While its history is highly contested, New Zealand does make a strong case for being the place that started the world’s love affair with the flat white coffee. Australians claim that their cafes were the first to serve the milky beverage; but if you believe the Kiwi side, it was a barista from Wellington who accidentally created it while trying to make a cappuccino. As the story goes, when he realised his blend was slightly off he apologetically told his customer that he had created a ‘flat white’ — and the name stuck ever since.
Now this one is a sure given. Entrepreneurial daredevil A.J. Hackett is credited as being the creator of the commercial bungy. His first foray with the activity was in Vanuatu, where people traditionally tied themselves to vines as they leapt from wooden structures. Hackett fine-tuned this concept by devising a sturdy elastic cord made up of plated elastic bands. He then made his first test leap from the Eiffel Tower in 1987, and opened his first commercial site in Queenstown a year later. The attraction has proven so popular that the place that started it all still receives a high influx of visitors.
New Zealand athlete and coach Arthur Lydiard is widely credited as being the person who popularised jogging as a way of building up stamina and improving one’s fitness. Lydiard developed a daily running routine, always keeping to a steady pace, as he was trying to ameliorate his own athletic performance. American running experts have lauded him as the most influential distance running coach of the 20th century because of this feat. Lydiard won two national marathons in 1953 and 1955 before going on to coach record-breaking New Zealand runner Murray Halberg and Olympic champions Peter Snell and Barry Magee.
Ernest Godward was born in England but moved to New Zealand in 1886. His prolific career as an inventor started out as a side gig while he was working at the Southland Cycle Works. In 1900, Godward invented and patented the first egg beater, which could prepare eggs for a sponge cake in three and half minutes — prior to this, it would take 15 minutes to achieve the same result. A year later, he invented the world’s first spiral hairpin, and its success was such that Godward was able to shut his cycling business and pursue his passion for innovation on a full-time basis.
In 1981, New Zealander Glenn Martin started working on a personal jetpack that could stay off the ground for longer than 30 seconds. He spent 30 years fine-tuning his concept and finally unveiled his first single-person aircraft in 2008. Despite its name, the invention does not rely on jetpacks for lift off — duct fans are what allow these machines to fly. The Martin Jetpack was named one of Time magazine’s top inventions for 2010 and newer models can stay airborne for more than 30 minutes.
Kiwi brothers David and Andrew Akers partnered up with the scientist Dwayne van der Sluis to create one of Rotorua’s most famous adventure experiences: the Zorb. The idea for this giant plastic ball, known to whiz down the hills at speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour (31.2 miles per hour), came about as the innovative brothers set out to find a way to walk on water. The activity, which sees thrill-seekers strapped into the hollow spheres, has proven so popular that the Zorb is now an international franchise in its own right.
While the earliest amphibious vehicles can be traced as far back as the 1700s, it was Kiwi businessman Alan Gibbs who turned this hybrid concept into a road-legal reality. Gibbs’ first amphibian was unveiled in 2003; a year later, business mogul Richard Branson boarded on a Gibbs Aquada to smash the world record for crossing the English Channel. Gibbs has since developed 10 amphibious models and 60 percent of all his cars are manufactured in New Zealand.
New Zealand pharmacist and veterinarian Colin Murdoch had more than 40 patented inventions to his name: most notably the tranquiliser dart gun, the child-proof medicine container and the disposable syringe. His inspiration for the latter was a desire to not only be able vaccinate animals more effectively but also to find a way to prevent the spread of diseases from one person to another. Murdoch came up with numerous iterations for his disposable syringes, spending a total of 15 years working on his ground-breaking invention.
Early Cantabrian William Atack (pronounced ay-tack) is said to have been the first sports referee in the world to use a whistle to mark the end of a sports match. Prior to his initiative, referees would rely on their ability to be heard by players in order to control the game — something which Atack found exhausting. Atack was a keen rugby player, cricketer and accomplished sports reporter before his whistling referee debut at age 27.
As a child, Sir William Hamilton (aka Bill Hamilton) always dreamed about creating a vessel that would carry him up New Zealand’s fastest flowing rivers. His dream became a reality in 1954, when he developed his revolutionary HamiltonJet boat engine. His invention has since been adopted by New Zealand’s jet boating experiences as well as various other boating endeavours around the world.
The Shweeb was developed by cycling enthusiast Geoffrey Barnett, who thought the world’s traffic problems could be solved by simply pedalling over traffic. That idea gave us the world’s first human-powered monorail race track, made up of interlocking machines that can reach up to 45 kilometres per hour (28 miles per hour). The velodrome opened in Rotorua in 2007, and its prototype has been picked up by tech giants like Google as they strive to discover eco-friendly public transport alternatives the whole world can enjoy.