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The changing face of what it means to be Kiwi

July 5, 2019

Research by the Auckland University of Technology and Electric Kiwi suggests that constructs of being Kiwi are changing- towards wine, oysters, the silver fern and Māori culture.

Senior Lecturer Dr Lindsay Neill has conducted two surveys and found that traditionalkiwiana, such as the Buzzy Bee andjandals,do for many peoplestill represent New Zealand identity.

However, Māori culture and the country’s flora and fauna are emerging to bestow Kiwis with a unique place in the world, he says.

“While many New Zealanders find comfort in the nostalgic view promoted within the ‘good old days’, a new face reflecting Kiwi identity and materiality is emerging,” Neill says.

“Kiwis still consider themselves unique and are not afraid to share the characteristics hallmarking that uniqueness.InfactmanyKiwi’sare becoming almost boastful about how Maori culture forefronts Kiwi identity, particularly overseas."

Neill conducted two surveys in 2018, with the first looking at how important or relevant existing items ofkiwianawere to New Zealanders – thejandal, the Buzzy Bee, Four Square, hokey pokey ice cream, theSwanndri, Edmonds’ Baking Powder, and Wattie’s peas.

The survey respondents overwhelmingly endorsed these items as reflecting Kiwi culture (although not so much with Wattie’s peas).

The reason this traditional view ofkiwianapersists is likely due to the large numbers of baby boomers, Neill says.

These items permeated their childhood during the era of New Zealand’s Golden Weather (from the mid 1940s to the early 1970s) when high export earning made the nation prosperous.

The second survey asked how strongly people thought and felt about new items ofkiwiana:theBluff oyster, the Auckland Sky Tower, the silver fern, the flat white, Kiwi wines and Māori culture.

These items were selected from previous research in which Neill identified them as new indicators of Kiwi identity.

Participants were asked to rate the ‘value of importance’ that these items had for them, as well as give comments on them.

“Survey Two revealed that Māori culture and materiality were perceived by participants as being of vital importance to Kiwi identity and materiality,” Neill says.

“This is a huge change from the good-old days and the Golden Weather thinking.

“Wine and oysters, and the silver fern, were also strongly associated with being Kiwi.Those results are of little surprise to wine aficionados and Southlanders.”

Just over 300 people filled out the first survey, and 985 people filled out the second.

Lindsay Neill is a Senior Lecturer in International Hospitality Management at the Auckland University of Technology.

His research interests include the sociology of food, New Zealand's vernacular material culture and identities within Aotearoa New Zealand.


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