There's nothing like a summer Kiwi barbecue (Adobe Stock)

Lifting the lid on New Zealand’s barbecue culture

Barbecuing is one of New Zealand’s national summer past-time, but what are the nuances in our barbecue culture? Brenda Talacek, Vector’s Group Manager for Gas Trading, lifts the lid.

As a nation we’re pretty keen on barbecuing. While places like London have banned them from parks (unless it’s a re-useable charcoal one) Auckland Council provides public ones and even invites us to “feel free” to lug our own over to the beach at places like Tawharanui.

In fact we like barbecuing so much, the weeks leading up Christmas and New Year see three times the normal volume of empty gas bottles swapped for pre-filled ones as people get ready to do some serious hosting.

And because we at Vector are the ones supplying the pre-filled gas bottles you can grab at BP, Bunnings or any other of our 850 locations around the country, we can see that those numbers are going up each year. It’s no wonder we call this time of the year barbecue season.

So we decided to do some digging and see what we could uncover about the popularity of barbecue culture in New Zealand.

We started by looking at our own data to find what part of New Zealand has the keenest barbecue chefs, then turned to a couple of quick interviews to add some colour to the numbers.

The rural/urban divide

Where do New Zealanders barbecue the most (on a per capita basis)? No surprises here, it’s all the sunny spots. Marlborough, Northland, Gisborne and Bay of Plenty all feature strongly. The only slight outliers to this trend are Waikato coming in third spot, ahead of Nelson in sixth.

But the big surprise was how relatively unpopular barbecuing is in the cities. Auckland just barely scrapes in at tenth place while Canterbury and Wellington don’t even make the top ten at all. Otago even beats Auckland on this, coming in at ninth place.

Here is the full top ten list of barbecue popularity in New Zealand (small print: based OnGas swap bottle demand by region, per capita):

  1. Marlborough Region
  2. Northland Region
  3. Waikato Region
  4. Gisborne Region + Hawkes Bay Region (combined)
  5. Bay of Plenty
  6. Nelson Region
  7. Taranaki Region
  8. Tasman Region
  9. Otago Region
  10. Auckland Region

Barbecue culture: the top of the south

Wanting to understand more about what makes Marlborough the number spot on the list we turned to Darin, whose work for OnGas sees him get around much of the South Island. We asked him a few questions to get some insights into what drives the popularity of barbecuing in his part of the country.

Location is key to a good barbecue, according to Darin

What’s your go-to plate to bring to a BBQ?

Crayfish, scallops and/or venison, depends what’s on hand at the time.

Best (worst) dad joke to tell while grilling?

What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.

Top tips for hosting a great BBQ?

A great attitude, mates, location plus kids and dogs to clean up the mess.

What’s on your favourite BBQ apron?

I don’t see many of those around here. I do however have a singlet that complements my Redband jandals and eyes quite nicely.

Darin’s answers reveal some essential elements of a southern barbecue culture that would be hard to replicate in a city. The pictures say it all; wild and empty beaches with fresh crays grilling. And no fancy-pants aprons to be seen.

David sporting the classic barbecue grin

Barbecue culture: the Aucklander

At the other end of the country, and right at the bottom of the list of where people barbecue the most, is Auckland. We spoke to David who works out of the OnGas head office there.

What’s your go-to plate to bring to a BBQ?

Thick cut rump steak. Needs to be cut about 5-6 centimetres thick. It takes a while to cook but is really juicy!

Best (worst) dad joke to tell while grilling?

No jokes. Barbecues are serious.

Top tips for hosting a great BBQ?

Mix it up. Cook something different! I have cooked chips on the flat plate to go with Hamburgers. Some of my family are vegetarian so the veggies go on the barbecue too

If you have time you can do pulled pork sliders, Yum! And make sure there is something interesting to drink while the barbecue is cooking too!

Join us and help us hire new
political & climate reporters
Find Out More

What’s on your favourite BBQ apron?

My Silence of the Lambs apron that I got from my brother and sister-in-law. It has a picture of a barbecue with lambs steaks on it!

Putting it all together, it’s not clear why grilling in the cities lags behind the rest of the country. But with a nationwide heatwave making headlines it’s reasonable to think that barbecues everywhere will be fired up in efforts to beat the heat of the kitchen.

This content was created in paid partnership with Vector. Learn more about our partnerships here


The Bulletin is made possible by Z Energy, proudly supporting local news that matters.

 Check out how they’re delivering New Zealand an alternative fuel future.


The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.