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People Making Changes Issue 24 - Changes in New Zealand since 1980 - Part I
- Dorothy - 14/8/97

Patti, an ex-resident now living in Redmond, Washington, has written to NZine asking if I would write about changes in New Zealand since she left in 1980. She is returning for a family wedding in November and wants to know whether she will experience culture shock.

A request like this has some very interesting results. The first was that I found it quite difficult to remember just when some of the recent changes did take place. That sent me to the library to check my facts.

The second result is that since this request I've never been stuck for a conversation topic!

The third result is an abundance of material on changes which will appear in a two-part article. Part one will cover general social change and part two some of the changes resulting from Government policy since 1980.

More cosmopolitan attitudes
With many more immigrants entering the country we are moving from a bicultural to a multicultural society. There are many more Polynesian and Asian people living and studying here than in 1980. Refugees, from Somalia in particular, have added to the cultural mix. Language schools have sprung up like mushrooms, catering for new immigrants and for people who come to study at our schools, colleges and universities to improve their English and to study other subjects, especially business topics.

A number of overseas businesses have set up in New Zealand or opened branches. Australian businesses have expanded into branches in New Zealand since the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations and Trade Agreement (CER) in 1983. It stated that by 1990 there would be a totally free-trade environment. Duty free goods must have 50% Australian or New Zealand content.

Our daughter who has lived in Canada and America for thirteen years recently returned and was struck by the number of American businesses which had opened in New Zealand.

Kiwis' strongest impressions - eating and shopping
Most Kiwis think that Patti will be surprised by the changes in our eating patterns. Far more people eat out, and the number of small and large eating places has grown enormously. There are large establishments like McDonalds and Pizza Hut, and a rapidly increasing number of pizza delivery services. Wine bars have sprung up all over the cities and the suburbs, many with cafe dining.

Ethnic restaurants offering menus from Asia, Mexico and the Mediterranean have opened in many places. Numerous outlets for takeaway foods are open along the main roads, in food halls and shopping centres. Food is available at all hours of the day and night.

One correspondent summed it up when he wrote that we are probably developing a 'unique South Pacific cuisine'.

Shopping opening hours
Since 1989 there has been shopping on both Saturdays and Sundays and on most public holidays, except Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day. Sunday shopping was introduced at the end of 1989. Two private members' bills aimed at changing the remaining restrictions, especially for garden centres, have been defeated, the second gaining more support than the first, so possibly even these restrictions will be eased soon.

Wide selection of goods
With the lifting of import restrictions in 1988 and the reduction of the tariffs designed to protect local industries there is a much wider variety of goods in the shops. There are fewer New Zealand-made clothes and most shops stock a lot of clothing made in Asia, especially China. A number of manufacturing companies have moved offshore because the wages in New Zealand made it impossible for them to remain competitive.

Clothing shops
Many of the large drapery shops have closed and instead a large number of boutiques have opened offering specialised merchandise. There are chains of shops where inexpensive imported clothes can be bought for adults and children. For an overview of the changes in the New Zealand clothing market you could read my article on Moretons Menswear, Business of the Month for June. Casual wear has replaced formal clothes for most occasions. Comfort and easy care are most important.

Corner dairies and greengrocers
The corner dairies seem to be a dying race. Those that survive have increased the range of goods and services to attract custom - a wide range of magazines or even photocopying services.

Greengrocers still survive selling a great selection of fruit and vegetables, usually at prices cheaper than the supermarkets.

Service stations
Petrol stations, now more appropriately called service stations, offer much more than petrol. They sell a wide range of goods, including food, and sometimes have tables and chairs for people to eat meals. Many are open twenty four hours a day. Among other services they provide clean toilets!

Advertising and mail order
There are more mail order catalogues and other unsolicited mail sent to households and goods sold by infomercials on television. Junk mail fills the letter boxes of houses without a 'No junk mail' notice. More and more competitions and special discounts are offered to encourage consumers to buy.

Bread and cigarettes
Patti asks about the cost of bread and cigarettes. In the supermarket where I shop a loaf of bread is around $2.00 and cigarettes are around $6.00 for twenty. Packets of ten are about to be phased out to make it more difficult for young people to afford to buy them.

In October 1986 the government introduced the Goods and Services Tax charged on almost everything you buy or contract for. The first rate was 10%, with an increase in July, 1989 to 12.5%

Kiwis have followed the world wide trend with restored popularity of cinema going, and multiplex cinemas have opened in the larger cities. The success of the New Zealand film, 'The Piano', winning three Oscars further increased Kiwis' interest in the film industry.

Gambling is on the increase. The old Golden Kiwi lottery is gone. Lotto was introduced in 1987 and Lotto counters are in all the shopping centres.

In 1990 the government granted limited licensing of casinos, and the first was built in Christchurch in 1994. In 1996 the Auckland casino opened and at the beginning of August this year the Sky Tower was opened - the highest tower in the Southern Hemisphere.

Newspapers and magazines
The daily papers now have some coloured illustrations. Sunday papers are popular. The evening papers are a dying race.

The New Zealand Woman's Weekly has changed markedly. Now, like so many other women's magazines, it is sensationalist with main articles about the love lives of movie stars and royalty or others who have featured in the news of the month.

Radio and Television
Broadcasting which had been government controlled was deregulated in 1988, and licences were offered for tender. There are now numerous radio stations, most competing for the advertising dollar. The National Programme and the Concert Programme are free of advertising - so far!

Patti asked if we still have only two TV channels. The answer is an emphatic NO. Television New Zealand operates two channels, but TV3 and TV4 offer competing programmes and are privately owned. Smaller channels offer specialised programmes aimed at different age groups or providing horse racing news or programmes of local interest. Most viewers are unhappy with the increasing advertising - up to fifteen minutes each hour.

Sky TV offers a range of programmes including CNN, and sport, news, films, and documentaries continuously shown on three UHF Channels. Sky subscribers pay a connection fee and monthly subscriptions. Cable TV is increasing by the day.

Motorways are still found mainly close to the cities. The city of Auckland extends a long way further north and south. It is possible to travel from north of Albany for an hour to south of Pohino on a motorway which continues to lengthen, with an alternative offered to the main motorway over part of the route. This does not mean that there is no traffic congestion. At peak hours in the morning and in the evening until 7 p.m. the cars travel bumper to bumper on the northern outlets, the congestion largely a result of bottlenecks caused by the Harbour Bridge.

In the other main cities there has been little change in motorways.

The North Shore - Patti asked whether Devonport had changed.
One Auckland correspondent, Kaye, told me that Devonport people like to believe that there have been no major changes since 1980. In a way this is true because the older houses have been retained and renovated. It has become in her view an arty scene, trendy to visit at the weekend and popular with tourists. There are a number of art studios, cafes and interesting shops, including secondhand book stores. The prices of property there have greatly increased. There is a new ferry terminal in a nautical style which in her view does not blend well with the other architecture of "the village".

Joe, former resident of the North Shore, has just returned there on holiday and gave these impressions.
Devonport is still the same, yet different. The only remaining North Shore ferries still ply between Devonport and the city, but the pier has become a shopping arcade. Strenuous efforts have been made to retain the architectural character of the township by avoiding the entry of high rise apartment blocks, but one concession to modernity is a supermarket with the usual acres of parking.

The ancient fire station remains, though its functions are now performed by a modern version discreetly placed along the road to Narrows Neck. The vista from Mt Victoria is little changed in its magnificence, save for the obtrusive sky tower in the city, icon or obscenity depending on your viewpoint. Nor does a massive "Sharp" advertising sign on top of Auckland Hospital add to the aesthetics. Nevertheless Devonport still has character which is deliberately fostered.

Another correspondent, Val, writes of the North Shore:
The North Shore is expanding very fast with a new sports stadium, University, factories, housing developments, new roading near here as well as sewage problems, water pollution and overcrowding on the motorway, but we still like living here! A huge shopping centre, motorway extension and fun park are on the drawing board. We have three super markets near here at Browns Bay. All three have their own bakery and one, Foodtown, has a bank and a cafe as well. Auckland's sky line has certainly changed. I quite like the tower because I can find the city from anywhere.

"A Quarter Acre Half Gallon Pavlova Paradise"
Some readers may remember this as the title of a book by Austin Mitchell giving his views of New Zealand some years ago. Now for many sections the quarter acre has become an eighth of an acre or less, and the popularity of beer has declined as the amount of wine drunk has increased. Even pavlovas are not served as often.

Read Part 2 for further recent changes in New Zealand.

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