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Welcome to Around the World, Here at Home. I’m Jennifer Davidson. In today’s segment, we’re exploring a set of islands in the South Pacific: although it’s only about the size of Colorado, this country’s stunning landscape has beaches, snow-capped mountains, and lush forests, and that’s one of the reasons film director Peter Jackson chose it for the setting of his Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Over the past two decades, the government has led a transformation of New Zealand’s economy from a largely agrarian economy—think lamb, dairy, wheat and barley—to a more industrialized economy.
It’s in New Zealand, too, where the traditional Maori culture has seen somewhat of a revival in recent decades; the Maori ethnic group makes up about 15 percent of the population.
I met up with farmer Teressa Simpson, a native of New Zealand. Simpson grows fruits and vegetables on her farm in Mountain Grove, Missouri, and sells that produce at farmers markets. She met her husband several years ago online.
“Five years ago, I came out for about three months, just to see if I would like it or not,” Simpson said.
“The Ozarks I particularly liked, because it’s a lot like home, being in the hills, per se. The only thing that this place hasn’t got is the ocean. No big deal,” Simpson said.
Simpson was brought up on a dairy and sheep farm; when her father got injured, the family moved into town. That took some adjustment, she says.
New Zealanders, she says, are very direct people.
“We have a tendency to look people in the eye when we’re talking to them,” Simpson said.
She said New Zealand and its neighbor, Australia, have a fierce rivalry in sports.
“It’s a real battle, but a good battle,” she laughs. “But off the field, they’re good mates.”
In Mountain Grove, Simpson works on a family farm that’s been in her husband’s family for many years. She generally works seven days a week, she says.
“We grow everything from onions and potatoes, squash and lettuce, and you name it—your produce line. We also have a line in the berries, so that’s your strawberries, your blackberries, your gooseberries,” Simpson said.
On Wednesday, she’s at the Farmer’s Market in West Plains; on Saturdays, she’s at the market in Ava. The other days, she spends on the farm.
She sees a similarity between the warmth of the people in the Ozarks are the people in New Zealand, and says there’s no significant difference between the two.
In New Zealand, there’s a completely different health care system, and a different tax structure.
“A lot of the things in New Zealand have just one flat [tax] rate. Whereas, if you go into a shop here, it took me awhile to get used to it. You’d see a cost on the shelf. And with me being me, I would expect that cost to be the same at the counter. But no, that doesn’t happen here. You’ve got to add on tax,” Simpson said.
The government of New Zealand collects a government service tax, she says, which goes toward everything from gasoline for vehicles or a bottle of milk.
Simpson’s ethnic heritage stems from the indigenous population of New Zealand. She says the civil rights struggle of Australia’s Aboriginees has not been exactly mirrored in New Zealand.
“The Aborigonees, they are different from our culture, for sure. I believe our culture is a level playing field to every other culture in New Zealand. You have to be in a small country. Yes, we do have first rights to a lot of things. But it’s not as if to say we stretch that limit,” Simpson said.
Known as the “kiwis” around the world, they take pride in their strong work ethic. (And the term “kiwi” comes from the flightless Kiwi bird that has become a national symbol of New Zealand).
And, above all, respect of others is a common thread that runs through the fiber of New Zealand culture.
“It gets back to that saying: treat people the way that you wish to be treated, and then it’s gonna come back to you,” Simpson said.
This has been Around the World, Here at Home on KSMU. I’m Jennifer Davidson.