19 Nov 2021

Quirky New Zealand

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 19 November 2021

The Big Carrot in Ohakune, the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa, the toothbrush fence in Te Pahū, the Bluff Paua Shell House... the new book Quirky New Zealand celebrates New Zealand's many weird and wonderful landmarks.

Author Eleanor Black tells Kathryn Ryan what it is New Zealanders love about quirky small-town attractions.

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The Big Fruit in Cromwell, Central Otago Photo: Bernard Spragg/Flickr

There is a bit of an edible theme going on, Black says.

"We've got the Big Carrot at Ohakune. We've got a giant doughnut at Springfield in the South Island. We've got the big fruit at Cromwell, we've got a couple of giant fish. So yes, we do like to celebrate our produce, our bounty.”

Cromwell's big fruit and the Ohakune Carrot both went up in the 1980s, Black says, to encourage people off the main road to explore those towns.

“[In the case of Cromwell,] what are we known for? We're known for stone fruit. So, here's our bounty.”

The Ohakune carrot was originally created for an ANZ ad and then gifted to the Ohakune Growers Association.

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 The Big Carrot in Ohakune Photo: Thomas Becker/Flikr

Newer to the scene is the Springfield Doughnut which was created to celebrate The Simpsons Movie in 2007.

When arsonists destroyed the original doughnut, the town improvised, Black says.

“The locals created one of their own out of a tyre and they painted it pink. That served for four years until they got another big glossy concrete one.”

Quirky fences fascinate Kiwis, too.

“There's a toothbrush fence down at Te Pahu, there's a jandal fence up at Kaeo, which official New Zealand legend Rachel Hunter has added her own jandals to.

"We've had hubcap fences around the country. There's a fence down on the South Island which has fishing buoys.

“So yeah, we do seem to like to throw things across the fence and call it an attraction.”

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The jandal fence in Kaeo Photo: Drew Mackie/Flickr

Old signage also has a place in Kiwi hearts, Black says.

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The Deka sign in Huntley Photo: russellstreet/Flickr

“We all remember [the department store] Deka ... that was an era for a certain age of New Zealander who remembers going in there and getting their picnics, lollies and school stationery supplies and all that kind of thing. There's a nostalgia around that.

“Deka closed in the early 2000s, obviously, and the [Deka] sign in Huntley stayed. People have got a nostalgia for it and a local businessman owns it and has maintained it and people love it.

“There was a discussion about removing it at one point and there was an outcry, they won't have it.”

Other distinctly Kiwi attractions include Teapotland in the Catlins and Guinea Pig World in Richmond, Black says.

“Like all of these places you know there's a real love and heart that's gone into them.”

Check out some more quirky Kiwi landmarks: