Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Some New Zealand products are famed throughout the world & you would be remiss not to take advantage of your visit to acquire a few local treasures. Perhaps some are best consumed while you are here, like New Zealand lamb and beef, and the World renowned Bluff oysters, perhaps washed down with one of New Zealand's world-beating wines, but others can be taken away and enjoyed far longer. Sheepskin is a historic product from New Zealand's famous sheep farming economy, as is the wool used to create many fabulous clothing items. Perhaps slightly less well known or understood is the range of clothing made from merino wool. Merino sheep are one of the oldest & toughest breed of sheep, with the finest wool coats designed to survive the scorching summers & weather the freezing winters of New Zealand's Southern Alps. Icebreaker, a New Zealand company, pioneered the use of this remarkable fibre in a range of clothing ideally suited for an active lifestyle. Perfect items to not only buy in NZ but also to wear. The layering style suits the changeable New Zealand climate perfectly. You can now even buy possum-merino clothing, where the merino wool is mixed with the fur of the brushtail possum.
The main cities in New Zealand have all the international brands & luxury goods you can expect in any global destination. And they are home to New Zealand's own home-grown labels, such as Trelise Cooper, Karen Walker and Annah Stretton, to name but a few. But as you travel around New Zealand, you will discover that every week there are local Farmer's Markets or Craft Fairs practically everywhere, celebrating the best local produce and artisanship that New Zealand has to offer. From the beautiful to the bizarre, you'll be spoilt for choice. Try the range of Sheep Droppings on your friends and family, or how about chocolate fish or pineapple lumps? For the health conscious with a sweet tooth, manuka honey can be found here. This is honey produced by bees foraging on the manuka or tea tree, which grows uncultivated throughout New Zealand. The honey is commonly sold as an alternative medicine as a component of manuka has antibacterial properties. If you wish, you can enter into the generations-old debate about who invented the Pavlova (a meringue-based fluffy dessert, topped with cream and fruit), the Australians or the Kiwis? It was the Kiwis, but don't tell anyone I told you. If you're feeling more sensible, the Paua shell, which by Maori are recognised as taonga, or treasure, is fashioned into beautiful jewellery or other decorative items. Often used in Maori statues as the eyes, the Paua shell is striking with its blue, green & purple iridescence.
Greenstone, or pounamu, is highly valued in Maori culture and has been used for generations for both practical (tools) and decorative purposes. It was considered so significant by Maori, they named the South Island for it (where it is found in riverbeds & rock) - Te Wai Pounamu - which means the 'waters of greenstone'. You can buy maori jewellery carvings made from pounamu, each design carrying its own distinct meaning. The most famous is the Tiki, depicting the first mortal born to the Gods. It is also a strong fertility symbol & good luck charm, believed to give the wearer clarity of thought & inner knowledge! The other classic is the fish hook or 'Hei Matau' which in Maori means prosperity. So this classic hook represents prosperity and safe passage over water. Nothing is more indigenous to New Zealand than pounamu carvings & frankly, few things are more beautiful.
Of course, if you want a real taste of Kiwiana, you could always go along to one of the thousands of 'garage sales' that individuals hold all around New Zealand & pick up a Kiwi 'treasure'! There are some unique items that Kiwis hold dear, probably the most famous of which is the 'Buzzy Bee', a young children's toy that resembles a bee & has wings that move & click when pulled along. It received worldwide attention after Prince William played with one on his parents visit to New Zealand in 1983. Several other Kiwi brands are recognised globally: the All Blacks & the silver fern. The silver fern is the unofficial symbol of New Zealand, almost making it on to a new national flag in a referendum in 2016. A huge variety of local objects are decorated with the silver fern, stamping them as authentically from NZ. Even most non-rugby fans have heard of the All Blacks & they are probably the biggest brand to use the silver fern as part of their logo.
There are few restrictions on what you can take out of New Zealand with you in your personal baggage - larger, commercial quantities are subject to entirely different regulations - but you may find restrictions on what you can carry into your next destination. Please do check carefully what you may be allowed to bring back into your country, or into other destinations you may travel to before returning home. One of the biggest differences between New Zealand an many other countries is that the tax law does not provide for GST (Goods & Services Tax) refunds. This means that there is no facility to show receipts and claim tax back at the airport. Once you've paid GST, you can't get it back. To avoid the local tax, you must purchase your items through a registered tax and GST free retailer. These items can then be picked up from the airport's collection point (once you are through security). All participating outlets display the Auckland Airport logo, so look out for that. Of course, you could always purchase what you want at the airport's duty free stores, but there is no guarantee that you will actually save that much money. If you want to purchase an expensive item, you could ask the retailer to ship it direct to you in your home country, because it is then possible for them to export the item tax-free, if they offer that option. Many retailers don't, but it is always worth enquiring.