Migrant Tales – Kiwi Living in UK Says NZ Spoiled by Ugly Buildings & Most People Don’t Live Near “Stunning Scenery” Anyway – updated

Pleasant scenery, shame about the infrastructure. A fairly typical New Zealand street view. West End, Kaikoura

Welcome to the latest in our popular Migrant Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience.

Today’s tale was sent in by a NZ/British person who was born and raised in New Zealand, before emigrating to the UK after 50 years.

Like many people, this person doesn’t rate NZ’s scenery highly, and says it isn’t unique. It may be pleasant but no better than in many other countries.

What does spoil New Zealand is its urban architecture and infrastructure. As any typical street scene will show you, urban environments (ie. the parts where people live, work and spend most of their time) in New Zealand are hugely disappointing. Even the classic Kiwi quarter acre dream doesn’t exist any more, most people live on small sections hardly large enough for their kids to play ball in the garden. Anything larger than that is usually subdivided.

Intensive urbanization – Typical Kiwi backyards now grow houses, not gardens. North Shore, Akl

main st palmerston north

Palmerston North’s soulless Main Street

palmerston north's clock tower

Another homage to concrete in Palmerston North


Concrete monsters – New Zealand’s Parliament  is more Dalek than Beehive

uk parl

By way of contrast – the UK parliament building

Here’s their story:

“Although now a U.K. citizen (I have been in Britain 17 years) I was born in New Zealand and worked and lived there for some 50 years before migrating to the U.K.

I still go back to NZ to visit family every 2 years and enjoy my visits. Because I have family there and many happy memories my personal experience has been far more pleasant than that of many who write here.

Nevertheless, I recognise a lot of truth in the criticisms made. But one thing which most people comment on does surprise me- almost everyone says the scenery is “stunning”. There are indeed some spectacular scenes (mountains etc) but N.Z. is not unique in this. Moreover, most people do not live in the vicinity of the “spectacular” scenery. The vast majority of the “everyday” scenery for most people is, in my view, certainly very pleasant – e.g. a lot of greenery, trees, farmland, often rugged hills- but it is really no better than can be found in many other countries (and I have travelled to many).

The countryside of Britain, rolling green hills, beautiful hedges, stone walls and vast trees, is (to me anyway) far more breathtaking than that found in N.Z. But the one thing which certainly spoils N.Z. for me is the incredibly ugly buildings- this is not entirely its own fault as earthquakes have destroyed so many of the lovely old Victorian buildings and these have replaced with rather unattractive, very temporary-looking buildings.

Similarly, it is unfortunate that virtually every town in N.Z. (with a couple of exceptions) looks identical to every other, unlike the U.K. where almost every village and town (whether small or large) is very distinctive. Most N.Z. towns are built on flat land, divided into grid-like streets where there is a main street, plus a few leading off, with some very flimsy looking buildings which are usually single story high, or occasionally two; there are no surprises going from one town to another and you know exactly what to expect- with very minor variations they all look the same with identical buildings and shops.

This is almost the complete opposite of what one finds in the U.K. (or in Europe) where there are huge geographical and architectural differences between one place and the next. As a consequence while I personally find my homeland attractive visually it is also actually rather boring. Even Queenstown, so popular with tourists and undoubtedly visually very attractive in terms of natural scenery, is very badly let down by its rather ugly buildings and predictable lay-out. This is probably a small point to many people but, as I say, I am most surprised by the comments from so many that they find N.Z. to be “stunning” to see, and it makes me wonder why they feel this.”

Other Migrant Tales

5 thoughts on “Migrant Tales – Kiwi Living in UK Says NZ Spoiled by Ugly Buildings & Most People Don’t Live Near “Stunning Scenery” Anyway – updated

  1. Couldn’t agree more.
    We currently live near Queenstown and all our kiwi visitors are like ‘omg it’s so stunning here!’ and I just think ‘??’.
    I mean, sure it’s not ugly but I grew up near the Bavarian alps (just google it and look at the pictures) and there you get proper mountains with high end ski slopes, awesome infrastructure, crystal clear lakes which are not too polluted to swim in and lush green valleys instead of the red and dead Mars landscape here in central otago…

    The weirdest thing is, well traveled kiwis who have been to Europe as well tell me the same, how it is ‘the most beautiful place in the world’ down here. It must be the life long brain washing of NZ media that makes them see things how they are definitely not.

    • Bianca,

      I agree with your Mars analogy. I do not find Queenstown and Central Otago (in general) to be particularly ‘stunning’. There are definitely parts of Europe and North America which are way more pleasant to look at.

      In my own experience it is the people (their history, culture, etc.) and accompanying infrastructure which make an area/town/city – with a pleasant geographical backdrop being an added bonus. This is what New Zealand predominantly lacks. After all – what good is a beautiful mountain scene if it is in a cultural wasteland? It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the birds New Zealanders willingly call themselves after have poor eyesight (trouble seeing) and are nocturnal (live in the dark)…

  2. So true!!! I have never seen such ugly buildings as I have in NZ……other than the third world that is, and even there they at least TRY to emulate good design. In NZ it is ‘cool’ to be quirky, but that only lasts a couple of years. Take, for example The Plaza in Palmerston North. They tore down some beautiful period Art Nouveau buildings to put up some hideous 1970’s monstrosity (except it was done in 2000) that looks like it came of a Thunderbirds set.

    On top of that their Council Building looks like it was designed by a Soviet era architect whose specialty was the design of Soviet Gulags. What passes for high style in NZ is essentially something you would see coming from a 5 year old playing with blocks. To top it off there is no architectural standards applied so you can have a truly nice looking house next to something that looks like it sprang from the mind of Willy Wonka………in this case wonk is a fitting term.

    • The ‘beached battleship’ of the Palmerston North City Council is actually a design classic – of what happens when local government is corrupted and rewrites the planning laws to suit itself.

      The building intrudes into park reserve (the Square), is built OVER a road (the only one of its kind in NZ) and as such it’s illegal to be in private ownership, a fact which has repeatedly torpedoed attempts to sell it off. It’s 4 times larger than the council needs and was from day one, but they’ve found they can’t keep tenants due to the poor construction quality and high energy costs of the building.

      It dates to the days when Brian Elwood was mayor and the council was taken over by a cadre of property developers who realised that because no-one was standing for or voting in local body elections, they could waltz in, approve plans for their own subdivisions on high risk flood plain areas and put in exemptions for minimum floor heights imposed by the local catchment board when it failed to stop the developments (which were in designated ponding areas aimed at protecting the city from repeats of the 1950s flooding events)

      This all came to a head in July 1988 – when a severe flood put over 5,000 people at risk (about 1500 were evacuated) and the developments were stopped, but the city is still paying the price for this takeover 30 years later, with thousands of the city’s poorest residents placed in harm’s way in the “less desireable” flood prone areas (https://hwe.niwa.co.nz/event/July_1988_Manawatu-Wanganui_Flooding/xml and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3A58tHxtUY – there are photos of the mangaone stream from the period showing it almost overtopping stopbanks that are 2-3 metres HIGHER than the surrounding rooftops)

      Corrupt practices in NZ are a far from recent phenomenon…

Comments are closed.