People Tell the Story: New Zealand

Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Countries, Featured, New Zealand, People Tell the Story | 3 comments

Whenever we travel, we like to get out of the heavy tourist areas, wander, and try to see our destinations as a local would. As we make our way around the world, we want to experience as much as possible about each country, its people, and their way of life.  In an attempt to really understand each country, we created a short questionnaire that we will use to interview 1-3 people.  We believe that it is people (not places or things) that truly tell the story of a nation.  Below, we hope you’ll find a mix of thoughts, ideas and opinions from various global perspectives:

Name: Don
Age: 70
Hometown: Mt. Cook, NZ
Occupation: Jack of all trades – former therapist, pilot, marketeer in various countries and now runs a Rankers Freedom Camping site in Tapawera.

We met Don (who asked not to be photographed) after a long, 8 hour drive from Wanaka all the way up to Abel Tasman National Park. With 2 more hours to go on our trek up to Totaranui (the northernmost entrance to the park), we stumbled upon Don’s brand new Ranker’s Freedom Camping site and decided to spend the night. After a number of years abroad, Don returned to New Zealand and his picturesque plot of land on the Motueka River. Instead of building a home to retire in, he ultimately decided to turn his property into a free camp site. He realized that all he needed was his campervan and his land, and wanted to share his prized possession with fellow travelers and adventure seekers.

Rankers Freedom Camp

Rankers Freedom Camp

Here are a few words from Don:

What 3 words would you use to describe your country?



Glass Box (leave as is to preserve its beauty; nobody in and nobody out)

What 3 words would you use to describe the people of your country?




What is the top priority of the people in your country?

Survival – some parts of the country have a face of affluence, but 30% of its people make minimum wage.

How do people typically make a living?

Any way they can. Costs have become very high in NZ and disposable income has become less and less. Although the Department of Conservation owns 1/3 of the land, wealthy foreigners are hiking up the price of real estate by paying a premium for NZ’s natural beauty.

What is your favorite place to visit?

MacKenzie County (Mt. Cook to Lake Tekapo) – the air is clear and the winter is cold. On a clear day, you can see for 100 miles.

Rankers Freedom Camp

Mike Dinner at Rankers

Don was the quintessential Kiwi. He embodies a number of things that we quickly noticed to be common among the local people – he loves his country; he appreciates and understands the land and its resources; he was super friendly and interested to speak with us; and he was happy and excited to host us.  With so much experience living and working in places such as Europe, Korea, Japan and the United States, Don had plenty of wisdom to share. He explained the country’s ongoing debate among the government, the Department of Conservation and, the private owners and natives, in terms of how to manage land rights. He described how New Zealand was the last country in the world to be colonized and how, initially, very few people wanted to live there because it was so far from everything.  Don also speculated on the reason that New Zealand has been able to maintain its natural beauty and pureness: its people were able to watch and learn from the mistakes of countries established before them.  Our time with Don went so far beyond our five basic interview questions and we’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him.



  1. Love the post! Don sounds like a great guy. Quintessential KIwi…. friendly and talkative. Classic that he doesn’t want to be photographer anddd amazing that he runs a free campground!

    • You would have loved this guy pally. Old school.

  2. Very interesting story Mike. Don has great insight on his country and its land. Keep the stories & pictures coming…love it

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