New Zealander’s have generally had a rather eccentric approach to things from art to films and fashion, not to mention inventions from water bikes and cars to bungy jumping, zorbing and wearable art creations. It is therefore no surprise to discover various public displays around the country also offer glimpses into the offbeat creativity of the kiwi mind.


Located close to the North Island’s top tourist attractions of Taupo, Waitomo and Rotorua, the bland saw milling town of Tokoroa, with a declining population of currently 13,000 had nothing to offer the tourists who passed it by. To change this situation, a group of progressive locals put their heads together to come up with a plan. At a public meeting in 1997 there was very positive support for the idea of a collection of sculptured poles representing Tokoroa’s dominant Maori and Pacific Island cultures. It was hoped the creation of a meaningful presentation of these cultures would attract tourists as well as inspire and generate community pride and lead to a sustainable niche industry based on ‘Talking Poles’.

To date, the project has produced 46 tall sculptures in mainly Polynesian themes and styles. They are made in a variety of materials and there are more to come. Most of the art pieces are located around the town’s shopping area and form a trail for people to follow and are now an established tourist attraction. Many local businesses have got behind the idea and contribute funds for the care and upkeep of the poles.

The inaugural Pole Art of the World Symposium held over three weeks in March 2004 attracted over 5,000 visitors to the town. Eight new sculptures in native and exotic timbers were made at that time by a mix of local and international sculptors. The event revitalized the Talking Poles project and provided the interest and commitment from the community to assure its future. During each subsequent symposium more sculptures in timber, stone, steel and concrete have been created.


The Toy Wall in the town of Eltham in Taranaki began in the 1970s when local resident Faye Young discovered a discarded toy car in the neighbouring Bridger Park. She put it on her garden wall facing the street in the hope it would be re-claimed by its owner. However, other toys appeared on the wall so she decided to make a feature of them by cementing them into the wall to create a permanent ‘wall of toys’. Faye died in 2000 and gifted her property to the town and today, thousands of toys in various states of disrepair can be found in this quirky Taranaki attraction.

The Toy Wall is not the only oddball wall in Taranaki.


Jan Kelson had been through a tough time so to cheer herself up she went shopping and at the local hospice shop in the small town of Rahotu she saw a gold trimmed coffee mug in a box and wanted to buy it but she had to buy the whole box of mugs. By the time her husband got home that day, she had hung the unwanted mugs on her fence. Her husband approved of the display and this led her to buy more mugs and before long the house, garage, fences, even the trees were festooned with thousands of tea cups and coffee mugs. Today, it is the main attraction in the town. There are 22 crazy, weird and silly fences scattered around the country. They include 3 gumboot fences, 4 shoe fences, 5 hubcap fences, 5 bicycle fences, a toothbrush fence, a hats fence, a car numberplate fence. There is even a dead possum fence and not to forget, the famous bra fence which I have featured in a previous blog. I have seen some of these fences and must say, they do nothing to enhance the landscape with their less than artistic visual presentation.

Only in New Zealand!


Staying with the weird things seen around New Zealand, how about a steampunk airship that floats above Hamilton Gardens appearing to deliver plants and compost! This oddball attraction, known as the Huddleston is more than just an eye-catching blimp. It actually appears to contain fully functioning pieces of equipment. Stuffed full of gardening gadgets and gizmos, the aircraft is tethered near the Concept Garden which forms part of the Fantasy Collection and is another imaginative attraction to the Gardens’ concept of telling the story of gardens throughout history, and across different civilisations. The airship’s low altitude close above a cluster of hedges gives the impression it could glide above them at night, delivering plants and mulch to hard-to-reach places.

The Huddleston is one of the newest editions to the sprawling themed gardens at Hamilton Gardens and is certainly worthy of a mention in a blog on weird sights around New Zealand.

Huddleston (

Ceidrik Heward

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