New Zealand and gumboots

One thing I have learned about living in New Zealand is that small towns in New Zealand like to have big, huge sculptures of what the town is famous for. For example, in the North Island of New Zealand, Te Puke (it’s pronounced Tay Poo-kay, not Te ‘vomit’, as I first thought) has a giant sculpture of a kiwifruit as the town is famous for growing kiwifruit. Ohakune (pronounced oh-ha-koo-nay) has a humongous carrot because the area grows a lot of carrots. Paeroa has a giant bottle of a soft drink called Lemon & Paeroa (L&P) because the soft drink was originally produced in the town of Paeroa.

There are sculptures in small towns in the South Island of New Zealand as well. For instance, Cromwell has a giant fruit sculpture made up of an apple, pear, nectarine and apricot. Sometimes the sculptures even start to look the same. For example, the tiny town of Rakaia has a large fibreglass salmon that looks a lot like the gigantic brown trout sculpture in the town of Gore about 400km away. It is as if they used the same giant fish sculpture, but just coloured them differently.

In the middle of the North Island of New Zealand, there is a town called Taihape. It is known as the ‘Gumboot Capital’ of the World’ and of course the town has a sculpture of a gumboot, made of corrugated iron. Taihape is a little town that supplies the rural community, and gumboots are the staple footwear for farmers.

The giant sculpture of a gumboot, made of corrugated iron, in the small New Zealand town of Taihape (photo by Tim Johnson).

The giant sculpture of a gumboot, made of corrugated iron, in the small New Zealand town of Taihape (photo by Tim Johnson).

Taihape has an annual Gumboot Day, first celebrated on 9 April 1985. Gumboot Day celebrates the rural lifestyle, and on Gumboot Day, there are activities like decorating either a paper or real gumboot, and a gumboot throwing competition.

Gumboots are known by many names. In New Zealand, they are called gumboots, sometimes shortened to gummies. They are also called Wellington boots or wellies. In other places, they are called galoshes, rubber boots or rain boots.

Black gumboots with a red band are almost synonymous with New Zealand rural footwear. Gumboots are great to wear on a farm because they keep your feet dry. The best gumboots are waterproof. Gumboots also work well when walking through farm hazards, like mud and animal poop.

redband gumboots

Black gumboots with a red band by Skellerup, the staple footwear for New Zealand farmers.

A popular brand of gumboots is Skellerup. Skellerup was started by George Skellerup who opened his first shop in Christchurch, New Zealand on 12 September 1910. Back then, the shop sold tyres and rubber products to the dairy industry. Today Skellerup is still based in Christchurch and sells to the world. They are best known for their gumboots. In a completely unscientific poll (conducted by me), a group of New Zealanders were asked ‘What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the brand ‘Skellerup’; 100% of the Kiwis said ‘gumboots’.