Posted by: scribe9 | July 7, 2010

North and South

Palmerston North is one of the half-dozen largest towns in New Zealand. (It happens to be the home of the national rugby museum, which I suppose makes it a pilgrimage site.) When I first heard the name, I thought, “Is that really North Palmerston?”

No, it’s not. Thames North is slightly north of Thames, and there are a few other such Norths which are near their plain twins. But Palmerston North is on the lower west side of the North Island, and therefore nowhere near Palmerston, a much smaller town on the lower east side of the South Island. A hundred and forty years ago, to avoid confusion, Palmerston North got its suffix.

There are four different Wainuis, all on the North Island and two within Northland, the northernmost region–with no differentiation in name, but they’re all pretty small.  Totara North is on the North Island, but there’s another Totara on the North Island that doesn’t bother to differentiate itself from the Totara on the South Island. There are also a few Easts and Wests.

Why didn’t the smaller Palmerston become Palmerston South? My only guess is that it’s on the South Island, which is known the Mainland (don’t ever even joke about calling Australia the Mainland), probably because it’s larger, and was more populous and more prosperous until a hundred years ago, even though the 1840 birthplace of New Zealand as a European-run nation is on the North Island.

North and South is a monthly magazine, vaguely along the lines of The Atlantic. One might think that it would always be running stories about the difference between the two islands, but the only one I’ve seen appeared a few months back. The cover story, “The Great Divide,” noted that South Islanders tend to identify themselves more with their island than their region within it, and have old-fashioned values more in tune with their more agrarian lifestyle (North Islanders nickname them “Pig Islanders”) than the trendiness of the North Island. They’re also considerably less diverse, and they resent sending power (most of the hydro’s on the South Island) north. They hate Aucklanders, but hey, lots of North Islanders do, too!

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Responses

  1. Palmerston North enjoyed a lot of negative remarks on the airwaves when we were on the South Island a few years ago. Supposedly a very dull place!

    • Even with the national rugby museum -)?


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