Our kiwiana is shifting

08 Jul, 2019
The changing face of what it means to be Kiwi

Lindsay Neill

Research by the Auckland University of Technology and Electric Kiwi suggests that constructs of being Kiwi are changing - towards wine, oysters, the silver fern and Māori culture.

Senior Lecturer Dr Lindsay Neill has conducted two surveys and found that traditional kiwiana, such as the Buzzy Bee and jandals, do for many people still represent New Zealand identity.

However, Māori culture and the country’s flora and fauna are emerging to bestow Kiwis with a unique place in the world, he says.

“While many New Zealanders find comfort in the nostalgic view promoted within the ‘good old days’, a new face reflecting Kiwi identity and materiality is emerging,” Neill says.

“Kiwis still consider themselves unique and are not afraid to share the characteristics hallmarking that uniqueness. In fact many Kiwi’s are becoming almost boastful about how Maori culture forefronts Kiwi identity, particularly overseas."

Neill conducted two surveys in 2018, with the first looking at how important or relevant existing items of kiwiana were to New Zealanders – the jandal, the Buzzy Bee, Four Square, hokey pokey ice cream, the Swanndri, Edmonds’ Baking Powder, and Wattie’s peas.

The survey respondents overwhelmingly endorsed these items as reflecting Kiwi culture (although not so much with Wattie’s peas).

The reason this traditional view of kiwiana persists is likely due to the large numbers of baby boomers, Neill says.

These items permeated their childhood during the era of New Zealand’s Golden Weather (from the mid 1940s to the early 1970s) when high export earning made the nation prosperous.

The second survey asked how strongly people thought and felt about new items of kiwiana: the Bluff oyster, the Auckland Sky Tower, the silver fern, the flat white, Kiwi wines and Māori culture.

These items were selected from previous research in which Neill identified them as new indicators of Kiwi identity.

Participants were asked to rate the ‘value of importance’ that these items had for them, as well as give comments on them.

"Survey Two revealed that Māori culture and materiality were perceived by participants as being of vital importance to Kiwi identity and materiality,” Neill says.

“This is a huge change from the good-old days and the Golden Weather thinking.

“Wine and oysters, and the silver fern, were also strongly associated with being Kiwi. Those results are of little surprise to wine aficionados and Southlanders.”

Just over 300 people filled out the first survey, and 985 people filled out the second.

Link to the research