Story: Swiss

The first solo ascent of Mt Cook was by a Swiss mountain guide. Another energetic immigrant started a dairy farming settlement in Taranaki, and a third pioneered deer farming. That mix of individualism and love of the land characterised many Swiss settlers. Today’s enthusiastic community continues to honour the customs of its alpine homeland.

Story by Helen Baumer
Main image: Tramper walking beside mountain stream

Story summary

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Dairy farming

Felix Hunger came to New Zealand in the 1860s. He loved the Taranaki plains as much as his mountain village back home, and brought out three groups of Swiss immigrants in the 1870s and 1880s. They remained an important dairy farming community into the 20th century.

Other immigrants

As well as farmers there were watchmakers, innkeepers and tradesmen. The number of arrivals surged in the 1950s, and again in the 1990s. Most were relatively young. Auckland has been the main community for many years, and most members are German-speaking.

Contribution and culture

Deer farmers and dental technicians, alpine guides, artists and authors … the Swiss have made their mark in many fields. Through bakeries and restaurants, traditional foods such as bratwurst and cheeses have been made available. The Auckland group gathers regularly at their Swiss Farm, and there is an alpine chalet at Arthur’s Pass which was run as a restaurant for many years by a Swiss. The Swiss Kiwi Yodel Group have produced their haunting music in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

How to cite this page:

Helen Baumer, 'Swiss', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 March 2023)

Story by Helen Baumer, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015