Top 8 NZ Home-Grown Inventions

Tia Winter | 21 September 2017

Innovation is a trait that New Zealanders are well known for, and Kiwi inventors have contributed far more to history than many of us are aware! The ski plane, bungee, and even the spiral hairpin are all proud Kiwi inventions, but there are many more; some of which almost all of us use in our daily lives. Read on to discover 8 of the most weird and wonderful inventions to have come out of New Zealand...

#8: The Flying Machine

The Wright Brothers are often credited with inventing the first airborne plane, but there is a long-standing rumour and plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. According to historians, Kiwi farmer and inventor Richard Pearse actually flew a homemade plane for over 140 metres on March 31, 1903; over nine months before the Wright brothers made their own historical flight.

Using just scraps of metal and bamboo, Pearse created and flew what might actually have been the world’s very first flying plane!

#7: Bungee Jumping

New Zealand is known to have some of the most thrilling (and scariest) bungees in the world, but what you might not know is that a local Kiwi actually invented the sport as well. A J Hackett created bungee jumping, after being inspired by a traditional Vanuatu practice in which men leap from towers with their ankles tied with vines.

Hackett reinvented the practice with latex rubber cords, trying it out in France from a 91 metre-tall ski gondola, and then off the Eiffel Tower. Hackett was actually arrested for this stunt, but after it made international headlines he was quickly released. A J Hackett is still the most popular local bungee company today, with thrilling bungee jumps offered in Auckland, Queenstown and Taupo.

#6: The Electric Fence

Bill Gallagher, a Hamilton farmer in the 1930’s, created the electric fence while attempting to stop his horse from scratching itself on his car. The device involved a trigger that sent a current through the car and into the horse whenever it touched the car, leading to Joe (the horse) quickly abandoning his favourite pastime.

Gallagher soon changed his design into an electric fence and began to make them for his neighbours, and today, the Gallagher Power Fencing Company is one of the world’s most successful agricultural fencing firms.

#5: The Jetpack

Back in 1981, Glenn Martin had an incredible vision that put him to work in his garage. A few months later, the Martin Jetpack was born; the world’s safest and most practical jetpack that can be optionally piloted. The air vehicle can be flown manually, unmanned, or as a mule much like a drone, and has been called the easiest aircraft to fly as it allows for hands-free hovering.

Glenn’s wife was the first person to test the new Martin Jetpack, and numerous prototypes later, the final contraption was revealed to the world in 2008. This invention will remind many of Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, and the crazy creations that he comes up with!

#4: The Gibbs Aquada Speedster

Kiwi inventor Alan Gibbs created the world’s very first high-speed amphibian car, a vehicle that can transform from a boat to a car and back at just the touch of a button. This James Bond-esque invention is strong enough to tow a water ski, and combines the luxury of a convertible sports car with the thrill of a speedboat for a truly unique experience.

#3: The Referee Whistle

The first referee in the world to ever use a whistle during a rugby game was local Kiwi William Atack. The game was held in Canterbury back in 1884, where Atack abandoned the old and exhausting practice of simply yelling at players to control the games.

Atack stuck his hand into his pocket during one such game, and discovered his dog whistle there, which gave him the brilliant idea. The next game, he was given permission to use it by the players: a game that is now known as the first sports game in the world to be played ‘to the whistle!’

#2: The Jet Boat

William Hamilton had long dreamed about a boat that would transport him along New Zealand’s beautiful rivers, and in 1954, he turned his dream into a reality. Hamilton began developing the world’s very first propeller-free boat specifically designed to navigate rivers, becoming the founder of the world’s current leader in water jet manufacturing.

Hamilton, who would later be recognised as a man of many talents, also invented a machine that could be used to smooth ice on ice-skating rinks and ponds, along with the modern water sprinkler.

#1: The Egg Beater

Ernest Godward, a local Briton and lover of baking, moved from England to New Zealand in 1886. He quickly began inventing various contraptions while working at the Southland CycleWorks, striking gold in 1900.

Godward had invented none other than the eggbeater, which he quickly patented as a device that could prepare eggs for a sponge cake in under three and a half minutes. Previously, it had taken more than fifteen minutes to do exactly the same job. Godward later also invented the spiral hairpin in a stroke of genius.

It’s safe to say there are some great inventions that have come out of New Zealand, and that in the future there are sure to be more to come!