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Letter from the antipodes
  1. Richard W Frith
  1. Correspondence to Dr Richard W Frith, Neurologist, Auckland City Hospital, President, Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists; RichardF{at}adhb.govt.nz

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I am writing this at Lake Tarawera, during a late January summer holiday at one of New Zealand's central North Island lakes, with the smell of the nine pound trout we caught last night gently smoking in my home-built smoker, in time for lunch with friends and a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Trout fishing is available to all, with unrestricted access to many great rivers and lakes, for the purchase of an annual fishing licence for $NZ120 (£60). Access to the wine is of course, also unrestricted. The current glut of grapes has resulted in large volumes of high quality wine at record low prices. Paradise indeed!

New Zealand and Australia have been populated by indigenous people for thousands of years (Australian Aborigines), a 1000 years (the Moriori, unfortunately decimated by the arrival of Maori) and many hundreds of years (New Zealand Maori) but European settlement has been for only a few hundred years. We are migrant nations with a rich mix of cultures and egalitarian societies, where achievement is respected more than ancestry (figure 1). The toil of breaking in new countries has produced a unique character, a shared bond and a competitive spirit that persists between Australians and New Zealanders on the sports field, during wars and catastrophes and in academic pursuits.

Figure 1

The New Zealand flag

When James Cook rediscovered New Zealand in 1769 (figures 2 and 3), and became the first Briton to arrive on the shores of our beautiful country, he found, on the whole, friendly local inhabitants. It was considered that Cook had reached the antipodes (the opposite, the other end of the world) but in fact for Auckland, the antipodal region is not the UK but rather southern Spain, although the distance is almost as great!

Figure 2

A map of New Zealand from 1769 …

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