The next two parts of the world both are very close to each other, share enough similarities, and have small enough furry populations that I wasn’t sure whether I should put them both in a single article or separate them. The article would have simply covered “Oceanic countries”: Australia and New Zealand. I added a post script to the introductory emails I sent out, asking whether it would be prudent to cover both countries in a single article or to separate them.
The first response strongly suggested that I don’t write about them both in the same article, noting that Kiwis (the international nickname for New Zealand residents) in particular don’t like being lumped together with the Australians. Another response compared the two to argumentative siblings and said he didn’t think Kiwis would like “being lumped together with their dumb brother”.
I can only imagine if I had just written about Oceania as a whole that I would have incited some kind of hilarious international furry feud.
Barring that, I did learn a lot just from the introduction responses from the Kiwis. First of all, that “Kiwi” is a term referring to New Zealand residents. Kiwis, as you might know, are adorable flightless birds the size of a chicken native to New Zealand. The term came into widespread use after World War II.
The responses I got to “The 11 Questions: New Zealand Edition” came from some interesting folk, to be sure. Two sets of responses come from anonymous New Zealand residents. Others came from Gunge, a rather surrealist artist, and Lyctiger, the chair of FurcoNZ, New Zealand’s big furry gathering. Without further ado, here’s a summary of what the Kiwis had to say about their furry culture.
“Furmeets”, small gatherings of 10-40 or 50 furries, usually at a furry’s house, are popular in America. Do those exist in New Zealand, and if so, are they prevalent?
Geographical separation plays a significant part. Cities usually form their own small communities with some separation even within these groups. Larger meets used to have up to 30-40 furs at house parties, but small groups of between 5-20 people are far more common. Cities also organize their own outings to things like laser tag and movies. To put this in perspective, New Zealand is over 1,600 km/990 miles long and at most 400 km/250 miles wide. For an island, this geography is interesting. Living in the center of the island can mean you can still be nearly 500 miles from some parts of the country. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city with 1,377,200 residents (31% of the country's population), is very close to the top of the country. To get from Auckland to Christchurch, according to Google Maps, is a 14 and a half hour journey covering over 1,000 km (over 600 miles) that even involves ferrying across the Cook Strait, which is 22 km/14 miles at the narrowest point and is considered one of the most dangerous sections of water in the world. (Fun fact: giant squid sometimes wash up there.) Given the time it can take to visit other cities, it’s perfectly sensible.
How important is sexuality to Kiwi furries?
Due to recent issues with the media, Kiwi furries tend to have a straight-faced “public stance” with this topic, just like many American furries. In general, yes, it is important, just as it is anywhere. It’s a driving force, but is kept behind closed doors. The longest response I received was about the importance “furry” plays to transgenders, genderfluids, and those with other alternative sexualities like that. It’s something I’ve heard plenty of before, and has even been explored elsewhere on adjective|species: furries get a lot of comfort with their sexuality from other furries.
Is there a skew towards gay/bisexuals in the fandom like there is in the American fandom?
Significantly more male members than female members, and Kiwis generally believe that the furries are significantly more skewed towards bi/homosexuality than the general population. Nothing really surprising here.
How do Kiwi furries see the American furries? What do they think of us?
I have to admit, I love the direction this takes people in. Lyctiger mentioned that some might be jealous that more meets/events/gatherings are had here than in New Zealand. Pretty fair. America has a convention almost monthly, considering the country as a whole. He also gave some quick praise to how Americans have treated Kiwis in the past, saying that “American furs are quite nice, kind and welcoming of us (probabally because we are an exotic species!).” Another response noted that the crowds here are really sprawled out and sparse, as opposed to the close-knit communities formed in New Zealand. Living in the American Southwest, where the next large city is 450 miles away, I can understand that.
Exotic species = exotic conventions.
Do furries in New Zealand have a strong internet presence? How important is social networking over the internet?
The responses here were interesting. One respondent mentioned that their city has a Skype group for its furries. In addition, the New Zealand IRC channel on Furnet is very popular. There’s a central information site (furry.org.nz), a mailing list, and, like most nationalities, a FurAffinity group. Lyctiger makes a note that these don’t all overlap. Many IRC regulars, for example, aren’t a part of the group on FurAffinity. Overall, I’d consider the internet presence pretty strong, especially compared to my own experience, and it might reflect the close-knit sort of community.
What differences do you think there are in the artistic styles of Kiwi and American furries?
Most agree that there really isn’t a distinctive difference in New Zealand’s furry art. One mentioned that Maori culture might have an influence, but I believe this is more likely topical and I personally couldn't find any examples.
What does the fandom mean to you?
The responses to this question were probably the most divisive. For some it’s work, for some it’s a hobby, for some, as Gunge mentions, it’s “much less social, more just animals are pretty cool looking.” For some the suiting is the most important, for others it’s the art. For others, it’s a support for their sexuality. It’s very representative of the things people do with “furry” as a whole, but sort of condensed into a smaller population.
What does the fandom mean to those in your region/locally?
It’s the same across the board; no really strong opinions here. It’s simply a community thing to do and a sort of outlet to meet new people. The term “hobby” was used more than once. Very simple and low-maintenance.
After days of searching, I couldn’t find any culturally-inspired New Zealand furry art. You’ll have to settle for another kiwi.
How is furry seen as by non-furries in New Zealand?
One of the four noted that most people don’t really know what it is. Not surprising. Interestingly, the other responses noted a positive connotation, a negative connotation, and a half-and-half connotation. Straight split across the board, folks! As I understand, New Zealand has had issues with the media in the past, and for a smaller community that doesn’t sit well at all. As Gunge notes, the average reflection could be “so basically cartoons with a twist that's pretty neat I guess”. Lyctiger pointed out that some might have a bad impression from the media’s focus on the “sex and wild parties” which has seen plenty of screen time, especially here in America. To those who might be more directly involved with publicity, i.e. the directors of FurcoNZ and such, it might feel like an uphill battle, but for the average person it shouldn’t be as bothersome.
What do people do in fursuit in New Zealand? Community activities? Furmeet activities? Just private/conventions?
Naturally, the quick answer by all nationalities has been the same for this: "conventions". But, one might make note of the fact that New Zealand’s big national gathering, FurcoNZ, is held at an outdoor lodge, and for at least two of the years “fursuiting at a convention” in New Zealand could translate to “abseiling in a fursuit”, which isn’t exactly the same as “fursuiting at a convention” here in America. There are some other noted activities, such as zoo outings (a Halloween “Boo at the Zoo” event was mentioned twice), but this wholly depends on the fursuiter. One of the anonymous respondents noted that they wear theirs only at private gatherings. Lyctiger makes a note that, personally, it’s more about the performance aspect, and judging the answers from the other respondents this seems to be a big factor. Across the board, in other countries, I suspect that this will be a recurring theme.
How are fursuits different in New Zealand from America?
While many reflected on the diversity of fursuits both in New Zealand and within the fandom as a whole, one respondent noted that there might be a better overall quality to the suits, excluding the non-commercial DIY works due to having a handful of fursuit makers. However, this doesn’t necessarily factor in. As Lyctiger noted, fursuit enthusiasts tend to take one of two options. With enough money, price becomes less of a restriction, and a fursuiter will buy a suit from anywhere on the planet as long as it’s in a style they desire. On the other hand, without as much money, they’re likely to consider creating their own. The savings on shipping doesn’t seem worth it if you can’t get the type of suit you want when you’re spending potentially thousands of dollars, after all.
And that’s the Kiwi furries. Since New Zealand is certainly the smallest place I’ve researched into it was insightful to learn about how their fandom is developing. It’s also one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and the photos from FurcoNZ certainly reflect that. They’re an interesting bunch and it’s been a pleasure taking a look at what they’ve been up to. Stay tuned; I’d like to cover the other major half of Oceania soon enough!