Kiwiana (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about Kiwiana?

Senior Primary

(Years 5-8)

Colour photo of many Buzzy Bee toys on display — a popular Aotearoa NZ toy. It shows their red, yellow and black bodies, yellow wings and blue wheels.

Image: Kiwiana, Buzzy Bee by Jane Nearing on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 28/04/22


The culture of New Zealand is unique. It includes bits of history from various sections of society that go to make up New Zealand. You can see it in items like food, clothing, toys, icons, traditions and dances that are special to New Zealand. These items are called Kiwiana because they are examples of what New Zealanders (Kiwis) enjoy and are proud of. Kiwiana is an important part of New Zealand's identity.

Kiwiana icons and objects

There are lots of different examples of Kiwiana and people might have different ideas about what is Kiwiana and what isn’t. Some Kiwiana icons were made or invented in New Zealand, but others originally came from other countries and have become famous in New Zealand.

Some well known examples of Kiwiana include:

The Buzzy Bee : a toy in the shape of a bee.

Jandals : slip-on shoes that are called flip flops or thongs in other countries.

Gumboots : waterproof boots that are often used on farms (they might be called 'wellies' or rain boots in other countries).

Pavlova : a white, fluffy cake that is made mostly of egg whites (some people say this belongs to Australia, but it’s definitely an icon in New Zealand).

Hokey Pokey ice cream : vanilla ice cream with little bits of crunchy toffee mixed through.

Marmite : a salty yeast spread that is often used on toast.

Edmonds cookbook : a cookery book that was written in New Zealand and first published in 1908.

The Haka : a traditional Māori chant and dance that the National Rugby team performs before each game they play.

L&P : or Lemon and Paeroa, a soft drink originally made in New Zealand with lemon and carbonated water from the township of Paeroa.

Kiwi fruit : a fruit that looks a lot like the bird, and is sent from New Zealand all over the world (though it's not from New Zealand originally).

The Silver fern : the shape of a native fern leaf that is often used by our sports teams.

Kiwiana and New Zealand identity

There are lots of great websites that have information about why Kiwiana is an important part of New Zealand culture and identity.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This is one of our favourite websites for questions about Aotearoa New Zealand. If you go to the end of the page you will see that it belongs to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

  • Look down the page to Sections and select Government and Nations.

  • Choose Nationhood and identity.

  • The links will help you find information on Public holidays, the Capital city of Wellington, Memorials and monuments, and the place of sport, culture and art in New Zealand identity.


NZHistory is another great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. This website also belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • You can explore this site from the tabs at the top of the page, or the 3 sections.

  • Go to the tab called People and select by the first letter of a surname to find iconic people in New Zealand, such as Edmund Hillary and Whina Cooper.

  • Go to the section on Culture and Society to get an idea of important New Zealand Holidays and events, Sport, and The arts and entertainment that is part of being a New Zealander or a Kiwi.

Ministry of Culture and Heritage

This work of this government department is to provide advice to people and various organisations to support and promote New Zealand's rich culture.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so reliable and relevant for us.

History of kiwiana

There are lots of great websites that have information about particular Kiwiana icons, their history and how they are still used today. Some icons are also claimed by Australia and there is an ongoing debate about which country these icons represent.

Kiwiana - Quintessentially Kiwi

This page is from the Christchurch City Libraries. The cool thing about this list is that it has links to books that you can look up at your own school or public library to learn more. It also links to lots of other websites you can use to find out more about particular Kiwiana icons, like:

  • Jandals: The NZHistory website has an article about the jandal that includes information about where the name originated, and the controversy around who invented it.

  • Edmonds cookbook: Find out the story of the company from their official website's history page and their cookbook history page.

  • We can revisit the NZ History website too, for more information about the Edmonds cookbook.

Tips: When looking for information on a famous person or icon we always recommend trying to find their official website, as the information is likely to be more accurate than other sites. This can be the same with company sites, like Edmonds.

Buzzy Bee & Friends

This is the official site for the Buzzy Bee toy. It has a page about the history of the buzzy bee.

  • Look down to the very bottom of the page.

  • Under the heading Buddy Bee & friends choose History.

Otorohanga Kiwiana Town

This is the official website of the city of Otorohanga, a city that promotes all things Kiwiana.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

Topic Explorer (National Library)

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

  • Look for the topic Kiwiana.

  • It has a range of articles, images, videos, primary sources, and websites on this topic.

  • Find images of jandals, a hangi, a bach or articles on Phar Lap the racehorse, or the Tip Top cow.

Videos and pictures of Kiwiana

These websites have some examples of early Kiwiana icons and how they were formed during New Zealand's history.


This search site focuses on New Zealand history and culture. It and brings together results from lots of different New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg [kiwiana]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.


NZOnScreen is the online showcase of New Zealand television, film and music videos.

  • Use the search word 'Kiwiana'.

  • Look at Kiwiana, its sequel Kiwiana - Kiwi As, and other videos about popular Kiwi culture.


Some books have been written about Kiwiana and New Zealand culture - check out your local public or school library to see what they have.

A few suggested titles are:

SCIS no: 1832728

Topics covered

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