It's the natural environment that brings most tourists to Buller but it seems it creates its share of confusion too.

That's if comments to visitors' centre staff and tourism operators are anything to go by.

Our wildlife, for example, can be a little too wild for visitors more accustomed to more sedate feathered creatures.

An Englishman strode into a local visitors' centre and said to staff: "There's two weka out there fighting. Are you in charge of this sort of thing?"


Possums and our attitude to them perplex many, particularly those who've come across them in parts of Australia where they're protected.

A couple arrived in the same visitor centre clutching a map, eager to show it to staff. They'd seen six dead possums on the road the previous night and thought they should report them.

Then there was the man who had the answer "You New Zealanders should make more of your possums the way the Australians do with their koala bears."

Which may also have been the idea behind a note, handwritten on the back of a postage stamp and left in a national park intentions book - "Please STOP killing possums! Thank you."

Presumably this was not the same person who picked up a possum skin in a local shop and asked if it was dead (another customer with a toy kiwi in hand wanted to know if had been a real bird).

A middle-aged American couple told retail staff they'd just got into the country the previous night and come over to the Coast by train. "What are the birds that eat your cars? Keas? Well we're ready for them now," they said as they bought a bottle of insect spray.

Sandflies are the bane of many visitors.

A French couple gesticulated the magnitude of the sandfly problem in Haast then asked whether the Government was doing something about them.


Which creatures can be found in New Zealand and which cannot has caused much head-scratching.

A Japanese woman, waving a Westport map, was heard to say she wanted to see little blue pigeons [penguins] and what time would they close?

Then there were two young women who needed directions to get to the puffins while another visitor wanted to know where he could find walruses.

The English language as spoken with different accents, New Zealand included, can further perplex.

A staff member at a Buller i-Site tried to help a couple searching for accommodation. He pointed out to them that one of the places they were looking at wasn't what they wanted as it was a "whole house".

The pair looked very put-out so he repeated what he had said, whereupon they said they'd thought he was talking about "a whore house".

Around Christmas time a harassed looking Australian man came into a visitor centre with his small daughter and said, with what was described as a strong accent, "see Santa's not in here".

When her face fell he said he'd been trying to explain to her that a visitor centre is not a "visit-to-Santa".

A conservation staff member was taken aback when a Chinese woman asked whether they had a bullet for the Kiwi ranger.

Eventually the woman pointed to a phrase in the guidebook from her tour company which suggested asking for a "bullet" for a tour company. He suggested that "booklet" might have been the word they were after.

- Westport News