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Great Kiwi Inventions

Ingenuity and innovation are characteristics Kiwis are renowned for, and the tourism industry in New Zealand is no exception.

The Hamilton Jet boat, the ski plane, bungy, blokart and zorb are examples of New Zealand inventions that not only pushed traditional boundaries of travel but also embody the Kiwi sense of adventure by providing unique ways to experience the outdoors. As popular local culture holds, Kiwis can do anything with "a piece of number eight wire" - the fencing wire that New Zealand farmers found many uses for is firmly entrenched in the heritage of this pioneering nation where innovation was essential to survival. New Zealand continues to innovate in a range of fields, from its traditional export industries of agriculture and dairy, to newer growth areas of technology and award-winning wine.

Weta Film effects - Avatar 3D - Movie
Weta Digital is a digital visual effects company based in Wellington, New Zealand. It was founded by Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993 to produce the digital special effects for Heavenly Creatures. In 2007 Weta Digital’s Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Joe Letteri, was also appointed as a Director of the company. Weta Digital has won several Academy Awards and BAFTAs. Most resent films Lord of the Rings and Avatar and the new Hobbiton.

Aquada speedster - Alan Gibbs
New Zealand inventor Alan Gibbs conceived the world's first high speed amphibian. The Gibbs Aquada transforms from car to boat at the touch of a button.

Powerful enough to tow a water-skier, the Aquada combines the thrill of an open-top sports car with the exhilaration of a high performance speedboat.

Atomic whizz - Ernest Rutherford
New Zealand scientist and Nobel Prize winner Baron Ernest Rutherford was the first in the world to split the atom in 1919.

During his lifetime, Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) was responsible for a series of discoveries in the fields of radioactivity and nuclear physics that helped shape modern science. Einstein described Rutherford as "the man who tunnelled into the very material of God".

Aviation pioneer - Harry Wigley
New Zealand tourism pioneer Sir Henry [Harry] Wigley made aviation history in 1955 when he made a world-first snow landing in a plane with modified retractable skis. Wigley had spent years perfecting the skis before he piloted the first ski plane from Mt Cook village to the Tasman Glacier.

Wigley was a World War II fighter pilot, mountain climber, national downhill skiing champion and an astute businessman. Less than a year after the retractable ski prototype was tested, the Mount Cook Company ski plane business was up and running.

Blokart sailor - Paul Beckett
Created, designed and manufactured in New Zealand, the blokart is a three-wheeled land yacht invented by New Zealander Paul Beckett.

Beckett set out to design a wind-powered toy that was portable and universally easy to use. The blokart can be folded down into a lightweight, suitcase-sized bag, and goes anywhere from beaches to parking lots, sport grounds. Blokarts can also travel on ice, and have been used to cross the Gobi Desert.

Bungy dare-devil - A J Hackett
New Zealand entrepreneur and daredevil A J Hackett was inspired to create bungy jumping after learning of a traditional practice in Vanuatu where participants leap from wooden structures attached to vines.

Hackett devised a system of plaited elastic bands, and publicised his bungy style by jumping from the Eiffel Tower in 1987. He opened the world's first commercial bungy site in 1988, and New Zealand has become the home of the bungy with more than 100,000 visitors taking the plunge each year.

Cycling monorail - Geoff Barnett
The Shweeb - the world’s first human-powered monorail racetrack - was invented by cyclist Geoff Barnett. Since the Shweeb Velodrome opened in Rotorua in 2007, more than 30,000 riders have raced the futuristic machines at speeds of up to 70kph.

But the Shweeb is more than a tourist activity as the Rotorua tourism venture is also the prototype for a form of mass transport that is being marketed internationally as an environmentally-friendly solution for short-distance urban journeys.

Eggbeaters & hairpins - Ernest Godward
Ernest Godward - who was British-born but emigrated to New Zealand in his teens - was a prolific inventor. His many inventions included an eggbeater, a burglar-proof window and, in 1901, the world’s first spiral hair pin - an international success that allowed him to set up as a full-time inventor.

Godward is probably best known for his ‘economiser’ - the Godward Vaporiser was an early form of carburettor that allowed vehicles to run on kerosene, gasoline oil, fuel oil, petrol and even bootleg liquor. He invented 72 models of the economiser, and by the 1930s was recognised as the world’s leading authority on the internal combustion engine.

Hi tech surfing - Dr Kerry Black
Raglan surfer, oceanographer and former university professor Dr Kerry Black led the Kiwi team that designed a world-first artificial reef.

The Mount Reef, at Mt Maunganui in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty region, is the first structure designed and built specifically for surfing - delivering challenging waves for surfers and body-boarders. A similar proposal for Lyall Bay could turn Wellington into a top surfing spot, by boosting good surfing days from 27 to between 118 and 142 each year.

Black’s company is now marketing the computer-controlled Versareef which can be moulded into different shapes. A proto-type is operating in Florida - fuelling dreams of turning surfing into an international stadium sport.

Jet-boat - William Hamilton
As a small boy, William Hamilton had dreamed of a boat that would carry him up New Zealand’s swift flowing rivers. His dream became reality with the 1954 development of a revolutionary new style of boating - the world’s first propellerless boat. Since then, the Hamilton Jet has been the means to explore and access waterways all over the world.

Sir William Hamilton went on to invent the hay lift, an advanced air compressor, a machine to smooth ice on skating ponds, and the water sprinkler amongst other things.

Jogging maestro - Arthur Lydiard
New Zealand athletic trainer Arthur Lydiard invented jogging - the method of building up physical fitness by gradually increasing stamina. This system is used by millions of people worldwide as part of their everyday health and fitness regime.

Lydiard’s training technique saw his protégés Peter Snell and Murray Halberg win gold medals on the same day at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and helped propel New Zealand to the top of world middle-distance running.

Referee whistle - William Atack
New Zealand referee William Atack became the first sports referee in the world to use a whistle to stop a game in 1884.

The referee’s whistle is now the norm for umpiring, but until Atack came out on the ground whistling, referees had to raise their voices to control games.

Zorbing - Akers brothers
An attempt to walk on water inspired Kiwi brothers David and Andrew Akers, along with scientist Dwayne van der Sluis, to create the Zorb - a giant ball that spins down hills at up to 50kph.

Thrill seekers are strapped into the hollow plastic ball - surrounded by a thick air cushion - then sent off on a crazy downhill spin.

Zorb was invented in Rotorua, and adventure seekers can try it out on grassy slopes just outside the famous thermal town. International franchises are operating in Europe, Asia and South America.

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