Jackie's journey: Invercargill

By: Jackie Norman, Photography by: Gareth Scurr


NZMCD writer Jackie Norman visits Demolition World and Dig This on her recent trip to Invercargill

One of the great things about taking the time to explore our wonderful country is that you often discover there’s much more to a place than first meets the eye. Take our first visit to Invercargill. After battling the crowds for years in Auckland and Hamilton, our nation’s southernmost city seemed a bit well, empty. Sure, there was plenty of impressive architecture and several nice parks, but once we’d done the mandatory blast along Oreti Beach—best known as the racetrack of Burt Munro, the World’s Fastest Indian—we thought that was pretty much all there was to do.

How wrong we were. Thanks to the vision and imagination of some proud local families, Invercargill is also the home of some enviable attractions you just won’t see anywhere else. We went back there recently to check out one of its newest additions, as well as one of its best-kept secrets.

Demolition World

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How do you begin to describe Demolition World? It’s been called everything from quaint and eccentric to ‘eerily charming’. We’d agree it’s all that and much more. What strikes you most, however, is the atmosphere. The moment you set foot in this tiny ‘town’ created entirely from recycled buildings and objects, it’s like stepping back in time.

Music plays gently in the background as you find yourself carried away to a bygone era. Mother hens bustle around their tiny chicks, geese wander out nonchalantly from a bush, and you never know when one of a multitude of splendid peacocks are going to show themselves. It’s hard to know where to start, but it’s not a place you want to rush. You could spend the whole day there and still not see everything!

Demolition World is the brainchild of David and Lee Fallow. A true labour of love, this hidden gem has been lovingly tended and added to for the past 14 years. As she sits on a swing seat, relaxing in the sun, Lee tells us the story.

"My husband, David, has been in the demolition business for more than 30 years. We first set up this place as a recycling centre, until one day David brought home a wee shed from a demo job, thinking I might like it. I thought it would be fun to decorate it, so I did. Gradually, we added more buildings and decorated those, too, until eventually, we bought the neighbours’ land, allowing the little town to grow."

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A town it really is, featuring everything from a church to a hospital, barber shop, bakery, and even a theatre. Just like any town, you will also find its fair share of characters, albeit in mannequin form.

A peek inside could reveal anyone from a trio of singing minstrels to a regal group enjoying a medieval banquet.

Entry is by donation and proceeds go towards maintenance and improvements, such as the kids’ playground. Indeed, it’s a pleasure to see so many children running around excitedly, calling out ‘Look at this! Look at this!’ Notable visitors include the city’s beloved mayor, Tim Shadbolt, who officially ‘married’ the bride and groom in the tiny church!

Dig This

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Dig This is the latest addition to the acclaimed Bill Richardson Transport World and is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Modelled on an enterprise of the same name in Las Vegas, Dig This Invercargill enables young and old to fulfil their wildest dreams by getting behind the controls of a 15-tonne digger or bulldozer and creating some serious mayhem. All done in the utmost controlled conditions, of course!

We can’t talk highly enough of our instructor, manager Lex Chisholm. Not only did he have the patience of a saint, his encouragement and good-natured ribbing also added to the experience. I haven’t laughed so much in ages. I felt like a big kid again! Saying that, being in control of such heavy machinery is still serious business. Your instructors are with you every step of the way and communicate constantly via headset, with the focus on safety at all times.

Gareth and I took it in turns and had an absolute blast as Lex put us through our paces. First, he had us on the excavator building huge mounds and digging trenches, before advancing to tricks I never imagined possible, such as stacking tyres and playing bucket basketball. I felt as though I had totally missed my calling in life and was a born digger operator, but I have a feeling that Lex just made me feel that way out of the goodness of his heart.

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Fortunately, before I could get too big-headed, we moved onto the bulldozer, where I discovered I was not quite as adept. Too late, I realised that I had also neglected to tell Lex about my fear of heights, as he carefully guided me up to the top of an enormous mound and urged me to keep control as I teetered upon the top. He and Gareth roared with laughter as I held on for dear life. How was I ever going to get out of this in one piece? Quite well, actually. "That’s one of the best balances I’ve ever seen!" Lex enthused, and I instantly transformed into a fantastic machinery operator once again. That’s one of the greatest things about Dig This. While it may not be everyone’s idea of a low-cost activity, compared to a bungy jump, which is over in a few seconds, here you get 90 minutes of full-on action and learn something. You achieve something you never thought you could and are presented with the certificate to prove it.

Dig This, along with Transport World and Motorcycle Mecca, was created by the late Bill Richardson’s family to give people another reason to visit Invercargill and stay longer. They, along with David and Lee Fallow, have definitely succeeded.

Travel tips

  • A renovator’s paradise. Not only is Demolition World a tiny town, it’s also a fully operational recycling yard. An absolute paradise for renovators or those just wanting a browse in search of a bargain, the range of pre-loved building and household items is absolutely staggering. Who knows what you may find? For more information, visit demoworld.co.nz.
  • Anyone can be a digger driver. Well, almost! Dig This has a range of equipment to suit thrill seekers from five to 100. You don’t even need a licence! The amazing instructors are there to oversee every move you make. They also offer group sessions. While bookings aren’t compulsory, it’s recommended that you do book ahead. More information is available at transportworld.co.nz/dig-this.
  • Did you know? Our visit to Transport World revealed that Henry Ford was a keen motorhomer in his day. Along with fellow ‘vagabonds’ Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank, and Harvey Firestone, they and their enormous entourage of up to 50 vehicles were notorious for their camping trips all over America.
  • Go to the toilet! We couldn’t understand why people kept asking us ‘Have you been to the toilet yet?’ when we visited both Demolition World and Dig This. As with all of the Richardson family ventures, no attention to detail has been missed. That’s all we’re saying, just make sure you visit them both!

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