Memories of disaster make way for progress
Tourism, the life-blood of Queenstown, had its humble beginnings in the central North Island district of Tarawera. Situated 20km south of that other tourist Mecca, Rotorua, the area is dominated by native bush, pristine lakes and volcanic mountains. In 1870, Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, travelled to the area accompanied by 200 of the world’s press to view one of the natural wonders of the world, the renowned Pink and White Terraces. The press duly reported back to their readership in Britain and Europe and the wealthy and adventurous made plans to visit the other side of the world. Overnight, New Zealand had the makings of a thriving tourism industry that eventually spread to all parts of the country. Last Monday was the 127th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Tarawera, which destroyed the Terraces and threatened to end our short-lived sortie into tourism. More than 130 people lost their lives in the eruption and hundreds more were displaced from their homes. My grandparents were living there as teenagers at the time and passed down their recollections of that fateful night to their descendants. They relocated to nearby Rotorua, to where the focus of our tourism industry also shifted. I suspect that a similar outcome will take place in Christchurch. People’s recollections of the devastating earthquake will be preserved for posterity and the city will eventually return to, and even surpass, its former glory. And all of this is testimony to the fact that human fortitude will always prevail over the forces of nature. ◗ Peter Waaka is a business coach, entertainer and long-time Queenstown local who runs tertiary courses through his business school, the School of Thought.
Natural wonder: The Pink and White Terraces, birth place of New Zealand’s tourism industry, were destroyed 127 years ago last week.