Sunday 1 October 2017


Invercargill: New Zealand's southernmost city, known for being cold, quiet and (sorry, Southland) dull, its most notable features being its I-don't-care-where-as-long-as-I'm-mayor front man Tim Shadbolt (who it was my job to censor, when I was 15*) and a surprising number of tuatara [ancient-origin don't-call-it-a-lizard dinosaur descendant, can live up to 150 years, likes the quiet life, hence, cough...] in its museum.
Las Vegas: against strong competition, the US's most spangly city, known for bright lights, night life and unwise indulgences. Not much in common there, you're thinking? Until this month, no - but tomorrow is when the first local version of Dig This will open down south. 
It's a brilliant operation dreamed up 10 years ago by Kiwi Ed Mumm and it has a couple of incarnations in the US, most notably (simply because I've been there, done that) the one in Las Vegas. What makes it remarkable is that, after only a short demonstration with a toy digger in a tray of sand - plus extensive waiver-signing, naturally, this is the US after all - you're let loose in sole charge of a 17-tonne digger on an empty lot in the city. There is, don't worry, a calm and humorous man giving instructions through headphones, and he has the all-important kill switch - but that's just reassurance, it doesn't sap the excitement one iota.
I dug a hole and filled it in again, spun in circles, piled big tyres up, and then delicately plucked basketballs off the top of road cones and dropped them into another tyre. It was huge fun - plus, I got to wear a hi-viz vest.
And now you can do that in Invercargill - but wait! There's more! What's new since I did it in Vegas, is that you can actually batter a car to death if you like. There, it costs US$650 but it will be much more affordable in Invercargill, only $180, because in a typical Kiwi 'Yeah, nah, help yourself' scenario, they'll be getting their cars for free from the wrecking yard. Plus there will be bulldozers, front-end loaders, and mini-diggers for the kids. When I was there in July there wasn't yet anything to see, but plenty of enthusiasm for the new operation, which is part of Transport World. 

Truly, it's worth going down there for. Not convinced? Remember: it's Southland, they have cheese rolls!
* Working in my first job, as an assistant on the NZ Books counter at Whitcombe & Tombs, I was tasked by the straight-laced department boss with the careful placement of the price-sticker on every copy of the then young and bolshy Tim's new book, to avoid customer offence. 

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