The Ferry is now close to reaching it’s destination: Picton, at the end of Queen Charlotte Sound / Totaranui.
The South Island of New Zealand is just over 30% larger than the North Island, but boasts only around 20% of the countries total population of around 4 million people.
The two biggest reasons for the population divide are: geography and weather.
The Southern Alps are the massive mountainous backbone of the South Island… the rugged terrain made movement, settlement and transportation for not just paheha (white people) but also historically for Māori.
New Zealand also sports some very different climates: the subtropical north of the North Island means that growing bananas in your back yard isn’t a problem, kiwifruit, avocados, grapefruit and the like are grown in the North where it is warmer but also wetter and more humid.
In the south of the South Island the conditions are ideal for stone-fruit: apricots from Roxborough are famous along with cherries, nectarines, peaches and the dry cooler conditions are ideal for grapes, attested by the famed Otago and Marlborough vineyards.
It’s might of course be drier on the east coast of the South Island and thus less humid, but it’s also colder in winter and snow isn’t unusual in the more mountainous areas and higher elevations. As a consequence of both these factors only 5% of the total Māori population historically populated the South Island.
It’s sometimes disputed by North Islanders but the popular nickname for South Islanders is that they are called ”Mainlanders”.
I have a book on Māori mythology, which details the some of the exploits and adventures of hero and warrior Māui, who is not just famous in folklore for his deeds but also the cunning and skulduggery he employs to achieve his aims. I also did some research via Wikipedia for more information not contained in my book.
Māui’s mother is Taranga, and his Father is Makeatutara. According to legend Māui has a miraculous birth—his mother throws her premature infant into the sea wrapped in a tress of hair from her topknot (tikitiki)—hence Māui is known as Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga.
Ocean spirits find and wrap the child in seaweed. Māui’s divine ancestor, Tama-nui-te-ra (or Rangi) then takes the child and nourishes him to adolescence.
In Māori tradition, the South Island of New Zealand was Māui’s canoe and with his foot braced on the solid outcrop of Banks Peninsula ( the large peninsular close to Christchurch) he threw a jaw-bone that he has fashioned into a fishing hook into the sea and pulled up a massive fish.
This is no ordinary fish… it was New Zealand’s North Island and the fish hook went through the “hole’ in the middle that is Lake Taupo.
This is how the Māori name for the South Island became Te Waka a Māui (The canoe of Māui) and the North Island known as Te Ika-a-Māui (The Fish of Māui).
Every time I arrive back in the South Island, I feel like a “Mainlander” again… either flying into Christchurch airport over the Southern Alps or seeing Picton again as the ferry rounds the twists and turns of the waterways of the Marlborough Sounds, I’m always overcome with a feeling that I’ve once again truly arrived “home”.