Wellington, New Zealand, in a nuclear-free nutshell

New Zealand said, “Yanks, put up your dukes

It’s all of us, not just the kooks,

     We’ll show you no fear,

     Don’t park your boat here,

Unless you promise no nukes.    

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Just back from a six-week assignment in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, right now I’m in Wellington, New Zealand, getting things squared away to start work next week.

New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance caused a diplomatic re-alignment in the 1980’s.  Prior to the US insistence on not disclosing presence or absence of nuclear weapons on board ships, New Zealand counted America as her major ally, and even sent troops to Viet Nam.  Since then, the Kiwis have looked to Australia and other Pacific countries.  Australia dominates the import and export markets though the US comes in third and second, respectively. 

The country’s most exported products come from dairy farms; petroleum and its by-products comprise the chief imports.

Gasoline here goes for $1.5NZ per liter, the equivalent of $6US per gallon.  As I’ve only been in Wellington city center, I don’t have a sense of how much people walk or cycle for their transportation outside urban areas, but here in the New Zealand capitol pedestrians rule. 

Currently $1NZ is worth about $.75US, and goods are priced and packaged metrically.  Fruit comes by the kilogram (2.2 pounds); cheese, olives, chocolates and other delicacies by the hundred grams (3.3 ounces).

Food costs a lot more here than it does in Iowa, and serving sizes in restaurants run smaller.   Not surprisingly, the population in Wellington seems a lot leaner than in Sioux City.  In terms of build, they look more like they descended from rugby players than from football players, and I can’t help but wondering if national sports preference doesn’t constitute a sort of selective breeding program.

Whereas in Sioux City, our most expensive dining has been sushi, we’ve found it the least expensive in Wellington, and we’ve been able to eat well on the equivalent of $5US per person for carry-out (in the local parlance, takeaway).  A breakfast of coffee, two eggs, toast and hash browns goes for $10US.

High quality smoked salmon (the equivalent of American lox) finds its way onto most breakfast menus as a side-order.

GST (goods and services tax) comes built into the price, and most service people don’t expect a tip.

The cyclists we’ve seen, excluding the obvious tourists on rentals riding up and down the waterfront, include commuters in business attire and racers with helmets and close-fitting clothing.

Within the last century, the city reclaimed land from the bay and built out onto what had been harbor, much like San Francisco.  And, much like San Francisco, a major fault line runs through the area and produces several thousand earthquakes a year.

Wellington resembles San Francisco as well in the steepness of the surrounding country.  Beautiful homes cling to cliffs, with stunning views of the harbor.  Four-hundred and fifty private cable car systems provide access.  One public cable car system transports people from the city center to Victoria University and elite homes in the heights above.

Wellington’s weather, windy most of the time, year round between 12C and 22C (52F and 72F).  They never have snow or frost, but rain, wind, and fog come and go; in between the air is gloriously clear.


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2 Responses to “Wellington, New Zealand, in a nuclear-free nutshell”

  1. GilesB Says:

    Just ran into this on an oblique search.

    Hope you’re having a great time there. I played with a load of Kiwis at Wasps in London (70s) and have a big soft spot for NZ because I never came across a real NZ arsehole but a load of centred, pleasant, non-egotistical people. Unlike Brits then and now. Maybe I was lucky.

    Not quite 30 years ago business allowed me to take a break and travel the North Island over 9 days, unfortunately in January with no rugby. Stupidly I went all the way to the North Cape and then had to turn at Palmerston North, missing Wellington for lack of time.

    I loved the city pubs and the chuck raffles. I had some wonderful conversations with farming folk in the middle of the island. The Maoiri culture was at front in a museum or historic village or culture exhibition way, but, unlike Brooklyn, NY, where I was living, I never got to talk with any Maori, angry or not. I loved the rapid transition from tropical/sub-tropical/through forest and mountains to heath “desert”, to the extraordinarily typical rolling English farming landscape in the south-west, with tidy fields abruptly contrasted with the black lava-sand beaches and Mt. Egmont volcano towering threateningly over all.

    Back then noone accepted tips. Not one bit. The US$ was strong and I (we) had a ridiculously cheap and wonderful meal in Rotorua and the waitress, equally wonderful — perfect service, helping with wine and knowing the menu — would NOT take a dollar, even for the kitchen.

    And that was just the North Island.

    I promised myself I would come back to see the geographically dramatic, and, I am sure, more South Island. I thought I would have done it by now. Hasn’t happened. But it’s one of my top wishes.

    I’m glad that non-compete clauses force some imaginative US doctors out to new experiences. There are far too many people here that think the US “answers” are the ones. I’m thinking you’re an exception.

    May be you should write about medical non-compete. I hadn’t realized it impinged. Maybe contrasts of medical practice. Prevention v. Treatment, etc. Could be useful. Med care HERE VS. THERE?

    All the best,


    • walkaboutdoc Says:

      The NZ dollar is stronger against the US, so that prices here are shockingly high: gas at $2.18 NZ works out to about $6.50 a gallon; milk comes close to $8 a gallon on a good day. But the food has been very good, the people sooo friendly, and the scenery second to none. On the other hand the roads are narrow and the pavement rough but the signage is great.
      And yes, we’re having a fabulous time.

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