When I left New Zealand to see the world, I first settled in Canada then the USA. One thing I noticed with my flatmates was their total reliance on outside help whenever something broke down. If the fridge leaked their first action was to call a plumber. When the power failed, rather than check the fuses, they would call an electrician. I would first check to see what was wrong then if possible fix it myself. Not so with my Canadian or American colleagues. When I moved to England, I found the same thing. Rather than explore the reason for a failure, my English colleagues would just call for help. It began to dawn on me that I had a Kiwi mindset.

New Zealander’s brains are wired differently. I’m sure of it, but look where it’s got us!


Kiwis are at the front of the queue when it comes to state-of-the-art inventions. For example, the jet pack was the brainchild of  Dunedin born scientist Glenn Martin. Time Magazine declared it one of the 10 best inventions of 2010. Glen worked on a mathematical formula that finally allowed him to build a device that could lift an adult into the air for 30 minutes.


Kiwis are creating other new technologies in transport. The Aquada, a cross between a speed boat and a sports car, was created by Kiwi businessman Alan Gibbs.

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Check out this clip to see this amazing car in action and read on to discover how Zorbs, Blocarts and Bungy Jumping have changed the sporting landscape.


Where did this aptitude for invention come from?

New Zealand is a small country with a small population but it has a reputation for ‘punching above its weight’. New Zealanders tend to be fearless and it’s this attitude that has allowed so many of them to reach for the stars. To understand why this is so, we need to go back to the late 19th century when the first European settlers arrived. To read about the conditions en route is to make your skin crawl. Hard times in Scotland and Ireland forced so many desperate people to face up to four months jammed together on an unhealthy ship as it rolled and pitched its way across to the other side of the world. New Zealand was the most distant habitable place they could travel to on this planet.


When the exhausted, and often sick, settlers finally arrived here, there struggles began in earnest. Many of the Maoris didn’t take too kindly to their arrival and wars erupted that spread terror and death on both sides.

The landscape wasn’t particularly inviting either. Hacking into the dense bush was backbreaking , filthy work. Because there were few roads available, rivers were used as a means of transport. Unfortunately, many drowned not understanding that rain in the high country always led to placidly flowing rivers quickly becoming raging torrents. Drowning was so frequent, it became known as ‘the New Zealand death’.


The settlers had to make do with the materials they brought with them and when it quickly ran out, they had to improvise. As a result, the famous New Zealand ‘can do’ attitude was born.  Rather than giving up when the appropriate equipment wasn’t available, they were forced to find a solution and they usually succeeded.


New Zealanders have produced a range of products and equipment that are taken for granted today. It is probable that farmer Richard Pearse was the first man to fly an aircraft. He made his flying machine from bamboo and scrap metal and it is believed he flew his invention for 140 metres before crashing. His ‘flight’ took place on 31st March 1903. This was nine months before the Wright brothers managed their famous flight.


William Atack used to referee rugby games but found the constant shouting was destroying his voice so he came up with the referee’s whistle which is now taken for granted in sports games around the world.

Otago farm manager, Thomas Brydone was typical of a settler who quickly adopted the New Zealand ‘can do’ mindset. He pondered on a way to get his sheep meat fresh to the London market. As a result, he invented refrigerated shipping and completely transformed New Zealand’s economy by allowing it to become Britain’s main supplier of fresh meat.

In 1900 when Earnest Godward was working at the Southland Cycleworks, he  wanted to help make his wife’s baking chores easier so invented the humble egg beater. This allowed eggs to be prepared in 3 minutes instead of the 12 minutes it had previously taken. Earnest didn’t stop with the egg beater, to keep his wife’s hair out of the flour, he also invented the hairpin.


In the 1930s, farmer Bill Gallagher wanted a way to keep animals contained in paddocks so invented the electric fence. Staying with farming inventions, Alan Pritchard, a government pilot, came up with the idea to fertilize fields from the air and became the father of aerial topdressing.



In the 1950s, after designing the first ski tow, the engineer Bill Hamilton, figured out a way to drive boats along shallow rivers without propellers. The jet boat that carries his name, is now found all around the world and is one of the most successful marine inventions of the 20th century.

can do 6JET BOATING ON AUCKLAND HARBOUR (aucklandadventurejet)

At the same time, Harry Wigley, worked out a way to land tourists directly onto the snow when he attached skis around the wheels of a small aircraft. The first snow landing took place on Tasman Glacier in 1955.



It is not too surprising, with New Zealand’s innovative sports and recreation reputation, to discover that Bungy Jumping, the Blocart  (three wheeled land yacht) and the Zorb are all New Zealand inventions.



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The New Zealand ‘can do’ attitude has put this little country ahead of the pack in so many fields and it is still alive and kicking with Kiwi rockets entering the space race. I will discuss this exciting development in an upcoming blog.

By the way, it was a kiwi scientist, Earnest Rutherford who discovered how to split the atom, thus introducing the world to the nuclear age.

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