No 8 wire - NZ's best ideas

01:22, Mar 11 2010

New Zealand has gained a reputation as a nation of resourceful, creative inventors - we've had a lot of good ideas for such a little country.

We're persistent, always looking for solutions to problems and trying new things. We're also rather fond of the old "number 8 wire" jury rigging if things go wrong with our machines.

In NZ, if something stops working, we hit it, open it up, put it back together, hit it again, duct tape it, put a coathanger in it and eventually get it going again. In fact, I'm surprised MacGyver wasn't a Kiwi.

Over the years, Kiwis have been responsible for the creation of some great inventions and the development of many techniques and practices.

In today's post, I'm outlining some of the best ideas to come out of Aotearoa. It's by no means a complete list - there are many more I couldn't fit (don't even get me started on the pavlova).

These are my top ten most interesting and groundbreaking Kiwi inventions. I'm arranging them by... how much I like them. I hope you enjoy the list!


10. The Wellington Motor

Wellington motors save a lot of energy compared with conventional motors, and use a lot less of our natural resources. They are said to use 30 percent less copper and 80 percent less steel than their traditional counterparts. They are also much quieter to operate. So in short, they're just better all around and they're made in New Zealand. I'd use one in my Tamiya car, if I had one.

9. The Power Beat battery

When Peter Witehira set out to build a better car battery he went for a completely different design, creating an entirely new and very efficient type of power cell. He looked at a battery like a two-part fridge - it needed a cooler and a freezer. The cooler is for constant use, the freezer is separate, for starting the car. His design dramatically reduced deep discharge in a battery.

8. The tranquiliser dart gun

Colin Murdoch of Timaru came up with a beauty when he was looking for ways to vaccinate animals quickly and efficiently. He first developed the disposable syringe - a device now used the world over - and then moved on to the tranquiliser gun. Murdoch was ambidextrous and also dyslexic in his early life. Every time a lion escapes its enclosure, we should thank this man.

7. Pearse's monoplane

On March 31, 1903 an enterprising man by the name of Richard Pearce took to the skies in his powered monoplane - all 15 horsepower's worth. There is much discussion over who made the first flight worldwide and who should ge the credit, but in that age it was a heck of an achievement for anyone. His flight ended when he crashed in to a hedge. Good effort.

6. The Terrasaw

Have you ever tried digging a trench with a spade? Quite frankly, it sucks. Luckily, you don't need to bother with those cumbersome, over-sized spoons anymore. The discerning labourer prefers this. It looks like a chainsaw of sorts and you use it cleave the earth, it's simple but efficient, And just imagine the horror movie possibilities... Excellent for both digging and the zombie apocalypse.

5. The electric fence

The electric fence is the ultimate for keeping your livestock in line. Originally developed in the States, the first non-shorting version was born here in NZ, enabling its use over miles instead of a few hundred feet. It was patented by Doug Phillips in 1964 and sold under the name "Waikato Electric Fence". I have personally been shocked by one and can tell you they work well.

4. Bungee jumping

The most well-known of Kiwi tourist attractions, the bungee jump was first run commercially by AJ Hackett, who pioneered the activity. Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon. Anywhere there is a bridge, a chasm and a ridiculously oversized rubber band, there is bungee. Despite the potential risks of jumping from a great height, thousands have now taken the plunge.

3. The waterjet-propelled boat

Another of New Zealand's thrill-seeking activites is based on modern waterjet propulsion technology developed by Kiwis. The system allows immense speed and manoeuvrability, which has been adapted to an exhilerating tourist attraction in many countries. Also, with no propeller blades, you are less likely to chop up fishies, or yourself if you fall out.

2. The Gibbs Aquada

Half-car and half-boat, or is it? The Aquada is advertised as something completely unique. With the ability to drive on land at up to 160km/h and travel through water at up to 50km/h, this vehicle has the best of both worlds. It was one of the most significant advancements in the automotive field for 100 years. Richard Branson used one to cross the English channel.

1. The Martin Jetpack

This ultimate boys' toy, this must be the most attractive of all of New Zealand's inventions. While looking like some sort of cyborg superhero, the pilot has the ability to fly for up to half an hour - plenty of time to get to work! No pilots licence is required, as it is classed as an ultralight aircraft. These babies are available to buy, inquiries can be made on their website.

So which is your favourite? What are some other significant Kiwi inventions? Do we as a country deserve our inventive reputation? Have you invented, fixed or jury rigged anything recently?

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