gets its name from the big time air currentsrnfunneled through the strait, but ofrncourse Parliament is there, too. At thernlanding approach, we hit the deepest airrnpocket I’ve ever experienced.rn1 had hoped to rent a car here, but thernBlenheim Wine Festival was going onrnand there was not a car to be had. I tookrnthe bus to Christchurch hoping for betterrnluck and was stalled on the narrowrnhighway for two hours while firemen andrnhelicopter crews cut four young peoplernout of their cars after a head-on collision.rnHad we been a minute or two earlier, myrnown story could have been quite different.rnAs it was, we continued along thernbeautiful coast road, the grass along thernhill slopes now golden instead of therngreen of North Island, and sometimesrncame upon seals sunning on the rocks.rnChristchurch is very British, especiallyrnthe older part, and the punters were outrnon the River Avon as it wound throughrnthe Botanic Garden. Not far away in thernpark was another wine festival (I told yournthe Kiwis take their wine seriously). Irnhad trout on my mind, however, andrnquickly motored south, crossing thernRakaia and the Rangitata rivers, all notedrnfor trout and salmon, and finally turningrntoward the Southern Alps, followingrnthe Waitaki. I was looking for an AmericanrnI never found, in Omarama, butrnluckily fell into superb company andrnmagnificent trout streams. This wasrnthe Mackenzie country of South Canterbury.rnRoger Webb, my guide, was about 30rnand the complete outdoorsman. He hadrnalmost quit guiding fishermen becausernof a back injury, but a local girl told mernhe knew the place like the back of hisrnhand. He had worked for some years onrnthe big sheep stations, a lot of the timernbuilding those long fences that seem torngo on forever, disappearing over mountains.rnMuch of the time now he worksrnat taxidermy, his shop full of boar, redrnstag, whitetail deer, chamois, and tahr.rnThese species have all been brought intornNew Zealand, the red stag, for example,rnfrom selected herds in Scotland and Germany,rnthe tahr from the Himalayas.rnWithout predators, species like the deerrnhave multiplied so rapidly that they’rernconsidered pests and there is openrnseason.rnThe rainbows and browns were introducedrnonly 100 years ago from California,rnand did they ever find a home!rnThey have proliferated because of NewrnZealand’s clear, unpolluted cold streams.rnMy favorite stream while staying inrnOmarama was the Ahuriri River that ranrnclose to town. It originated high in thernmountains and flowed through hugernsheep stations in a magnificent valley.rnThe country reminds me of the partsrnof Wyoming north of where ChiltonrnWilliamson hangs out and has beenrnknown to wet a fly himself. All aroundrnMackenzie country, the brown troutrnis king, though there are rainbows. Myrntops was four pounds, but there are lotsrnbigger ones around. In some waysrnthey’re harder to catch because the waterrnis so clear and they can see further.rnRoger was an expert stalker. He spied arnhuge brown from a high bridge, and afterrnfirst offering it to me, he scamperedrndown the difficult rock incline, flipped arndry fly under a mess of overhangingrnlimbs and nailed him.rnOne of Roger’s previous occupationsrnwas as rabbiter, which brings up one ofrnNew Zealand’s unfortunate introductions.rnIt probably sounded like a goodrnidea at the time, but it has proved devastating.rnWith no real predators, rabbitsrnreach such colossal numbers they literallyrnleave the ground bare. I wouldn’t havernbelieved it until I saw for myself, and Irnwas assured I had not seen the really badrnareas. Rabbits can simply ruin a farmrnand a farmer. Often, it’s a catch-22 situation.rnWith no grass the farmer is ruined,rnyet on the other hand his farm mayrnbe marginal enough that the cost ofrnkilling the rabbits ruins him. Roger shotrnthem from a three-wheeler or a motorcyclernand had to quit because the roughrnride hurt his back too much. I asked himrnthe most he had killed in a day, and hernreplied that with a partner, 332. That’srnat a NZ dollar a rabbit. The otherrnmethod is poison. Molasses and oats arernput out twice, and on the third applicationrnthe mix contains a poison calledrn1080. This is not cheap either. 1080’srnapproval by the government may be removedrn(due to poisonous residues) inrnthe future, and currently that leaves therngun or trying to fence them out. I offeredrnto send the Kiwis a sack of bobcats,rnbut they said they were not sure thatrnwouldn’t be worse than the rabbits.rnRoger took me to visit Ribbon Wood,rna 35,000-acre sheep station not far fromrnOmarama run by Colin and GwendarnMcKay. Roger had worked for the McKaysrnat one time, and when we first arrivedrnwe saw their son and daughter,rnabout 19 and 20, worming a group ofrnsheep as it was pushed through the corralrnalleyway. They gave us directions torntheir dad, who was on his way to fix arnpaddock gate. While he worked andrntalked about Ribbon Wood, the rabbitrnproblem came up and he estimated thatrnhe spent annually about $10,000 (NZ)rntrying to control them. Later while wernvisited some Douglas Fir plots planted byrnhim with government assistance, he discussedrnthe current low wool prices.rnWool, like so many of New Zealand’srnproducts, depends upon factors and conditionsrnoutside the country and largelyrnbeyond its control. One such conditionrnwas a long mild winter in Europe. Woolrnclothing was not as much in demand.rnHe said the sheep farmer had to be morerndiversified and flexible than before in orderrnto survive. Focusing on a singlernbreed, one bred mainly for the carcass,rnfor example, makes one more vulnerable.rnIn addition, cattle raising can be addedrnto the mix for more protection.rnThe sheep station began in the flat ofrna valley, but went right over the mountains.rnA lot of fencing, a lot of hard work.rnSheep farming (with of course cattle) isrndeeply entwined with New Zealand’srnhistory, its image of itself. But like animalrnhusbandry in the United States, itrnis being battered by many forces. Farmrnlabor has been driven out or drawn to therncities, and young potential farmers dornnot have capital for a start. In the magazinernthe New Zealand Farmer someonernwas mourning this way of life and comparingrnit unfavorably with the “tatty internationalrnculture” represented by thernopening of a Las Vegas-style casino inrnAuckland and all that came with it. BeforernI came to New Zealand, someonernhad described the country like the Statesrnin the 1950’s. A kind of innocence andrnpurity, a slower pace. All that soundedrngood to me. It is with some regret that Irnforesee what is likely coming. Increasingrnhomogenization of their distinctive culturernby the “tatty” New World Order andrnwhat we would call the Streisandizationrnof rural life where the more numerousrnhigh-rise urbanites bully their scarcer ruralrncitizens, fouling the landscape withrntheir tony jackboots while visiting. Afterrnall, the left is the offspring of the festeringrncity.rnFor the time being, though, NewrnZealand is a natural paradise. It’s nornplace for any of you Euro- or Anglophobes,rnbut if you’d like to see how anotherrngroup of immigrants made it inrnstyle outside of the damp, cold motherland,rncome ahead. If you’re lookingrn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn