A few weeks after this article was written a woman was subjected to a knife attack in the toilets of the Moose Bar, Te Anau.
Continuing in our very popular series of Migrant Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand. (This article has been extremely popular and was viewed over 3,000 times in 24 hours, so we’re leaving comments open for a few more days).
If you’re planning to visit or live in the Fiordland township of Te Anau you may find this interesting. Don’t be blinded by the region”s beauty, for there are many problems besetting this small community, most of them endemic to small town New Zealand. You may want to give Te Anau miss, maybe consider Queenstown instead?
Google Street View of the above location – click here
This tale was sent in by a migrant who lived and worked in Te Anau.
Seldom is the juxtaposition between beauty and ugliness as stark as in Te Anau, New Zealand. Many might recognise Te Anau as a tourist town on the edge of New Zealand’s Fiordland Wilderness. Regrettably and notwithstanding the beauty of the surrounding region, Te Anau is no different to many of the Podunk towns in New Zealand.
I spent a few months in Te Anau taking a break to re-centre myself and to enjoy the beauty of Fiordland. On the surface, Te Anau appears ok, yet the town quickly reveals its ugly underbelly.
The first thing that struck me about the town is the functional retardation of the inhabitants. One often encountered tourism advertisements riddled with misspellings and typos. Surely it would make sense for a town deriving most of its income from tourism to project a modicum of sophistication and at least try to conceal its parochial backwardness. Even the regional promotions agency seemed incapable of publishing brochures devoid of misspellings and typos.
Additionally, I found the locals extremely insular, unfriendly, and uncultured. Of course, there were indeed some nice people, although they were usually foreigners. I will always remember the nice Zimbabwean lady at the Fresh Choice or a couple of the Chileans I met.
Unfortunately, the local variant of the Kiwi inbreds were usually rude, uncouth, and stupid. For example, Te Anau relies on tourism as its principal economic activity and the town is trying to tap into the growing Chinese middle class that is travelling abroad in increasing numbers. However, none of the town’s hoteliers or tour operators bother trying to learn Chinese or other languages to make visitors feel welcome. Instead, many of the hoteliers openly express racist sentiments towards Asians. They even go so far as to tell tour operators that they do not want Chinese or Indian guests.
Similarly, many in the town view tourists as little more than cash cows to milk. For example, the local hoteliers and tour operators deliberately and openly collude to keep prices high so as to avoid “undercutting” each other. Such a strategy might succeed if Te Anau were the only destination in the world, something the locals seem to think is the case. However, Queenstown is not too far away and it offers far more interesting and varied activities, accommodation, and dining compared to Te Anau. Consequently, many visitors elect to pass through Te Anau and to stay in Queenstown because it has newer and better accommodation at the same or lower prices than Te Anau. This has produced an overwhelming and irrational hatred towards Queenstown amongst the locals. Perhaps Te Anau would do better if local business owners did not try to sell expired drinks in their stores.
When the locals are not too preoccupied hating Queenstown, they divert their anger towards the owners of the two Chinese restaurants in the town. The Chinese restaurants are always full and the locals complain about “unfair competition”, which is to say that the owners of the Chinese restaurant market their businesses directly to the tour companies and, more importantly, the Chinese restaurants offer better prices compared to the other restaurants in the town. Perhaps the locals should concentrate on improving the food they serve, lowering their prices, marketing their businesses more effectively, and displaying genuine hospitality towards guests rather than viewing them as cash cows to exploit.
Instead of working to improve their businesses, the locals spend most of their free time drinking and gossiping. Te Anau’s inhabitants seem incapable of hosting an event without making alcohol and drunkenness a focal point. Rugby does not count because the local bogans from Te Anau and other nearby towns inebriate themselves after playing that silly and unstimulating sport.
The quality of houses in Te Anau is also crap. I remember waking up to temperatures of 2C inside the house and having to clean mould from the walls. Never again will I live in a cold place where the locals lack the intelligence and wherewithal to construct houses properly.
Interestingly, Te Anau does have some newer housing, but it is the cheap and useless Kiwi she’ss be right Kiwi housing that will quickly fall apart. The locals who own the older houses are extremely irate that the local council approved development of large tracts of land back in 2008. The owners of these houses want to protect their “investments” (i.e. what they should call shacks but have the gall to call houses) from more “unfair competition”, which is to say from houses that are only slightly better and newer built than the crap housing stock of Te Anau. These homeowners want to prevent any kind of residential development and artificially constrain the supply of housing so that they can sell their shacks at a profit. The local realtors in the town were another bunch of swindlers, but I will save you the stories.
The locals in Te Anau often extol the place as a great place to raise kids. Yet I remember witnessing a fight outside the house next door in which a low IQ young single mother on a benefit and her two brats from two different fathers dwelt. The fight was between the woman’s ex-boyfriend and her new boyfriend and took place in the front yard right in front of the children. Te Anau is absolute white trash. No one reads any books or can talk about anything other than rugby, local gossip, or drinking. There were a couple loud parties whilst I was there, but the place has no such thing as noise control or common courtesy.
Admittedly, the area around Te Anau is beautiful, but there are far more beautiful places in the world. I am glad that at least I enjoyed some of the nice hikes in the area, but I would urge anyone thinking of living there to reconsider.
I think the worst part was probably the isolation. It was not the geographic isolation, as evidenced by the nearly two hours of driving from Te Anau to relatively large centres such as Queenstown and Invercargill. Rather, it was more a question of the insularity and inwardness of the inhabitants. Very few people there had any interest in travelling or exploring the world. Consequently, the locals really believed that Te Anau was a great resort like Whistler or Innsbruck.
Rather than working towards improving the town and making it more appealing to visitors, the locals loved to conceal the problems or exaggerate the virtues of the town. The Stuff website has an annual survey on the best town in New Zealand. The local bogans try to vote repeatedly on the website so that Te Anau will be number one. If the locals spent half as much energy making Te Anau a better place to visit and live, they might actually succeed as a tourist destination rather than lamenting the decrease in visitors. Word is getting out that New Zealand generally and Te Anau specifically are overpriced and overrated tourist destinations.
The stories extolling the virtues of small town New Zealand are just stories, much as the Tooth Ferry is a fictitious story. It was thrilling to leave Te Anau and New Zealand.
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The Smiling Zombies (from ‘The Passionless People’ by Kiwi journalist Gordon William McLauchlan)
New Zealanders are meandering through the 1970s reciting an elaborate mythology that we are a benevolent and contented people in a green and sunlit land. We are weaving with cold and tremulous hands the delusion that we are also bold and large-minded. But there is a tic running up the side of our faces (Not quite stilled by the booze and drugs which make our blood run thin) because the reality is that we are ensnared in a monstrous irony. Here in beautiful benign and uncrowded country…we are unhappy with intransitive anger…We suffer by the hundreds of thousands from depression , and from the indefinable anxiety the Germans called angst.”
“The friendly NZer of the tourist brochure does exist because it is the type of relationship with which we feel at home-temporary and superficial…friendly is too strong a word, we should substitute ‘the smiling zombie’”
The Englishman prides himself on his sense of humor and keeps telling the rest of the world: “We are the only people who have this gift of laughing about themselves.”
“Rubbish” retorts the New Zealander, “We also have this gift of being able to laugh at you”
The New Zealander is as racist as the South African, except that he is decently hypocritical about it, and has therefore quietly sorted out the rest of the world. for example he knows that:
- Americans are fun but no substitute to real people
- Pakistanis are all right, if they know their place which most of them think is in England
- Fiji has too many Indians and not enough chiefs
- Jesus was Jewish mainly because there were no New Zealanders living round the Sea of Galilee at the time.
New Zealanders are rational but not reasonable.
Arrested man charged with indecent assault (12 March 2015) – ” Invercargill police have arrested a 37-year-old Te Anau man in relation to an alleged incident at a Quinton Dr house in Te Anau early on Monday. The man was charged with indecent assault, assault with intent to commit sexual violation and injuring with intent.” read more
Queenstown scores Monopoly Spot – Queenstown scores a special position on the Here & Now: World Edition of the game. It’s one of the 20 cities to receive the most votes, launched to mark Monopoly’s 80th anniversary.
Racial remarks hurt Southland woman – ” Ruby Zamberi sometimes goes to her Mataura home and cries. After being spat at, called a terrorist, yelled at in the street or having people refuse to be served by her at her Gore workplace because she has brown skin or wears a hijab, it’s little wonder she gets upset. “For a few days I’ll feel quite down but I have a great husband and he helps me be strong, ” she said. Ruby, a Muslim, used to only wear her hijab at home until her daughter asked her why… read on
Te Anau Troubled By Tourist Attacks (March 2011) – Te Anau’s tourism reputation is in danger after a gang of drunken youths assaulted visitors to the town recently. The story was picked up by the Southland Times who reported that
Constable Glen Matheson, of Te Anau, said a group of seven visitors was attacked at the skate park on the outskirts of the central business district about 11.30pm on Saturday on their way to the Moose Bar…
…The incident was one of three unprovoked attacks in as many weeks, all believed to be carried out by the same group.
And the level of violence was escalating, he said. “We believe this is the core group that is causing it so we are making a move to stomp that out.” read the full story on the Southland Times site
Sounds as if the police have got their work cut-out sorting out these young ruffians, in much the same way that Kaikoura has.
One of the visitors attacked in the latest incident was on holiday from the United States and there was a growing concern about how it could affect the town’s reputation as a destination, he said… more here
- All Migrant Tales