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Friday, April 14, 2006 

New Zealand


Welcome to New Zealand! Christchurch (Otautahi) is a faerie heaven. Bordered by hills, the sea to one side, and the Southern Alps in the distance, it is a colonial city of floral portraits and wide streets. Its old stone buildings, lush tree-filled parks and peaceful streams give Christchurch the air of an English town.

In fact Christchurch was designed to be an English utopia in the South Pacific. The founding fathers planned an orderly, tiered society - the first settlers had to provide references from an English vicar attesting to their sobriety and respectability. An aristocracy and the Church of England would head this utopia, and an underclass of artisans and minions would serve them. They named their fledgling city after an Oxford college (Christ Church) and laid it out like an English city, complete with a Cathedral, University, and private schools.

This beautifully ordered existence was a far cry from the realities of Maori civil war in the early 19th century. The Maori people (pronounced Mowri - ow as in cow)occupied Canterbury for several centuries before the arrival of European peoples, but by the 1840s, only 500 Maori remained in Canterbury. Their population was first decimated by tribal wars, and then by raiding parties from the North Island. Today, evidence of their culture can be seen throughout the city.

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