November: last month in New Zealand

Posted by Patrick Lam on Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Table Of Contents

I’ve been busy with being in Canada (you’ll hear about that in a few weeks) and posting about the travels, but I’ve been wanting to write about November as well. I’ll put my overall thoughts about urbanism in Montreal, Quebec City, and Kitchener in next month’s post.


I’m very much not thrilled with being in Canada as Omicron looms. But I guess I am not ready to quit my job yet. New Zealand is far better placed to deal with Omicron, since its border to even Australia is still closed until mid-January at least (subject to review!), and they have the luxury of possibly waiting until a bit closer to winter to deploy boosters (though that might be a bit too much of a gamble).

Yikes. (Accessed 16 December 2021.)

Good move, me, for not signing up Netherlands workshop. Had it happened, it would have been a disaster. Except that it went online. (More below).

I said that MIQ was not protecting Auckland last month. The Auckland border is now open, but MIQ is protecting NZ from Omicron, and vaccines plus summer is reducing the NZ delta numbers quite effectively.

Having said that, people in NZ complained about the vaccine rollout being slow, but I often talk to people in Canada whose second doses were just 2-3 months before mine. NZ is not that slow, especially when there weren’t that many cases in the community (outside of Auckland).

The numbers in New Zealand (mostly Auckland) are definitely staying well below 100 per day now on most days, while Quebec and Ontario numbers are now rising steeply. Vaccination plus non-pharmaceutical interventions really do work. I said delta was too hard last month, but it’s only too hard for NPIs alone, not for summer plus NPIs plus vaccines.

The strange thing is that Quebec actually seems to have more stringent measures than Ontario with vaccine passes for instance. But still about twice as much COVID per capita. One would think that it has to be private events. Also, Ontario is reporting 30% Omicron and Quebec much less. I haven’t been able to understand on what evidence Quebec is reporting that. They’re aware that it’s coming but their position is that it’s not yet there. Can I beat it with this weekend’s judo training camp, or should I opt out? [Update: opted out; update 2: it got postponed.]

In all of Quebec, Ontario, and New Zealand, it’s now impossible to dine in a restaurant while unvaccinated. Quebec is pretty good with checking ID. I haven’t tried Ontario or New Zealand (under the new rules) yet.


I got my second dose on November 1. I think that was mostly a good idea to optimize immunity, but if I had gotten it earlier (could have been late September), then I’d now almost be eligible for a booster dose. That wasn’t at all on the radar back then, though. One can only make decisions with the information available at the time.

As of December 14, NZ’s vaccination rate among 12+ is significantly higher than Canada’s: fully vaccinated in NZ is 89.8% and Canada is 86.7%, or rather, 10.2% unvaxxed in NZ and 13.3% in Canada, so 30% higher. Canada’s still doing better on total population, which must be a combination of 5-11s and the population distribution. NZ fully vaccinated as a percent of total population is 75% and Canada 76%.

Both New Zealand and Canada have started booster shots. New Zealand has a 6 month rule, while Canadian provinces have different rules (here we go again). The number of boosters in New Zealand is still fairly tiny, at 174k (plus 25k third primary), while Canada has administered 3M third doses. That’s about 2.5 times as many, per capita.

The overall NZ vaccination rate is quite slow now, at about 10k per day plus 10k boosters, but there really aren’t that many people left to vaccinate. Take Auckland. Reported population in the Auckland District Health Board is 424k (there are two other DHBs) and 402k are fully vaccinated, for a rate of 95%. Capital and Coast (Wellington) is at 94%. Northland is the lowest, at 81%, which is why it is staying at the “red” traffic light while the rest of NZ moves to “orange”.

By ethnicity, the Asian rate is reported as greater than 990 of 1000; European/Other at 897; Pacific peoples at 871; and Maori at 759. So the gap is below 20 percent now. (NZers would say “European/Other on 897” but I find that weird).

For more information: live data from New Zealand and Canada.

November posts

I’ll also include the “Leaving NZ” posts that I posted in December.

Wellington motorway; my stuff; pohutukawa in Auckland; Santa Monica Pier


I went back and processed lots of Wellington and early 2020 photos.

From the archives: California quail at Zealandia, Cape Palliser baby seal, juvenile tropicbird on Aitutaki, Patuna Chasm Walk, half million dollar view at Kelburn Parade, Matiu/Somes Island

Unprocessed one-day 2020 albums that I haven’t listed here: Titahi Bay. Plus I have 464 photos on my hard drive, mostly of Wellington, and some number in Google Photos, which I need good Internet to download and process.

To do:

  • [January] Hump Ridge Track
  • [February] Jumbo Circuit
  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [April] Avalanche Peak, Mount Somers Track
  • [June] Rotorua (airport walk)
  • [July] Hobbiton
  • [July] Aotea
  • [August] Cook Islands
  • [September] Sea to Sky II
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track
  • [October] Mt. Cook and Mt. Somers
  • [October] Red Rocks
  • [November] Lunar eclipse
  • [November] Tekapo / Mount Cook / Sebastopol Bluffs / Oamaru
  • [November] Leaving NZ


This month was quieter than October, since we weren’t pushing for any specific deadlines. I talked to my students on 7 days. Just general progress on projects, and post-submission consolidation. I did submit an application for a Desire2Learn educational grant which got rejected, and worked on my NSERC Alliance proposal (still not done).

I gave a talk at SPG about our SANER submission.

I thought about going to BENEVOL in the Netherlands but I looked at the COVID numbers and they didn’t look like they would be good going forward. Closer to the date, they indeed weren’t good, and the workshop went virtual. I guess I could have submitted after all. But again, I can’t engage with virtual workshops or conferences.

In terms of teaching, I helped norming design document marking. We had TAs grade the design documents and project demos.

Had lunch/social events with colleagues on 9 occasions. November was busy!

In total I had 18 days of work (22 working days). The no-work-day count was 13, including a bunch of travel-to-Canada days.

Goals for December: review PLDI papers, work on NSERC Alliance, work on SE retrospective, prepare for teaching in January (with new/old COVID curveball).


There’s the usual reviewing load. PLDI reviewing opened just before I left (8 papers) but it’s really a December task. I reviewed another grant proposal (strong reject) and I have an NSERC proposal to review.

I did some freelance student advising (not my graduate students): as usual, some SIGPLAN-M, as well as an unusually large number of alumni (3), both my graduate alumni and SE undergrad alumni.

Finally, I started on the Nominations/Elections committee for our Faculty Association. (The General Meeting in December was bonkers.)


  • 🚶 Walking distance: 165.6km (a small walk at a time)
  • 🚲 Biking distance: 71.1km
  • 🚗 Driving distance: 871km (Mount Cook again)
  • 🚗 Taxi distance: 48.8km (WLG x3, YUL)
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 74.6km
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 15910km (WLG-TIU, TIU-WLG, WLG-AKL, AKL-LAX, LAX-YUL)
  • 🚡 Cable car distance: 2.8km (4x)

We had one last trip before I left New Zealand. I’d been thinking of this for a while and I’m glad I got to execute it.

Northstar Motel in Oamaru had an excellent price/value ratio.

Swallows seen when looking for penguins; Elephant Rocks; icebergs at Lake Mueller; Church of the Good Shepherd; lupins at Lake Tekapo; me climbing at Elephant Rocks; view from Sebastopol Bluffs


Nothing major, but did manage to accumulate decent kms anyway.

Other sports

Despite a busy social calendar, I only missed one judo practice in November before leaving, for 7 workouts. Better than I have been able to maintain in Canada in December. And I managed to get to climbing gyms 4 times, which is pretty good. Though Grand River Rocks is better than Fergs and pretty much as easy to get to. GRR is also free to me since I bought a life membership, thus providing incentive to go.

We climbed 4 pitches at Sebastopol Bluffs: Red Arete (“the South Island’s best 13 [5.7]”) and the first pitch of Mako. I figured that some moderate multipitch was just what I needed after a year of flailing on NZ rock.

This month: Wellington tui; stagecoach at Oamaru Museum; among the first at Timaru airport for its daily flight; Wellington Judo Academy; us at Mount Vic

Travel planning

NZ kind of shuts down over Christmas. I helped MP plan a trip to Kaikoura involving swimming with dolphins and a solo overnight hike on a private track. Should be good.

I’m hoping to fight and referee at the Manitoba Open in mid-January. Let’s see if that gets canned (so many things have, sadly).

I cobbled together a plan for December which I’ve of course had to adjust due to COVID. My friends offered me 3 places to stay, so I really have nothing to complain about. But it is a bit tiresome for my stuff to be all over the place. Turns out it’s not in quite as many places as I thought, and I now have a working bicycle. I can almost live like a normal person.

There was also packing my stuff for the return to Canada. We’ll see how much stuff I’ll need to bring back to NZ when I go back.


  • Christmas gifts
  • some NZ bird book (more books, just what I need to transport)
  • 12mm Samyang lens (pretty wide angle!) and lens wrap (dealing with lenses is more stuff to faff about with)
  • brake pads for my bike (brakes are really important!)


  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Virginia (and Philadelphia) in the slavery era felt extremely remote from New Zealand in 2021. Coates does a good job of telling the story of a Black man who gets his freedom and works with the Underground Railroad. Of course, colonialism was/is a thing everywhere, but US plantations didn’t have any exact equivalent in New Zealand. I’d heard of the Underground Railroad but not any details of how it worked.

I also skimmed Shorebirds of New Zealand and How to Photograph Absolutely Everything.


In Wellington:

  • Le Moulin: you can get croutons there; they are surprisingly hard to acquire in NZ except in pre-made salads. Croissant wasn’t as flaky as I’d hoped.
  • Concorde: a last-minute discovery, good bakery right in the middle of Lambton Quay in Wellington
  • 1154 Pasteria: walked past it so many times; finally had pasta there, worth going to if you want quick pasta
  • Arborist: rooftop bar
  • Shepherd: brunch spot; meets expectations for brunch
  • Vietnamese Restaurant and Cafe (Petone): not very inspired name but correct Vietnamese food
  • Kazu: acceptable kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi


  • Timaru: Last Post: MP had wanted bangers and mash for a while
  • Oamaru: Sunday market, Whitestone Cheese Factory Outlet: cheese is well worth buying


  • Wellington Judo Academy: an organization that is thriving despite COVID challenges, unlike many Canadian judo clubs I follow
  • Zealandia: informative session on how this big organization is doing in the midst of a leadership transfer


That was a rewarding last month in New Zealand. It’s a shame that I had to leave just before summer, but I hope to be back as soon as possible. December is even more unstable than usual, since I’m technically homeless, but I’ll manage just fine.