New Zealand Fun Money

I recently got my cash and wow, NZ dollars are much more fun than our boring US bills. Let’s start by looking at the fifty:

The fifty-dollar bill.

On the front is Sir Apirana Ngata, who was a Maori politician in the first half of the twentieth century. He fought in Parliament for land reform and promoted Maori culture, including the art, language and sports, and later became the Minister of Native Affairs. Read (a lot) more here: The bird on the back is called a kokako. It’s a native wattlebird (whatever that is) and runs about in the forest on its big legs. Sadly they are very endangered.

The twenty-dollar bill.
The twenty-dollar bill.

The lady on the twenty-dollar bill needs no introduction, which is good because her name isn’t on the note. Do all the commonwealth countries have Queen Elizabeth II on their money? As befits a queen, the karearea, or New Zealand falcon, graces the back. These birds are more common than the kokako and can fly at over 60 mph. They can also catch prey larger than themselves, though my source ( doesn’t say what they do with it afterwards.

The ten-dollar bill.
The ten-dollar bill.

Kate Sheppard is the woman on the ten-dollar note. In the late 1800s, she traveled New Zealand advocating for women’s suffrage and, in 1893, helped to gather 32,000 signatures of women who supported the cause. Presented with this massive petition, the New Zealand government became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. Awesome! The blue duck, or whio, appears on the back. Unusually for ducks, they live in fast-flowing rivers and defend their territory against other ducks and birds. Scientists think they arrived quite early in New Zealand since they have evolved unique features, such as a fleshy “upper lip” on their bill to scrape insects off rocks. Sadly they are endangered too.

The five-dollar bill.
The five-dollar bill.

Lastly, on the five-dollar bill we have Sir Edmund Hillary. He, along with the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were the first men to climb Mt. Everest, in 1953. His face was put on this banknote before he passed away in 2008, and so he requested that Mt. Cook, the biggest peak in New Zealand, be placed on the bill with him instead of Mt. Everest. He spend much of his life post-Everest helping the Sherpa people in Nepal, constructing hospitals and schools through his charity, the Himalaya Trust. He was an awesome guy. On the back is a penguin (M was really excited about this!), specifically a hoiho or yellow-eyed penguin. They are the world’s rarest penguin and the only one that can’t be tamed (other penguins can be tamed?) This is probably because they are not as social as other penguins, nesting separately in the forest near the coast. It would be great to see one!

So, how do our lame US bills compare? Let’s see:

  • Color count:     US: 1 (the new bills are getting better), NZ: many and vibrant
  • Bird count:     US: 1 (the eagle), NZ: 4
  • Diversity count:     US: Hamilton and Franklin weren’t presidents? NZ: a Maori guy, two women, and a badass
  • Window count:     US: 0, NZ: 2 (the oval and the fern in the lower left)
  • Masonic symbol count: OK, the US wins that one

In short, the US Mint needs to step it up.


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