Steve Braunias' Secret Diary of Summer in New Zealand

They listen to David Bowie and drive to Whangarei for something to do. Photo / Masayoshi Sukita
They listen to David Bowie and drive to Whangarei for something to do. Photo / Masayoshi Sukita


Behold the aged hack, on holiday, with his family, in the winterless north. It's raining, because it's summer in New Zealand.

They're happy. They're together. They're staying in a motel on the edge of a cliff. It's got a swimming pool and a spa pool - they've never gone camping, never will.

They listen to David Bowie and drive to Whangarei for something to do. They get there and mooch around. There's nothing to do.

It's all good. Summer in New Zealand is dedicated to doing nothing, to loafing, to rediscovering the hazy, lazy essence of New Zealand, that sandy archipelago at the end of the world. We're so lucky to live here. It's beautiful, peaceful.

He looks at his phone. More news about the police investigation into the violent murder of a 69-year-old woman in Te Atatu.


They listen to David Bowie and drive to Whangaumu Bay. There's a thrilling kind of natural bath filled with saltwater in the rock pools. There's a hill with a view of islands, ocean, nothing. There's Mr Whippy.

He lies on the warm sand and reads his book. His holiday undertaking is to try and finish the four Rabbit Angstrom novels by John Updike, collected in a single enormous volume of some 1600 pages. He's up to page 670.

They eat sandwiches and potato chips from their picnic lunch. They collect shells, swim, doze.

Work and school are as distant as Mars.

The roads are empty. Perhaps everyone else is already back at work and school.

He looks at his phone. A friend emails and says her family used to stay at the motel on the cliff; she remembers her sister used the spa, and got meningitis.

Why bring a phone on holiday? It gets worse. Matthew Hooton is moaning on social media that the most popular news stories of the day are the rumours that Lorde may have broken up with her boyfriend, and that Max Key may have broken up with his girlfriend.

Maybe Hooton would prefer that politics were the most read stories on a day in summer in New Zealand.

Hooton is from Mars.


They're sick of David Bowie, and drive to Whale Bay listening to Taylor Swift.

He walks around the cliffs at dusk. A gannet dives in the sea.


They drive with Taylor Swift to another town, another motel. Summer is endless and so are the sachets of instant coffee in motel rooms.

The fool turns on his phone. There's an email from the Auckland Writers Festival inviting him to give a public lecture. The brief: "Bludgeonings, butcherings, stranglings, decapitations, poisonings, burnings - what lurks in the dark heart of New Zealand? Are we a people hewn from violence or ordinary in our madness? The author of The Scene of the Crime presents his unique take on matters of crime and punishment in Godzone."

Well, it's always nice to be asked to do anything. But what's he got to say on the subject? It's summer in New Zealand; crime is the last thing on his mind.

He looks at the news. A man is charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after an "incident" in Dunedin. Aggravated bank robberies in Christchurch and Te Awamutu. A 19-year-old appears in court, charged with the murder in Te Atatu; he yells abuse, gives the fingers.

The hack lives in Te Atatu, around the corner from the scene of the crime.


He wakes up and thinks he can hear heavy rain, but it's just the sound of the surf.

He writes a diary, and then he turns off his phone.

The sun is high above the sea. The light is bright and glorious.

He reads his book. He's up to page 1028. He's in no hurry; when he finishes, it'll mean his holiday is over. You can only put it off for so long.

Summer in New Zealand is the nicest illusion there is.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 28 Oct 2016 20:00:08 Processing Time: 486ms