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New Zealand Trade Manual has been designed with travel industry professionals in mind.
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Sir Peter Jackson has used Kiwi ingenuity to create some of the world's most-loved films. Image: Tourism New Zealand. Photo by Todd Eyre.

With a wealth of traditional motifs and a variety of landscapes and cultural influences from which to draw inspiration, it is no surprise that New Zealand is a very creative place.

Making the Sale
New Zealand Trade Manual Let the excitement begin before the trip does! Reading a book or watching a film from New Zealand is a good way for your clients to build their anticipation.
New Zealand Trade Manual If your clients are already Lord of the Rings fans, how about an itinerary that takes in important scenes from the films? There are themed guided tours available or, with a little research, you can plan your own.
New Zealand Trade Manual Trying your hand at traditional Maori arts at a working studio is a memorable experience and a lot of fun – even for those who may not consider themselves creative.

One of the biggest inspirations for New Zealand artists is, unsurprisingly, nature and the stunning landscape. While painters capture the magnificent scenery, others use natural materials such as Harakeke (flax), Pohutukawa and fern leaf in their works. This is not a new development; Maori settlers developed powerful motifs and artistic forms utilising natural resources from their earliest days in New Zealand, carving bone, stone, wood and shell, and weaving native fibres.

In recent years, contemporary artists have woven a unique blend of histories and cultures, themes and styles together in their work, reflecting the diversity of New Zealand society. It is now common to see traditional Maori arts using contemporary mediums, and distinct Maori, Asian and Pacific Island influences can clearly be seen in other artworks. This unique New Zealand blend reaches across all genres. Ancient Maori performance arts, for example, employ modern interpretations, while Kiwi musicians mix popular international styles with traditional Pacific influences, and New Zealand-themed movies are shown at international film festivals.

Arts & Crafts

New Zealand Trade Manual Excellent art galleries can be found even in small towns.

In the 20th Century, when realism and honesty about local life became dominant themes, artists like Rita Angus, Colin McCahon and Toss Woollaston came to prominence. Today, painters such as Shane Cotton, who incorporates Maori themes in his work to represent shared Maori and Pakeha experiences and significant events in New Zealand history, are celebrated, and they all find a place in New Zealand’s galleries. Particularly renowned galleries include the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui, The Suter Art Gallery in Nelson, Christchurch Art Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The World of WearableArt™ Gallery in Nelson showcases the full force of Kiwi creativity. Displaying the garment collection from the annual Brancott Estate World of WearableArt™ Awards Show, the gallery delights all the senses with its dramatic mix of lighting, music and movement.

A great way for visitors to experience arts and crafts is by visiting a workshop. Many studios offer a hands-on approach, giving visitors the opportunity to try weaving, for example at Te Puia in Rotorua, or carving; Hokitika on the West Coast is especially renowned for jade carving workshops. Another way to experience arts and crafts is by browsing markets or visiting the country’s renowned art and craft trails. There are good trails in Kerikeri, Nelson and Marlborough, but for a comprehensive list visit

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New Zealand Trade Manual Live music performances are easy to find in cities and country pubs.

New Zealand’s musical tradition dates back to the nation’s earliest settlement by the Maori people and in recent times local artists have increasingly mixed popular international styles with Maori and Pacific Island influences. Scribe, Split Enz, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Bic Runga and the Flight of the Conchords have struck a chord (pardon the pun!) with audiences worldwide, while songstress Hayley Westenra has made an impact on the classical music charts and Kiri Te Kanawa is an operatic force. Watching a live band perform is a great way to sample a slice of local culture.

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New Zealand Trade Manual New Zealand has a long tradition of amateur and professional theatre.

New Zealand has been on the professional theatre touring circuit since the 1860s. In the 1960s, Downstage Theatre in Wellington was established and others soon followed; Dunedin’s Fortune Theatre, Christchurch’s The Court Theatre, Palmerston North’s Centrepoint, Wellington’s Circa and Auckland’s Mercury Theatre (now the Auckland Theatre Company) all now offer vibrant work.

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New Zealand Trade Manual The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have made New Zealand famous amongst moviegoers.

New Zealand’s diverse and dramatic landscapes are a major drawcard for filmmakers. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, directed by Wellington-based Peter Jackson, was filmed right here and so are The Hobbit movies. New Zealand has doubled for ancient Japan (The Last Samurai) and, more recently, was the inspiration for the computer-generated world of Avatar. There are also distinctly New Zealand stories told on film: Whale Rider is a haunting tale examining Maori culture and myth, while The World’s Fastest Indian tells the story of Southland motorcycle legend Burt Munro. To enjoy Kiwi cinema, visitors can go on a LOTR tour or catch a movie in an iconic cinema such as the Fiordland Cinema (Te Anau), Cinema Paradiso (Wanaka), Mighty Civic Theatre (Auckland) or Embassy Theatre (Wellington).

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New Zealand Trade Manual Read a New Zealand book for a glimpse of the Kiwi psyche.

Kiwi writers aren’t afraid to speak their minds and to broaden the minds of others, whether in the prophetic poetry of James K. Baxter, the rich prose of Keri Hulme, the modern myths of Witi Ihimaera, or the searing autobiographies of Janet Frame. The landscapes, the rich Maori storytelling tradition and the country’s love of individuality and creativity have combined to produce a diverse range of books and authors that stand tall on the world stage. Children’s author Margaret Mahy has over 120 titles to her name and is beloved the world over, and New Zealand also has its own tradition of literary prizes, scholarships and festivals.

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Dance & Kapa Haka

New Zealand dance performances range from traditional Maori kapa haka (posture dance), sometimes in modern interpretations, through to spectacular shows performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. One of NZ’s most famous dancers was Freda Stark; famous for performing for NZ and US troops during World War II, wearing little more than gold bodypaint, she earned the title ‘Fever of the Fleet’.

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Experiencing Creative New Zealand

From galleries and workshops to art trails and tours, there are many ways to experience the creative side of New Zealand.

Galleries There are intriguing art galleries all over the country, but particularly renowned ones include the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (New Plymouth), the Sarjeant Gallery (Whanganui), The Suter Art Gallery (Nelson) and the Christchurch Art Gallery (currently closed for repairs). The World of WearableArt™ Gallery in Nelson showcases Kiwi creativity with its dramatic mix of lighting, music and movement. Another highlight is Fred and Myrtle Flutey’s Paua House, lovingly recreated at Christchurch’s Canterbury Museum.

Literary trails and locations Suggest your clients take a literary sightseeing tour by strolling along one of New Zealand’s writers’ walks ( or by visiting highlights such as the Frank Sargeson House (Takapuna) and the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace and Heritage Garden (Wellington).

Craft trails and studios Highlights amongst art and craft trails include the Kerikeri, Nelson and Marlborough Art and Craft Trails. There are also craft studios where visitors can watch artists at work – from potters and glass blowers to sculptors, wood turners, Maori carvers and weavers, and jewellers – they may even get the opportunity to try their own hand!

Film locations and tours The Lord of the Rings trilogy was made here a decade ago and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released in 2012. Tours to ‘Mount Doom’, ‘Hobbiton’ and other LOTR film locations are hugely popular. Research film locations online to create a custom itinerary or book a themed guided tour for the ultimate film location sightseeing trip.

Live music venues and festivals Live music venues range from country pubs and town halls to clubs and stadiums. Kiwi vineyards offer a stunning setting. Outdoor venue highlights include New Plymouth’s TSB Bowl, Mission Estate Winery’s amphitheatre or Queenstown’s Earnslaw Park.

Theatres Take your pick from intimate venues and large auditoriums, from the best in international theatre and Kiwi productions, from great dramas and improv comedy, and from contemporary experimental theatre to good old Shakespeare!

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Maori & Pacific Treasures

Traditional Arts Weaving and carving in wood, bone and greenstone are important Maori traditions. Examples of taonga Maori (Maori treasures) can be seen at museums and galleries all around the country. Contemporary examples are available for purchase at galleries, workshops and studios.

Auckland Museum Home to He Taonga Maori, the Maori Treasures Gallery, and displaying over 2,000 pieces – including the last, magnificently carved, Maori war canoe to be used in battle.

Te Papa Tongarewa New Zealand’s national museum contains a marae and works with iwi (tribal groups) to curate a fascinating exhibition programme of taonga. The Kura Pounamu exhibition explores the origins and stories of greenstone.

Waiwhetu Purchase Maori treasures at Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt, where visitors can see artists-in-residence practising their crafts.

Hokitika Dubbed the greenstone capital of New Zealand, Hokitika showcases jade shops and artists’ studios where visitors can join workshops to make their own crafts!

For the latest on Maori art and exhibitions, see the Toi Maori Aotearoa website:

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Films to Watch

Goodbye Pork Pie Geoff Murphy
The Piano Jane Campion
Whale Rider Niki Caro
The Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson
River Queen Vincent Ward
The World’s Fastest Indian Roger Donaldson
Sione’s Wedding Chris Graham
Boy Taika Waititi
Rain Christine Jeffs

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Books to Read

In a Fishbone Church Catherine Chidgey
Owls do Cry Janet Frame
Tu Patricia Grace
The Bone People Keri Hulme
The Haunting Margaret Mahy
The Garden Party Katherine Mansfield
No Ordinary Sun Hone Tuwhare
The Denniston Rose Jenny Pattrick

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