Waikato Museum’s Most Current Exhibitions

13, 25, 100. These are the numbers that sum up the Waikato Museum: 13 galleries, 25 new exhibitions, and 100 annual public events.

Located on the banks of the Waikato River, Hamilton’s regional museum opened in 1987, and was designed by Architect Ivan Mercep of the Auckland architectural firm Jasmax, formerly known as the JASMad Group Ltd. The museum’s design integrated its interior and exterior with the surrounding environment, specifically the steep riverbanks upon which it stands.

The institution’s name has been changed to Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato (ooh, try saying that five times real quick) by way of increasing the focus on Maori heritage and culture, but the sterling standard for its range of exhibits, educational, and public programs remains constant to this day, the most recent of which include the following:

1. Te Haerenga The Journey: Toward Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. (5 August – 26 November 2017)

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that Te Whare Taonga o Waikato is the Maori name for the Waikato Museum, and this exhibition shows exactly how this purpose-built museum and art gallery came into being in its thirty years of development.

2. The Cold Islanders. (26 August – 3 December 2017)

These artists participating in this exhibit all drew inspiration from how the first generation of Pacific migrants had to adjust to Aotearoa’s cold winters. Thus, the works on display hint at grandparents’ watery memories, dreamy voyages across the ocean, and the tribe’s ancient chants and images for ensuring that the ocean will never freeze.

3. Geometry. (23 September 2017 – 14 January 2018)

Here, artists from various cultures recreate geometric shapes that naturally occur all around us. Line, color, tonal scale, and contrast are employed to create illusions of depth, distance, and scale that is characteristic of pure geometric abstraction.

4. 30 Years on Grantham Street. (5 August – 26 November 2017)

30 Years on Grantham Street

While Te Haerenga The Journey is all about how the museum was built, the 30 Years exhibit focuses on the establishment’s highlights throughout its three decades of existence. Its forerunner institutions, diverse collections, and evolving role in the community all feature prominently in this part of the structure.

5. Ngaa Taonga: Treasures from Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. (1 September – 29 October 2017).

Over 30,000 artifacts of Maori art, social history, and science can be found within the establishment’s walls, representing well over three decades since the museum began to form its collection. In line with its renewed focus on Maori culture, much of what is displayed in this exhibit reflects the cultural heritage of Waikato-Tainui and its colonial history, as well as art from the region.

Apart from seasonal displays, the museum also has some pretty standard exhibits that capitalize on New Zealand’s unique heritage. The poignantly-named “For Us They Fell,” for instance, commemorates the human stories of Waikato’s populace during the First World War: ordinary people who fought, died, and survived during this tumultuous period in history, while “Te Whaanau Maarama” isn’t a song from Disney’s “Moana” (I just had to go there), but rather, the traditional Maori societal view of the night sky and how such is being revitalized in the modern world.

And if you’ve ever been curious about why Waikato is considered the country’s dairy capital, the “Milk Matters: Towards Sustainable Dairying” exhibit will fill you in and educate you on how milk is made and processed along the way.

The Waikato Museum is located at 1 Grantham Street, at the South End of Victoria Street, Hamilton 3204. It opens daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, except on Christmas Day. Entry is free of charge, but some fees might apply to select attractions. Donations are very much welcome too.

Oz the Tiger and Samantha Kudeweh: Hamilton Zoo’s Unspeakable Tragedy

Like its neighbor Down Under, New Zealand has a wealth of wildlife preservation habitats and zoos.

Hamilton Zoo is one of its most beloved. Established in 1969 as the Hilldale Game Farm, it gradually grew from a small collection of exotic mammals and birds into the country’s first zoo to be fully accredited by the Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Quite a number of its exhibits are unique to the zoo, such as the Parrot Court,  Free-Flight Sanctuary (the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, with over 200 bird species present), Chimpanzee Exhibit (featuring Auckland Zoo’s chimpanzee troop), African Animals, and the Tiger Exhibit, which is home to five of the world’s endangered Sumatran tigers.

As with many wildlife sanctuaries on this side of the globe, a big part of Hamilton Zoo’s draw is its sympathetic approach to conservation. The habitats on this 62-acre compound were especially designed to suit the animals’ needs, and many of the zookeepers are not only competent and experienced, but also have a genuine commitment to caring for and protecting their charges.

Unfortunately, even such an ideal set-up did not render Hamilton Zoo immune to perhaps the worst kind of tragedy that could occur in places like this.

On 20 September 2015, Samantha Lyn Kudeweh, a longtime zookeeper at Hamilton Zoo, was killed by one of its tigers. The then 43 year-old had been with the zoo for more than 2 decades, and was part of the team that facilitated the mating process between Sali, a female Sumatran tiger, and Oz, a male of the same species.

Ironically, further investigations on the attack concluded that it was Oz who had fatally mauled Samantha on that day, although authorities did not disclose whether the deceased was in the tiger enclosure when tragedy struck.

For a time, Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs could not rule out the possibility that Oz might be euthanized as a consequence of the attack. The Sumatran tiger’s being among the last of his species as well as his key role in the ongoing breeding program likely forestalled any such attempts, however.

Kudeweh’s accident was the first fatality in Hamilton Zoo’s history, but it wasn’t an isolated incident.

Samantha Lynda Kudeweh
Image Credit: Hamilton Zoo

Two years prior, another zookeeper walked into what she thought was an empty enclosure and found herself face to face with a five year-old female tiger, who then “playfully” ran up to her. The tiger got close enough to swat at the zookeper’s gumboots before the latter calmly and carefully made her way to the keeper gate and exited the enclosure.

As a result, a key retention padlock system for all carnivore and primate enclosures was introduced thereafter, and the zoo remains the city’s most popular tourist destination after Hamilton Gardens, attracting 120,000 visitors a year.

Two years after the tragedy, Hamilton Zoo continues to be committed to its world-class conservation efforts while its tight-knit community honors the memory of its fallen comrade. Safety and security measures within the venue have been updated accordingly, but zoo visitors can still have interactive experiences with inhabitants like the Southern white rhinoceros or the lemurs, all under the careful supervision of experienced keepers, of course.

Interested parties can visit the zoo from 9 AM to 5 PM each day at 183 Brymer Road, Hamilton New Zealand 3829. Adult tickets are priced at NZ$23 per head, while those aged 15 years and under can be admitted for NZ$11 each.

How to Get Free Stays, Free Rides, and (Almost) Free Access to Attractions in New Zealand

New Zealand is like a diamond necklace: oh-so-pretty, but also oh-so-expensive. Those of us in Asia, especially in the Philippines, are used to going on some fairly nice vacations on a shoestring budget, so traveling to a Western country can bring on a poignant case of sticker shock (i.e., when you look at the price sticker and get a heart attack).

In some of the beach towns outside Manila, you can rent a decent bungalow for about USD15 or roughly PHP750 a night. Good luck finding even a bunk bed in a hostel at that rate in New Zealand, and if you’re more of a solo-room-for-two-with-a-private-bath kind of traveler, prepare to shell out at least NZ$80 (about PHP2,760) per night.

However, there are some pretty ingenious ways for backpackers to get around New Zealand with comparatively little money, and comfortably too. Here’s how:

1. House-sit.

Given how conducive New Zealand is to outdoorsy pursuits, many travelers opt to stay at eco-friendly hostels or rent out campervans to make the most out of the scenery.

If you happen to be funding your trip with remote work and need a desk and an Internet connection, none of those options would do, clearly. Should you be staying in the country for a month or two, you might want to look into house-sitting. This is an arrangement where you look after someone’s house while s/he is away in exchange for free (!!!!) accommodation.

Check out kiwihousesitters.co.nz for leads. If you like animals, they’ve got set-ups where you can look after the owner’s pets while you house-sit, and some deals even come with the free use of a car!

2. Volunteer for car/vehicle relocations.

Volunteer for car/vehicle relocations

Rental companies often need people to bring their vehicles back to bigger cities from smaller towns. You can take advantage of this need by signing up for relocation deals where a company sets a date for picking up the vehicle and an allocated number of days for bringing it to its next destination.

Some companies throw in a free full tank of gas or petrol, and you can use the vehicle to get to any place you want so long as you bring the vehicle to its destination on the specified date.

And okay, there are a few companies that might charge you NZ$1 per day for the vehicle, but come on, that’s next to nothing compared to what you’re getting in exchange. Neat, isn’t it?

3. Look up last-minute deals for outdoor activities online.

new zealand outdoor activity

Tour operators typically offer heavy discounts to sell off vacant slots on bungee-jumping, rappelling, or even spelunking queues just so these don’t go to waste. But where do you find deals like these?

Sites like Bookme, that’s where. You can get tickets to attractions like Lake Tekapo or Queenstown’s luge and gondola on this site for as much as 50% off the list price. As a plus factor, these sites target locals so a lot of tourists aren’t too aware of them. Just keep your schedule flexible so that you can advantage of the said deals whenever they come up.

4. Scour the free food shelves at hostels for, well, free food.

Get this, every hostel has a “Free Food” shelf or box in its kitchen.

Backpackers typically travel light, so they leave behind any leftover food or groceries in the said shelf or box upon checking out. The best time to scrounge around for food is just after check-out time and before the lunch rush begins in the kitchen, around 10-11:30 am. Bon appetit.

5. Talk to a local for the best nature-watching spots.

Talk to a local for the best nature-watching spots
Image Credit: Shutterstock

When all is said is done, you didn’t come to New Zealand for its museums or its fancy-schmancy restaurants (go to Europe for that, but save up first). You came here to enjoy Mother Nature at her best.

And as Pocahontas once implied, no one owns nature, so enjoying its charms is free (or it should be)! Get friendly with the locals and ask them about their favorite spots for dolphin-watching, glacier-viewing, or penguin-spotting. If you ask really nicely, they’re bound to help you out and they may even invite you to come along with them.

Clearly, the best way to see New Zealand on a budget is by living like a local. As you can see, all it takes to do that is a longer stay (something I’m sure most of us are only too happy to comply with), an open mind, and the willingness to put in a bit of work if needed.


Here’s the Lowdown on How NZ Working Travelers are Taxed

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” so the saying goes. We’ve come to expect a tax on just about everything we do that it’s pretty much up there with our impending mortality. Well, at least no one’s figured out a way to tax us for simply breathing….yet.

New Zealand is no exception. As you can imagine, maintaining a country of its size and beauty doesn’t come cheap, GDP-sized proceeds from Hollywood production companies notwithstanding.

As a result, even backpackers working odd jobs to pay for their trips across NZ’s evergreen pastures can expect to contribute to the national treasury, whether they like it or not.

The PAYE System

The PAYE System
Image Credit: Pixabay

This acronym stands for “Pay As You Earn,” and it describes how NZ employers automatically deduct their employees’ taxes and remit them to the government.

It implies two things: 1.) You get to keep the whole amount in your NZ bank account, and 2.) There’s no way you can get out of paying taxes as a legally-hired worker in New Zealand.

However, take comfort in how your taxes contribute to the levies for the wonderful invention that is the ACC or Accidental Compensation Corporation. Under this policy, everyone in New Zealand from bonafide citizens to tourists are covered by free medical treatment in case of accidents, unlike in some countries, where even working tourists aren’t eligible for public health care.

Lastly, you should also note that “Kiwi Saver” taxes, which pertain to the NZ retirement plan, aren’t included under PAYE.

How Paying Your NZ Taxes is Easy as 1-2-3

Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number

In order to pay your taxes properly in New Zealand, you need to apply for an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number. By the way, it’s possible to work in this country without an IRD number, but then, you would be charged with a higher-than-usual “no-declaration” rate, so best get one, mate.

Anyhow, it’s quite easy pay your taxes properly. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Fill up an online application from the IRD website. Alternatively, you can request Form IR 742 from New Zealand PostShops. Once you’ve completed that, you can submit it back to the PostShop along with other documentary requirements like a scan of your valid passport, your tax number from home, and so on.
  2. Give your resulting IRD number to your employer.
  3. Your boss will then use your IRD number as a reference when deducting your taxes prior to remitting the remainder of your wage.

Voila! That’s it. Wasn’t that easy?

Tax-Related Keywords to Bear In Mind

Here are a handful of tax-related terms that working travelers or backpackers in NZ ought to be familiar with:

1. Tax resident.

Anyone who stays in New Zealand for 183 days, or about 6 months, within a 12-month period is considered a tax resident.

2. Annual income.

This refers to your pre-tax income from 1 April to 30 March of the following year.

3. Student loan.

If you’ve applied for any loans to fund your higher education degree in New Zealand, these can factor in to your tax computation.

4. Source of income.

As its name implies, this includes anything you earn money from, such as salaries, wages, student allowances, or even weekly accident compensation payments.

5. Tax code.

Your tax code determines the rate at which you’ll be taxed at, so it’s important to get this right.

You’re usually given a flowchart to help you figure out the correct tax code when you apply for your IRD number, but the most common one for working backpackers is “M.” This code is valid if:

a.) your main source of income is the job your form IR 330 is for;

b.) your annual income is somewhere between NZ$24,000-NZ$48,000;

c.) you don’t have a New Zealand student loan to pay off;

d.) you’re not entitled to a Veteran’s Pension, NZ Super, or their overseas equivalents.

There are also other tax codes that can apply to those on a working holiday, depending of the nature of their job, such as:

a.) Election Day Workers (EDW)

b.) Recognized Seasonal Workers – This tax code is for people with valid visa’s or Recognized Employer Work Policy permits employed under the Recognized Seasonal Employers’ Scheme in horticulture or viticulture industries

c.) Casual Agricultural Workers – Shearers, shearing shedhands, and other casual seasonal workers employed on a daily basis for up to three months are classified under the CAE tax code.

d.) Schedular Payments – If you are an independent contractor rather than an employee, you qualify for the WT tax code. The types of contractor work can be found on page four of the IRR 330 form.

e.) Special Tax Code – In case your work arrangements entitle you to a special tax, you can tick off the STC tax code on your application form, provided that you attach a special tax certificate to it upon submission.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering if you can escape paying taxes by simply being a tourist in NZ, well, sorry to burst your bubble. They do have a goods and services tax (GST) on just about everything you purchase within the country.

Except for rent, bank services, and duty-free items, you can expect a GST rate of about 15% applied to all other NZ products and services. Sometimes, it’s already incorporated in the tag price, but there may be instances where merchants will simply add it on at the register.

While some countries like South Korea and the United Kingdom offer refunds on GST taxes for non-citizens going back to their home countries, New Zealand doesn’t, so you can’t expect to get this back at the end of your trip.

Death and taxes, eh?

Injured Yourself While Gallivanting Around New Zealand? ACC’s Got You Covered

Few things can ruin a vacation faster than an injury, especially if your primary reason for visiting New Zealand was to get your fill of adrenaline-pumping activities.

I mean, you can’t exactly go bungy-jumping with a broken leg now, can you?

But as if you needed another reason to love New Zealand, they have this most extraordinary scheme called the Accident Compensation Corporation or ACC.

It’s basically a Crown entity that’s charged with administering the country’s universal no-fault accidental injury scheme, which, get this, applies to ANYONE in New Zealand, whether they are a resident or a temporary visitor (i.e., a tourist).

And if that doesn’t make you feel a lot more confident about taking the Zorb out on a spin, you should also know that this sort of “no-fault” coverage means that the ACC will help you out regardless of who or what actually caused your injury. (Yep, you’ll still get assistance with injury-related costs even if you happened to, say, break your ankle while strolling down a hill after chugging half a six-pack. Crazy, I know.)

So, how do you get help from the ACC if you do get injured?

For starters, you need to go visit a healthcare professional or a doctor at a medical centre or a hospital. (Don’t just put Vicks Vaporub on your injury, for the love of God.)

The attending physician will then treat your injury, help you fill out an ACC form, and even send off the said form for you. You’ll need to pay a partial amount for this first medical visit, but you can avail of a refund for much of the cost afterward if your ACC claim is accepted. Should you be in New Zealand for work purposes, the healthcare professional can also produce a medical certificate for you in case you need to take a few days off to recover.

ACC Form

Image Credit: Shutterstock

The ACC will contact you via phone or through a letter if your claim is successful, so remember to keep the receipt for your treatment costs. The following are examples of the sort of medical assistance that the ACC can provide:

  • Treatment costs;
  • Prescription medication costs;
  • Compensation for lost earnings;
  • Transport to and from treatment;
  • Recovery aids and equipment;
  • Childcare;
  • Assistance with chores around the house;
  • Assistance with getting back to work.

To be clear, the ACC covers personal injuries (i.e., physical injuries, mental injuries brought about by physical injuries, criminal activity, or any traumatic work-related event, and damage done to prostheses that are meant to replace parts of the body, such as a prosthetic leg, etc.) that are caused by any of the following:

  • Accidents;
  • Occupational hazards;
  • Medical treatments;
  • Sexual abuse.

Lastly, it should be noted that there are certain injuries that the ACC does not cover, such as:

  • Pre-existing conditions or illnesses;
  • Stress, hurt feelings, or heartbreak (i.e., if you get friendzoned or busted by a hot Maori or Kiwi, sorry, mate, you’re on your own);
  • Aging-related symptoms;
  • Non-traumatic hernias, such as the sort you could get from coughing or sneezing;
  • Gradual process injuries that aren’t caused by occupational hazards, such as skin rashes born of a stubborn insistence on using Vicks Vaporub as a cure-all;
  • Damage to items that aren’t meant to replace body parts, such as hearing aids, glasses, or pacemakers.

Stay safe, everyone!