Rotorua Canopy Tours Blog

10 Top Kiwi Inventions

Sunday, 7 June 2020

New Zealanders are well known for being innovative and creative. These ten top kiwi inventions have gained world wide reputations. Check out how they were made and the talented inventors behind the amazing ideas!

  1. OGO Ball 

  2. Jet Boat 

  3. Bungy 

  4. Electric Fence 

  5. Shweeb

  6. Spiral Hairpin 

  7. Jogging

  8. Martin Jetpacks 

  9. Springfree trampoline

  10. Referee Whistle



1. OGO ball 

Inventor: Andrew and David Akers

First up is one of the most unique top kiwi inventions - the OGO ball aka zorbing. The Akers brothers, Andrew and David were walking along the beach one day and came up with the idea of having shoes to walk on water. They then decided that a more practical idea would be a giant ball that rolls down a hill. Adrenaline junkies jump inside the inner hollow plastic ball reaching up to speeds of 50kph. The OGO balls are created onsite at OGO and it takes 2 people 80-90 hours each to create one OGO ball. Five to six different types of high quality plastics are used to make these awesome OGO balls.


Photo: A close up of the giant inflatable OGO ball, one of the top things to do in New Zealand


2. Jet Boat

Inventor: William Hamilton

William Hamilton had dreamed of a boat that would carry him up the New Zealand rivers since he was a young boy. In 1954, he made this dream a reality by developing the world’s first propellor-less boat to navigate up rivers. Bill was the founder of what is now the world’s leading water jet manufacturing company. William Hamilton was a talented man as he also invented a machine to smooth ice on skating ponds and the water sprinkler.


3. Bungy

Inventor: A J Hackett

One of our more extreme top kiwi inventions is the bungy! A J Hackett created bungy jumping after hearing about the traditional practice in Vanuatu where men jump from a tower with vines attached to their ankles. Hackett tested his invention on latex rubber cords firstly in France from a ski gondola 91 metres above the snow. They then decided they needed a public confirmation of their faith in the newly created bungy ropes so Hackett jumped off the Eiffel Tower. He was arrested but then released straight away as the jump had made international headlines. A J Hackett is now the most well known bungy jump company in New Zealand, with jumps located in Taupo, Queenstown and Auckland - it's definitely one to add to your New Zealand must dos.


Photo: One of the top kiwi inventions of the bungy jumping in action. 


4. Electric Fence

Inventor: Bill Gallagher

Hamilton farmer, Bill Gallagher invented the electric fence in the 1930's. This idea was sparked by a horse that loved scratching himself on the family car. Bill came up with an idea to stop it from happening by electrifying his car. Every time the horse touched the car a triggering device sent a current through the car and then the horse. Joe, the horse quickly stopped using the car as a scratcher and Gallaghers plan had succeeded. He then changed the idea into the electric fences and started out by making them for neighbours. Now the Gallagher Power Fencing Company is a world leader in agricultural electric fencing.


5. Shweeb

Inventor: Geoff Barnett

Located on the outskirts of Rotorua is the shweeb, which was invented by Geoff Barnett. The shweeb is the worlds first human-powered monorail racetrack. You lie in a pedal-powered pod which hangs from the tracks where seven different gears can be used to reach top speeds. Speeds of up to 45kms can be reached! There are two 200m race tracks at Agroventures which is the home of the shweeb where you can race family and friends. Geoff Barnett's fascinating top kiwi invention has also become a worldwide prototype for a form of mass transport that is environmentally-friendly.


Photo: Alex, a Rotorua Canopy Tours Guide trying out the Shweeb invented by Geoff Barnett.


6. Spiral Hairpin

Inventor: Ernest Godward

Ernest Godward was the inventor of many things such as the eggbeater and burglar proof windows. One of his top kiwi inventions that stood out was the spiral hairpin that fixed itself to the hair rather than the straight pins that always have to be adjusted. It was an international success that meant he was able to leave his cycle business and he began Godwards Spiral Pin & New Inventions company. Godward then became a full time inventor and carried on making successful inventions.


7. Jogging

Inventor: Arthur Lydiard

Arthur Lydiard was a marathon runner and athletics coach. Arthur joined an Athletic Club in Auckland where he discovered he had a lack of fitness. He then went on to develop a training technique that involved daily running while maintaining a steady pace. In 1950, he started coaching high performance athletes that went onto winning Commonwealth and Olympic titles and also breaking world records. This has got to be one of the top kiwi inventions which is now used by millions of people around the world as part of their everyday health and fitness regime.


8. Martin Jetpacks

Inventor: Glenn Martin 

The Martin Jetpack's were initially created in the garage of Glenn Martin in 1981. The Martin Jetpack is the world’s most practical and safest optionally piloted hovering air vehicle. It can either be flown manned, unmanned or as a mule. It is the easiest aircraft to fly either unmanned or remotely as it allows hands-free hover and position hold. Glenns wife was the first test pilot of the jetpack and after many prototypes the final Martin Jetpack was released in 2008.


Photo: One of the top kiwi inventions of the Martin Jetpack flying in the air with a pilot. 


9. Springfree trampoline

Inventor: Dr Keith Alexander

The springfree trampoline is the world’s safest trampoline and it was invented by Dr Keith Alexander. He wanted to create a trampoline that removed the hard surfaces that caused injury. This trampoline replaces the traditional steel coil rings with glass reinforced rods. The amazing thing about this trampoline is that it has reduced injury incidents by up to 80%. The unique trampoline has become an international winner and is used by people all over New Zealand and worldwide.


10. Referee Whistle

Inventor: William Atack

The first referee in the world to use a whistle for a game was New Zealander, William Atack. It was a game of rugby in Canterbury in 1884.  Before the whistle was invented referees had to raise their voices to control games which strained the referees voice and exhausted them. Atack put his hand into his pocket and discovered that he had left his dog whistle there which sparked this idea. The next game he got the players permission to use it and it was known as the world’s first sports game to be played 'to the whistle' - definitely one of the most useful top kiwi inventions!

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Topics: Zipline & Adventures in NZ, Things to do in NZ