Saturday, 5 October 2013

Heartland New Zealand by any other name....

Heartland New Zealand. Strange name, that. Stranger still, it's not even a place you can set your GPS to lead you to. To Aucklanders, I suppose, it means anywhere south of the Bombay Hills or north of Albany. And to be fair, the name could only have been dreamed up by an Aucklander. As far as I can make out, Heartland NZ refers to rural New Zealand, including towns and cities smaller than Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and perhaps Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin.

If that's the case, I grew up in Heartland NZ, although I didn't know it at the time. I was 50 before I first heard the term, no doubt the brainchild not only of an Aucklander but of an Auckland advertising executive. It is supposed to evoke thoughts of small town New Zealand and its culture, which some believe to be unique but I suspect is not too much different from the culture of small town Australia, United States or other western countries. Except, perhaps, for the influence of rugby union football and sheep in this country.

In the long past days of my youth, every young rural man worth his salt played rugby in winter and cricket in summer (well, a few played tennis but they were a bit different), and every young woman played field hockey (on a muddy field) in winter. The local cricket pitch was a 22 yard long strip of concrete in a farmer's paddock. The first players to arrive on a Saturday got the job of chasing the sheep into the next paddock, sweeping their artwork off the concrete and rolling out the coconut fibre mat ready for play to start.

That's where my memory wandered to recently when I came upon the scene in the photo. The local rugby field being "mowed" by the ubiquitous ovine species, confined by a movable electric fence which would, I suppose, be moved across periodically by a dedicated community volunteer. Call it Heartland if you must, but the spirit of small town New Zealand lives on.

For the record, this 'Heartland' town is Owaka, South Otago.  

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