Home, sweet home far from Hongkong

NEW Zealand is an ego trip. Everyone wants you to stay with them. The owner of the most spartan motel will entice the visitor to stay an extra day. They spoil you rotten.

When Glenys and John Syme assured us that ''breakfast will be ready by eight,'' the owners of Norfolk Pine Motor Inn in Kaikoura even carried it on a tray across the parking lot.

During a 10-day driving tour of New Zealand, we found that all the comforts of home are available - even the chores - from more than 1,400 families who open their doors in a nationwide network of home and farm-stays.

Over a dozen organisations exist that cater to the traveller who wants something more social than a camper van.

The country's economic downturn during the 80s attracted homeowners like Irish-born building contractor-farmer Charles Alderton and his wife Jan into the farm stay programme. ''You don't get rich from it,'' explained Charles, ''but you make friends and learn things.'' Families around Hamilton, a sleepy town 25 kilometres outside of Auckland, get their share of Asian students on English language exchange programmes.

Waking up at Rod and Laurie Squires' home was easy. Going to bed was the hard part. When you bring together eight weary but travel-happy strangers, conversation snowballs beyond the dinner hour. Add to that a bottle of port and a roaring fire.

Rod caught the salmon she poached for dinner. The potatoes came from the garden. So did the apples in the pie. The embers died before the conversation did but restarted with the aroma of coffee and lamb sausage.

Information on home and farm stays is available from the New Zealand Tourism Board, GPO Box 2790, Hongkong.