NEW ZEALANDERS, LIKE the residents of many other small countries, often elevate themselves and boast about the land. “Oh yes, it’s the most beautiful country in the world/we’re the cleverest people on the planet/ our athletes are the best...” Well, we’re not. Patriotism boiling over into smugness about our unique capabilities and incredible country makes me nervous. We’d better be jolly careful to protect our land and be prepared to fight for clean water. Tourists come a long way to get here, and they’re our biggest export dollar earner. Let’s make sure they are not disappointed. A friend, just returned from a 12-week OE, calculates it is cheaper – by far – to be a tourist in Europe than it is to travel around New Zealand. And he was talking Paris and London, not obscure destinations. And, we owe a duty of care to our planet and future generations to neither destroy the environment nor leave it on a path of guaranteed degradation. We have the power in our own hands on these very issues as we vote at the upcoming general election. Yes, there are extraordinary aspects to New Zealand and New Zealanders. I acknowledge that and, in fact, this magazine is uniquely skilled at finding interesting people doing extraordinary things. What goes into a brilliant New Zealander? Good question. Is it culture and education? The country’s isolation? Our supposed can- do attitude? Growing evidence points to something more basic than that: our soil – the dirt beneath our boots. The unique microflora of our physical land – and the food we eat – may well be the building blocks of our greatness. Brilliant scientist ( yes, she is) Iona Weir (meet her on page 96) says the bacteria and fungi in Aotearoa’s soil, developed since our land mass broke away from Gondwana 80 million years ago, is the reason our native plants pack such a powerful punch. Yes, that awful expression “punching above their weight” is apt for our plants. Take manuka – especially that grown on the East Cape. It is many times more potent in antimicrobial properties than similar Australian plants. That’s great for our manuka honey exporters and for those using manuka oil in their products. Manuka is a worldwide success story. And now avocados have also come into the sunny spotlight for their superstar properties. It was thought that all avocados were created about equal – as in equally nutritious and delicious. Not so. Yes, they are as close to the perfect food as anything we know but, drum roll please, New Zealand’s avocados are 20 per cent higher in folate (great for pregnant women) as their Californian cousins and twice as high in vitamin B6. (Read more about the avocado story on our website, thisnzlife.co.nz.) Time to celebrate the magic in both the air and in the soil.