Story: Swiss

A Swiss man took part in the first crossing of Whitcombe Pass from Canterbury to Westland. Another energetic immigrant founded a dairy farming settlement in Taranaki. A third pioneered deer farming. This mix of individualism and love of the land characterised many Swiss settlers. Today’s Swiss community continues to honour the customs of its alpine homeland.

Story by Helen Baumer
Main image: Tramper walking up the Lauper Stream towards Whitcombe Pass

Story summary

All images & media in this story

Few Swiss people visited or settled in New Zealand until the 1850s.

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 home to the main Swiss community for many years. Most of its 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 Swiss Farm, and an alpine chalet at Arthur’s Pass was run as a restaurant for many years by a Swiss. The Swiss Kiwi Yodel Group have produced their haunting music in the Southern Alps.

How to cite this page:

Helen Baumer, 'Swiss', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 June 2024)

Story by Helen Baumer, published 8 February 2005, updated 1 September 2023 with assistance from Jordan Lahmar-Martins