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Dunedin May 29, 1988 - New Zealand features sheep

By Bob Van Leer

  (DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND, May 29, 1988) - This morning we left Christchurch for a drive south. The morning fog burned off early and we had a clear view of the mountains to the west. Our drive was through the Canterbury Plain, a flat agricultural area between a mountain range with peaks to 7000 feet and the Pacific Ocean.

  Some row crops are grown but mostly what we see are sheep, thousands of them. We are told that there are 21 sheep for every person is New Zealand. Pine plantations are replacing some of the sheep range. Our bus driver said this is Pinus Radiata, which he says is the principal timber tree.

  Most of the plantations appear young although some are nearing harvest size. The pines are hand limbed up to about 10 feet high as they grow. The plain is cut with rivers flowing from the mountains. Some have the milky-white color typical of rivers starting from glaciers. The driver said there are salmon and trout in the rivers but he did not know what kind of salmon.

  We passed fenced fields filled with deer. Our driver said there have been problems in agriculture and the deer are one means of diversifying for farmers. In the shady spots there is snow left over from a recent fall, but the temperature was similar to home.

  Home prices are reasonable in the small towns we pass through. An average house is in the $60-100,000 range. Interest rates are high. Banks are paying 15 percent on 90 day certificates of deposit; but the interest rate on home loans is 17 percent. Prices are high. We noticed women's shoes in a downtown shoe store, not high fashion, with $90 and $100 price tags. Gasoline is 87 cents per liter.

  At the south end of the plain the terrain changed to rolling hills, becoming steeper as we climbed up the Otago Peninsula. Here the countryside looks much like northern Curry County. Grass-covered hills with patches of timber and brush and sheep everywhere. There are cattle and goats, but mostly sheep. And there is a lot of gorse. Introduced as a hedge plant, it has spread all over.

  After climbing over the peninsula we descended to Dunedin, a city of over 100,000, known as the Glasgow, Scotland, of the south. This was to be our stop for the night. Tomorrow we head south and then west to Te Anau and hope to be able to see real glow worms in caves near there.

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