I’ll be glad to meet any Kiwi readers:

I’d love to document the trip not only with descriptions and photos of what I see and do, but with information about and pictures of readers and their animals (preferably cats, of course). If you want to say “hi” on this trip, shoot me an email with your location. I already know many of you through either your comments or your emails, and think it would be fun to meet readers in person along with the several friends I haven’t visited in a while.

By “visit,” I don’t mean that people should feed me or put me up: I’m just looking for a brief peek into the lives of some of the readers. I can’t visit everyone, of course, but I’ll try to see some of the people I’ve gotten to know on this site [and new ones, too].


  1. Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry – I’m a long-standing NZ reader of your blog, based in Wellington. If you’re coming through the capital, do get in contact, I’d be pleased to meet you (I don’t know your email!).

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Just click on the “research interests” bit at the upper right of the site, and it will take you to my university website that includes my email; then you can reach me directly.

    • robward524712256
      Posted March 19, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jerry, would you be up for a public debate around religion and science when you are in New Zealand?

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always wanted to know:

    Is Auckland pronounced, by means of any accent, intentionally or not, like Oakland?

    Is there an Oakland in NZ?

    • David Duncan
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Nothing in NZ is pronounced the way you’d expect.

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      I will do my best to help you out, but phonically and as simply as i can, i know no other way…to kiwi’s Auckland is similar to awk-land, as in ‘awkward’
      close enough but that could be tricky given American accents, are you from Texas? good luck!
      I know the problem you have with it after visiting San Francisco.
      Oakland is heavy (for us) on the ‘O’ like,
      There is no Oakland in NZ that i know of.
      Hope that helped.

      • Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        My brother used to work for Air New Zealand and he tells a story he swears is true. An annoyed passenger arrived at Auckland from LA (one of the most brutal long hauls in the world at the time). He was actually trying to fly from LA to *Oakland* and didn’t pick up the problem until it was too late. Obviously airline security has changed *a lot* since the 80s, and not in a good way.

        Please note that to NZers we are pronouncing Auckland correctly and USians are not. This is always the problem with making fun of people’s accents. It’s all arbitrary and you might think you are the reference point x=0 and all others have an error delta, but it doesn’t actually work that way. This affects me as much as anyone but I like to think I at least try and remember to hold back before I pass judgement on someone having an apparently thick and incomprehensible accent.

        Incidentally, one way we actually can claim the moral high ground is that, irrespective of where you come from in the English speaking world, – we’ll understand you even if you don’t understand us. That’s because as a small country we can’t be insular [can you think which country in particular I’m thinking of? 🙂 – actually it seems to me people from the UK also have a tendency to be insular – my theory is it’s a country’s population > 50 million problem]. So we draw in cultural conventions and influences from all around the world.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          Please remember that in the States we have “cultural conventions and influences from all around the world,” too. 🙂 And I couldn’t begin to count all our regional accents.

          Here’s a riddle about Boston-ese–what do they mean when they say something that sounds like PSDS? (Well, one strain of Boston-ese, that is; each large city has its own set of local accents, as I’m sure you know.)

          Everyone has a favorite example of a typical Bostonian accent, often something along the lines of “pahk your cah in Hahvahd yahd.” My own favorite, and I heard this on the local news one night, is, “Chryslah president Lee Iacoker…” (Alas, you probably have to be of a certain age to appreciate that…)

          I’d guess at least 50% of Americans pronounce my home state–Oregon–wrong.

          PS: I’d also heard the story about the Oakland/Auckland airplane snafu–perhaps it really happened. (Perhaps I’ll be motivated enough to Google it.. 😀 )

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 2:44 am | Permalink

            Ah, Boston. Decades ago we got sent on a course on ‘SAS’ (Statistical Analysis System) which ran on mainframes. But instead of anything hands-on, it was just a series of videos by some fat guy with a Boston (?) accent so thick you could insulate buildings with it. “In ths mojjle wrr gunna lrn how tuh c’ncah’neh vrrbls” (module – concatenate – variables)
            Spectacularly bad, they should have just hired some out-of-work actor off the street and given him the lines to read.


            • Diane G.
              Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:32 am | Permalink


              Just remembered–I once heard a woman at an adjacent table in a restaurant order “suff ‘n’ tuff.”

              (Surf & Turf–usually a lobster tail and a steak…)

        • Stuartg
          Posted February 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          The Auckland/Oakland mistake has happened more than once, but here’s an early report:

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 28, 2017 at 12:04 am | Permalink

            You’d think after the first time or two the boarding dunces, er, agents would start to get a clue…

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      @Thyroid I believe the Kiwi’s pronounce it “Orkland”, but I’m happy to be corrected! The NZ place name has nothing to do with oaks.

      “Auckland” is a place name today in the NE of England which was originally spelled “Aukland”
      The Norse used to pop over for a bit of shopping & clubbing around the area & “Aukland” is from the Old Norse
      It could mean ‘additional land’ or it derives from the Norseified version of the Cumbric “Alcluith” meaning rock [or cliff] on the Clyde
      The City of Auckland, NZ was named for the Earl of Auckland who had his Earldom named from West Auckland in NE England [I think]

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      As the others said:

      1. It’s Ork-land.

      2. There’s no Oakland in NZ.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        Ork-land, really?! Shows how (un)sophisticated I am.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

          Errrmmm – is this a LOTR joke?

          Thanks everyone for the fun responses

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 2:17 am | Permalink

            Hmmm, Orc-land. Not exactly tourist bait, is it? 🙂

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          It’s named after the first Earl of Auckland, a British peer and prominent politician in Ireland in the 18th century.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Keep in mind we would see that “R” as pronounced and in NZ it wouldn’t be so the way we say “ork” is different. Everyone will understand you if you say “awkland”.

        Because of the “r”, when I went to “huka falls” I thought it was “hooker falls”. 😀

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, you’re right. In fact, I normally would have written Awk but the temptation to put in an LOTR allusion was too great! 🙂

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha! All the poor Americans will be calling it Orcland and wondering why people are looking at them funny.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          Comment above: “Nothing in NZ is pronounced the way you’d expect.”

          “Awkland” is exactly how I’d expect Auckland to be pronounced. 🙄

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink


            How IS Awk pronounced? Like the programming language? Like “Ow”?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted February 25, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

              Pronounced ‘Auckland’. Like ‘awk’. Very similar to ‘orc’ (so long as you don’t roll the ‘r’)

              Words of British origin are pronounced pretty much the way you’d expect. Maori names can look difficult, mostly because they’re long, but if you pronounce every syllable (including trailing vowels) you’ll usually be not to far off. Only a purist will object if you get the vowel sounds slightly wrong.
              e.g. Hikurangi – “Hi-koo-rang-ee” is close enough.
              or Waitakere – “Why-tack-er-ee”

              There are a few difficult ones that are Maori names that have, by long familiarity, become mispronounced by Europeans e.g. Otahuhu in Auckland, correctly Aw-ta-hu-hu (or something like it) is almost always just “Oh-ter-hoo”. They’re not common enough to worry much about.


          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 25, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

            I think that more applies to Maori words and Maori place names are everywhere, not to mention words that are part of the kiwi vernacular like puku or whanau. “Wh” is pronounced “f” which is why it’s fun to say Whakatane because it sounds sweary. My cousin lives in Whangerai and you say than fungeray. 🙂

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted February 25, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

              Not really an out-and-out ‘f’. More a cross between a ‘w’ and a ‘f’. Imagine a sort of breathy ‘w’. And it varies according to local dialects.
              For example Whangarei is pronounced fairly close to ‘Fongarei’. Wanganui, on the other hand, has undergone much argument about whether it should have the ‘h’ in its name.

              On the whole, a foreigner, benefiting from the dispensation on pronunciation implicitly awarded to strangers, can usually get away with just saying ‘Wanganui’ etc.

              Note this applies only to ‘Wh’ words; ‘W’ on its own – as in ‘Wai….’ – is always just pronounced ‘w’.


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 25, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

                There are also various pakeha pronunciations that change with generation and how much Maori, if any they learned.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 26, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink



        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

          We do have a Hooker Glacier.


  3. Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Make sure you go here.

    It is a day trip from Auckland by ferry from downtown but well worth it. Amazing wildlife. Also, recommend getting the book Collins Birds of New Zealand by Chloe Talbot Kelly which is a thin book but will list all the birds you can see there. Very satisfying. Also recommend the 16km (10 mile) coast to coast walk in Auckland. Very nice and satisfying walk.

    • Chaswalder
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:38 am | Permalink

      I can vouch for Tiritirimatangi, an island bird sanctuary that has been cleared of invasive pests. (Rats, stoats, Australian possums, mice). You need to book in advance since the number of daily visitors is limited by DOC Department of Conservation, and by the capacity of the ferry.
      The takahe, highly endangered, is worth the entire trip. Imagine a prehistoric thunder-chicken, coloured in crayon by a toddler.

      • boggy
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:07 am | Permalink

        There are moves afoot to eliminate all introduced animals from NZ; stoats, possums, rats and rabbits etc. This will also include feral cats of course though presumably the line has been drawn regarding domestic cats.

    • mrclaw69
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      I was going to post a recommendation for Tiritiri. Prob my favourite place I’ve been to yet in NZ.

      My beloved is from Auckland and I’ve been to NZ plenty (and am planning a perhaps permanent move there). Been to Tiritiri several times. A beautiful island and amazing wildlife.

      Reckon Professor Ceiling Cat would find it spell-binding for evolutionay reasons: world’s smallest penguins, flightless ducks, takahe, wattlebirds and honey-eaters – all sorts of really intersting island features and niche-filling.

      I’ve seen kokako, morepork, bellbirds, NZ robins, Auckland island flightless teals, skinks, takahe, saddlebacks, stitchbirds, silvereyes, fantails, etc, etc. And of course the ubiquitous but no less impressive kereru (NZ woodpigeon) and tui (I love tuis – even though they’re mega-jerks to other birds). Sadly not seen any tuatara – although there are some on Tiritiri.

      I want to do an overnight there. You’re more likely to see the blue penuins at night, and the kiwis are only out then (that said, apparently the best place to see wild kiwi is Stewart Island where they hunt during the day).

  4. Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I am so envious of you, visiting New Zealand. Please take lots of pictures, as you usually do, and let us take vicarious pleasure in the special characteristics of the country and it’s people. Have a blast!

    • Rita
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink


    • darrelle
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink


  5. Ann German
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    If things keep going the way they are with pgrabber (banning the NYT, etc. from briefing today, for instance) you may not want to return . . . and couldn’t be blamed!

  6. tombesson
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    I live a twenty-minute walk from the center of New Zealand, a Nelson monument that sits at the exact N-S-E-W middle of the country. You are welcome to hike it with me when you pass through our city to say you’ve been there. I am open to drive you where you need to be, vinyard lunch, etc. Alternatively, you are welcome to spend the night. My house overlooks the city’s Japanese garden and Tasman Bay beyond. I’m confident you will meet plenty of good people here. They are like Canadians with slightly wonky British accents. Cheers.

    • Posted February 25, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      Thanks; I have your email and will be in touch. I gather the “Nelson” monument is in fact in Nelson!

    • SeniorSkeptik
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I happened to run across a version of your unofficial national anthem, Pokarekare Ana. It is absolutely beautiful. I listen to it frequently. Thanks for sharing it with the world.
      It is simply awesome.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      I found NZ a lot like Canada in many ways and often feel less of a foreigner than I do when in the US. The only thing I find different (besides the accent & driving on the left) is that they don’t look at me funny for my sense of humour. Canadians sometimes don’t get my way of joking where the Kiwis do.

  7. sensorrhea
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I spent 3 month there. Spend as much time as possible on the South Island.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry

    There’s a brochure I forgot to include when I sent you that stuff. It’s all about the 101 must-dos-for Kiwis. Here’s the list (PDF), and you can look up any that take your fancy.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      The link is at the bottom of the list.

  9. Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    I’d love to show you something of my home town, Wellington. “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day” is the conventional wisdom and to my biased mind at least it’s an absolutely true homily. It’s a foodie destination and we could definitely find some superior noms if you are so inclined.

    Bill Forster

    (I am a long time reader and occasional poster. I enjoy your site as a sane alternative to Pharyngula. I don’t really want to post as triplehappy – but because I started by blog with that handle I seem to be stuck with it when posting to any wordpress blog)

  10. rickflick
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to put in a plug for gannet colonies which occur in several places around the coast of NZ. We saw the one just west of auckland at Muriwai Beach. We saw them in November and the eggs were mostly hatched and young were present. The breeding season ends in “February/March”, so exactly what the colony would look like now is hard to say.

  11. grasshopper
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    A glorious and moving haka performed at an NZ wedding. I don’t know if this link will auto-play in WEIT. Apologies if it does.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Wow. That’s the most emotional wedding ceremony you’ll ever see.

      • grasshopper
        Posted February 24, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        It’s stunning. I went all lachrymose the first time I watched it.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 25, 2017 at 2:27 am | Permalink


    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Jerry – you should go see a Haka in Rotorua. I found those performers the best of all I’ve seen and I even saw them perform in San Francisco where I went up to tell them how great their performances are and got some pictures with them. I saw them originally at Te Puia and you can go there to see the geothermal bubbling mud, the Maori arts school as they do carving (also where over 25 years ago, I got a girl there to tie a really good cord on my tiki & I’ve worn it ever since — she looked at me weird because I had a Canadian accent but was wearing an authentic jade tiki) & there is a nature area where you can see native birds & tuatara. I was too cheap to pay for seeing the village (that used to be free).

  12. rickflick
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Another suggestion is to visit the Kauri Forest. Spiritual. The kauri trees are majestic old things, some of which are 2000 years old. They were almost completely logged off over the decades and only a few stands remain. We saw them at Waipoua Forest about 75 miles north of Auckland.

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    • Diane G.
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      Nice vid, very cool forest!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:19 am | Permalink

        If you can’t make it up north, there’s a big kauri just 20 yards off the Scenic Drive in the Waitakeres west of Auckland. (Go to, type ‘Waiatarua’ in the search box. 2km northwest of Waiatarua is Ruaotuwhenua hill, and 0.7km past that is shown a short unlabelled track on the right – that’s it.
        Driving on the Scenic Drive, there’s a tiny parking area for 3-4 cars on the left, and 20 yards further on the right a walking track with a name sign (you can see it on Streetview but hard to read – I think it says, poetically, ‘Large Kauri Walk’. I can’t drive up and check it since I’m in Christchurch right now)

        There are some other big kauris in the Waitakeres but the abovementioned is the most accessible but surprisingly little known. How the loggers missed it I don’t know.


  13. Chaswalder
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    I suggest we do an Atheists in the Pub night at the Auckland end. Galbraith’s brew pub has a selection of NZ and imported craft beer, good fish (tarakihi) and chips…
    If the esteemed professor can’t make it, at least we shall meet each other.

    • Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      That sounds good. The Auckland Skeptics made noises about doing something like that, or having lunch in a winery, but I haven’t heard anything.

  14. bonetired
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Cricket season down under with the Kiwis playing the Saffers. Get the beer in and go to a ODI 🙂

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Please don’t subject Jerry to a cricket match .
      There is not enough beer in the world to make it enjoyable .

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted February 25, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        One day ones are better than tests.
        But 20/20 is better again for the uninitiated.
        But, see it in Australia where it is done the best.

  15. Merilee
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    @Diane: PSDS??

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 25, 2017 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm, how to give a hint…think of something women get to be fashionable…

  16. Kiwi Dave
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    One place which doesn’t get much publicity but is well worth a look is the Matakohe Kauri Museum. It details the history of kauri gum and wood extraction. It’s about 90 minutes north of Auckland, 45 minutes south of Dargaville.

  17. ginger
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    You should visit Jerry Coyne the Kitteh.

  18. Posted March 3, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    The Humanist Society of NZ meets in Wellington. We would love to arrange an impromtu meeting with you and Wellingtonians. We could rustle up a lamb roast dinner complete with Yorkshire pudding if time allowed. Or maybe fish and chips at the beach. After a disappointing summer Wellington is set for a long warm autumn.

    • Posted March 4, 2017 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      I’ll be in touch by private email; an improptu meeting sounds great, esp. the lamb with Yorkshire pud.

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