Gathan Beaga

Zealandia, or The Britain of the South

So the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary has rebranded itself to Zealandia, even got in the new Prime Minister to help them launch.

Zealandia stampI find the name pretty ridiculous actually. No doubt I’ll get used to it, but for me “Zealandia” is that rather outdated female representation of colonialist ambitions for New Zealand, a southern Britannia. One of the early colonial boosters even wrote a book called “Zealandia, Britain of the South” which you can read in all its amusing fullness here. (The racist bits are less amusing, of course.)

Later, Zealandia appeared on the New Zealand coat of arms, where she remains to this day, and had statues built in her name, such as this Boer War memorial at Palmerston.

NZ Coat of ArmsAnd in surfing about for more info on Zealandia, I discovered a piece that must surely be the last word on the subject. Written by the great Denis Glover for the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand :

And so rose up Zealandia, full-armed… […] On music scores and programmes she wore her cloche helmet – a sad sort of coal scuttle – with a sword cast carelessly at her feet, the right hand clutching a cornucopia pouring forth apples and pears while from the left there dangled the caduceus. Depending on the skill of the artist, her expression ranged from vacuous insipidity to a crystal-gazing trance.

OK, so Zealandia is also the name that geologists more recently have given to the long-vanished island continent that our islands are the diminished remainder of; so the Sanctuary at least have some basis for the name.

It still strikes me as a bit lame though.

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