After I left the South Island, the fight seemed to go out of me a bit. After only one night in Wellington, marked by dodging soused cricket fans and would-be Irishmen (an English-New Zealand cricket match and St Patrick’s Day are a perfect storm of English lousiness and public drunkenness. I find it all embarrassing), I headed to Rotorua for a stab at Maori culture. I found the performance a bit lame and sad: a great people reduced to putting themselves in theme park villages for the sake of curious tourists. Fat British tourists made up the bulk of the crowd, and the fidgeted through the cultural performance, eager to tuck into the buffet provided. I left early, having no stomach for this.
But it wasn’t just a disgust at the zoo-like atmosphere of Rotorua. The town itself is depressing, with many shops closed. The only ones that seem to be thriving are rent-to-own shops, gambling dens and bars. The local Maoris wander the streets looking fierce and menacing. And like most other native populations that have been displaced by euro-settlers, they’re not doing at all as well (4.9MB PDF) in the various social development indicators. But at least the Maori aren’t invisible like the Australian Aborigines. They’re much more integrated into the social fabric of New Zealand, but still.