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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa



Although the first contingent of Dutch settlers arrived here in the late 1940s, mostly from the East Indies, immigration from the Netherlands did not properly begin until 1951. Of all immigrant groups this century, the Dutch assimilated most readily into Pākehā, English-speaking culture and were the least passionate about passing on their language to their offspring. There were two reasons for this. First, the majority of the assisted immigrants of the 1950s and early 1960s were young working-class people of relatively low literacy levels, eager to learn English as fast as they could. Secondly, a large proportion married 'out', i.e. found themselves other than Dutch, English-speaking partners. As Albertine Kroef showed in her 1977 MA thesis, language loss among the children of Dutch immigrants was very high, and close to 100% in the next generation. Considering this, it is surprising how many local and national Dutch and bilingual publications, mostly in newsletter or tabloid form, have been in circulation for many years, although recently some of the major widely-distributed ones have folded.

Emigration as a partial solution to economic problems in the early post-World War II years was actively supported by the Dutch government, after the loss of its major overseas dominion (Indonesia, independent since 1948). Dutch society was strongly religious, and there was concern among the clergy about their flocks dispersed so far from home. So it is not surprising that some of the earliest Dutch newsletter-type publications here were pastoral in nature. De Schakel (The Link) was the first, published from 1951 on by the order of the Assumptionists in Wellington, to give moral support to newly arrived Roman Catholic immigrants. The New Zealand establishment of the Assumptionists, originally a French order, included monks from the southern province of Brabant, from where a large number of farming immigrants, notably Waikato sharemilkers, had also come.

Dutch Protestants were soon similarly served; the Reverend Bert Denee and his wife Mia established the newsletter Protestants Contact in 1954. Publication was continued by Wim de Ruiter and Coos (Jacoba) Goldschmidt until it petered out in the late 1960s, by which time the bulk of Protestant settlers had integrated into local Presbyterian and Methodist congregations.

Meanwhile, the enterprising and sociable Henk Willemsen, who initially settled in Wanganui and imported magazines and books for a Dutch-speaking and reading clientele, had begun in 1952—within a year of his arrival—to publish a secular Dutch-language tabloid, called The New Zealand Hollander. It was a 50:50 mixture of 'news from home' and items of local interest. The publishing rights in this paper were bought out during the 1960s by Louis Kuys, then secretary of the Auckland Netherlands Society Oranje, founded in 1948. Since the mid 1950s this society had been circulating a cyclostyled bilingual newsletter called Holland Bulletin, devoted largely to local news, although it often also included interesting articles. Two features of this early publication deserve mention: more than half of its content was in English (an August 1959 issue even contains an English translation of a short poem by ship-surgeon poet Jan Slauerhoff), and it provided an English précis of topical news items earlier printed in Dutch. Also, it regularly issued a list of the Dutch-language books, including children's literature, held in the Grafton public library in Mount Eden Road. It should be noted, however, that the range of imported Dutch literature to be found in the Auckland University Library since 1992, the year it finally became a subsidiary subject in the department of Germanic Languages, is much more extensive and up to date.

However, in 1969 the Auckland Netherlands Society Oranje Inc. adopted a more ambitious tabloid format for its monthly publication, The Windmill Post. This featured a calendar of events nationwide, as well as items of important news from 'home' and the world at large (such as the first moon landing). However, Louis Kuys regarded The Windmill Post as his personal property and, after his dismissal from the Society's secretarial post, carried on publishing it as the organ of his 'Link' business, which organised charter flights to and from the Netherlands for settlers and their relatives. It continued to appear, eventually on a bi-monthly basis, until Kuys sold out to the much more comprehensive Australian Dutch Weekly (in fact a fortnightly bilingual newspaper) which, since 1993, has covered news affecting the Dutch communities in New Zealand as well as Australia.

Upon Kuys's dismissal and in competition with The Windmill Post, the Auckland society began to publish its own tabloid, called Oranje News (1970-1973) and from 1974 (the year in which it and other Dutch clubs from Whangarei to Invercargill became affiliated with the national Federation of Netherlands Societies) De Oranje Wimpel (The Orange Banner). Over the years its editorship rotated widely, moving as far afield as New Plymouth and Balclutha, but returning to Auckland in the early 1990s. By then, with the help of sponsorship by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which provided the eye-catching glossy cover photographs, it had developed into an elegant and entertaining two-monthly A4-sized magazine. Its editor from December 1991 was Jack van Bavel and its designer Rick Quaadgras, but in 1994 ill health forced van Bavel (who died in Hamilton in December 1996), to hand over the editorship to Coby van Leeuwen in Rotorua. The magazine, under yet another title, De Nieuwe (New) Oranje Wimpel, continued until the 95th issue of October 1996 when, for financial reasons, the Federation's executive abruptly stopped publication.

This was widely regretted, particularly by older settlers, for De Oranje Wimpel was a much more sophisticated periodical than The Windmill Post. The latter, as a conveyor of 'news from home', gradually settled into a reactionary 1950s groove, confining itself to information cut and pasted mostly from the populist, conservative Dutch daily Telegraaf, a close cousin to the British Sun. Its attention to political and social issues in the Netherlands, considered to be of little interest to the aging pioneers, was kept to a minimum. It mainly confined itself to 'infotainment' of a sporty and sensational nature, besides the latest about the Dutch Royal family, highly regarded in all Dutch publications. Its Australian successor is an improvement, featuring more about what is really going on in the Netherlands, and about its place in Europe and the world.

Quite a different kind of periodical was the glossy, if slim, quarterly Vogelvlucht (Bird's Flight), distributed since the mid 1960s by KLM (which, although without landing rights in New Zealand, has for many years run charter flights from Australia and Indonesia). This bilingual magazine was primarily designed to lure established immigrants into European holidays. It never concerned itself with politics, but focused on tourist attractions and cultural matters in the mother country. The material for it originated from the company's Amsterdam head office and was passed on to all major Dutch migration destinations (Canada, the US, Australia, South Africa) for local assembly and distribution, with some local information about travel arrangements on the back page. In the course of the 1990s, it diminished from four to two issues a year until, like De Nieuwe Oranje Wimpel, it ceased publication altogether in 1996.

This does not mean that the Dutch community now lacks indigenous publications wholly or partly in the mother tongue. A number of local newsletters continue, to name a few:

  • The Echo, produced by the Netherlands Society in Christchurch (probably the oldest, beginning in 1967, and still going strong)
  • Koetjes en Kalfjes (Little Cows and Calves) in Hamilton
  • Van Alles en Nog Wat (About Everything and Something Else) in Palmerston North
  • Double Dutch in Wellington
  • The Tasman Gazette in Invercargill

Also, a modest national two-monthly newsletter continues to be run from a Wellington base, called, like the Assumptionist Fathers' first newsletter mentioned above, De Schakel. But Schakels of this kind may by now seem an unnecessary luxury to second generation and younger Dutch settlers in this country. The pioneers of the 1950s still alive are elderly now, and their descendants and successors, the well-educated, well-heeled new immigrants of the last twenty or so years, may be more or less fluently bilingual, but are perfectly happy to read about matters that affect them in English.

There are some charming small-scale hardy survivors. Aucklander Bas van Hof reports that the Netherlands Veterans Legion (akin to the RSA, with which it staunchly marches on Anzac Day dawn parades), consisting of fighters of World War II, the post-colonial action in Indonesia and the UN intervention in Korea, has managed to keep its quarterly organ De Ouwe Hap (The Old Bite) going from 1954 till the present day, although its members are dwindling rapidly. Then there is De Dorpskrant (The Village News), circulated around the Dutch retirement village 'Ons Dorp' in Henderson—so inward-looking by now, for most of its residents and readers are well into their eighties and nineties, that not even supporters and contributors from the Dutch Friendly Support Network remain on its mailing list.

By New Zealand lights, the Dutch have been seen as ideal immigrants, readier than others to melt into the wallpaper of Pākehā society. Hence their presence in print in their mother tongue is likely to be of an ephemeral nature, despite their important contribution to the New Zealand economy and culture.