Centre of NZ debate fires up
Arecalculation of where the centre of New Zealand lies shows just how difficult it can be to find middle ground. GNS Science determined last week that the bullseye is now in the Tararua Range about 11km northwest of Wairarapa’s Greytown.
By taking into account New Zealand’s extended continental shelf, the centre jumped about 160km east-northeast from the long-standing, populist, location at the summit of Botanical Hill in Nelson.
But the shift of focus after the
work of GNS Science researcher Jenny Black has reignited debate that Botanical Hill should never have been recognised as the centre of the country.
In June 1962, using one of the first computers in New Zealand, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research geophysicist Dr Ian Reilly upset the apple cart by calculating the centre was ‘‘about 35 miles southwest of Nelson’’ in the Spooner Range, according to a newspaper article.
Reilly had stumbled across that while working on a ‘‘gravity survey’’ of the country.
Mathematician and software developer Clive Gifford, of Owhango in the central North Island, contacted Stuff to share his calculations, which puts the centre of the country at latitude
41 degrees 41.268 minutes south, longitude 172 degrees 50.545 minutes east, about 10km due north of St Arnaud and about
20km south of Reilly’s location. He said the centre of the North Island was on the southern slope of Titiraupenga, northwest of Lake Taupo, at 38 degrees 32.885 minutes south and
175 degrees 41.28 minutes east. The South Island’s middle was near Mt Hay Station on the eastern side of Lake Tekapo, at
43 degrees 57.728 minutes south,
170 degrees 33.346 minutes east. He said his calculations had the luxury of being based on a higher-resolution model and more accurate digital data than was available in 1962.
‘‘None of this is to argue with what GNS Science has done. They have just used a much, much larger area, most of which is under the sea and with boundaries that could move a little in future. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
‘‘That doesn’t appeal to my sense of a ‘geographic centre’ very much, and I am unaware of any other country publishing a geographic centre calculated in that way.’’
So why were some people so interested in finding the middle of the country?
‘‘People just like the idea of being able to go to some place that is representative of the country as a whole,’’ Gifford said.