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New Zealand Facts


New Zealand lies in the southern Pacific Ocean, 1600 km east of Australia. It is made up of the North and South Islands and a number of smaller islands, with a total area of 268 000 sq km.

Mountain ranges and hill country dominate NZ's landscape; one of the most striking physical features is the Southern Alps. These, along with fiords glaciers and lakes and the coastal plains of Canterbury and Southland add to the variety of the South Island scenery. In the North Island the volcanic interior contains NZ's largest lake, Lake Taupo, and most of the country's active volcanoes - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - Ruapehu erupted as recently as 1995 and 1996. Hot springs, geysers, mud pools also form part of the volcanic system centred around Rotorua.

Polynesians settlers arrived in Aotearoa/New Zealand around the tenth century, and by the twelfth century settlements were scattered over most of the country.

What the Polynesians found was a land much different to the South Pacific tropical isles of Polynesia. Instead they found a land of mountains with a more seasonal climate. There were no large mammals to hunt for food, but there was a large flightless bird called the Moa. The Moa stood up to 15 feet tall and the Maori found it easy prey. By the time Europeans had reached New Zealand the Moa was hunted to extinction.

Abel Janzoon Tasman was the first European explorer to see New Zealand in 1642, but it was Captain James Cook who first set foot on New Zealand soil in 1769.

The first permanent settlers didn't arrive until the 1830's. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, giving sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain. The Maori were persuaded to cede vast tracts of land for mere token payments, but soon the Maori realised the true worth of what they had given away. The Maori rose up and attacked the British settlements repeatedly.

Today New Zealand is a relatively peaceful country and the people are extraordinarily friendly and outgoing. One quarter of New Zealand is protected wilderness and much of the country is pollution free.


New Zealand lies in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. Its nearest neighbour is Australia which is around 1,600 kilometres (995 miles) away. Two large islands called the North Island and South Islands are the main islands of New Zeland, but there are many surrounding smaller islands of which the combined land area is 270,534 sq. kilometres (104,454 sq. miles. New Zealand is about the same size as the UK or Japan.

New Zealand's landscapes are spectacular and include the South Island's Southern Alps which are bigger in area than the European Alps as well as glaciers, steep fiords and complex sounds. The North Island is volcanic and has every type of volcanic feature including a super volcano. Both islands have majestic lakes, lush rainforests, and high tussock plains.

Highest point: Mount Cook (3,754 m or 12313 ft)
Deepest lake: Lake Hauroko (462 m 1515 ft)
Largest lake: Lake Taupo (606 km or 234 miles)
Longest river: Waikato River (425 km or 264 miles long)
Largest glacier: Tasman Glacier (29 km or 18 miles long)
Deepest cave: Nettlebed, Mount Arthur (889 m or 2916 ft)
Length of coastline: 15,811 km (9824 miles)


New Zealand experiences four seasons. Summer starts in December and ends in February, although March is also a warm month. Winter lasts from June to August, but September and October can also be cold. New Zealand has temperate climate and the climate is also maritime meaning that it is affected by the sea. This accounts for less extreme differences in temperature between seasons as you would otehrwise find on continents, although there are two areas that are classified as continental which is the centre of each main island. New Zealand also has a large variety of micro-climates which are variations of the temperate climate. These variations are pronounced and the result of mountainous that run up the spine of both islands with westerly winds depositing moisture on the west of both islands leaving drier lands to the east. The north of New Zealand is frost free making it suitable for growing some tropical friut while on the South Island, there exists large areas of perpetual snow and glaciers within the Southern Alps.


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New Zealand is a democracy with a Mixed Member Proportional system, (MMP). The country is still part of the Commonwealth with the Governor General of New Zealand representing the Queen.

Tourism & Sport

New Zealand varied and rugged landscape lends itself to outdoors activities such as hiking (trekking, tramping, walking), caving, hunting, and both river and ocean fishing. Adrenalin sports and activities are also popular. Both bungee jumping and jet boating are kiwi inventions. Other popular adrenalin activities include: mountain climbing, white water rafting, kayaking, and sky diving. New Zealand has been incredibly successful in a number of sports especially rugby, yachting, and netball. A recent survy suggests that New Zealand is the third most successful sporting nation in the world based on population. However you work it out, New Zealand punches way above its weight.

Natural Resources and Agriculture

Natural resources in New Zealand provide for a thriving rural industries in forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and fisheries The most primary groups are agriculture and horticulture with New Zealand being the leading dairy provider in the world, exporting nearly one third of the world's dairy needs. Along with beef and sheep meat, New Zealand is the second largest producer of wool in the world. Agricultural totals over half of all New Zealand exports.

Industry & Business

It stands to reason that with a strong agricultural economy, that the primary manufacturing industries are involved in food processing for the meat and dairy industries. The engineering sector is strong as are technologies in food processing, telecommunications, plastics, textiles, forest products, electronics, and mountain equipment. There are also innovative industries in luxurry and racing yacht building as well as software development.


Traditionally New Zealand's agricultural exports went to the United Kingdom. With the UK joining the EU, New Zealand changed to trading more with the USA, Asia, and especially Australia. Both New Zealand and Australia have similar laws for trading under an agrement called Closer Economic Relations, (CER). There have been a number of pushes for a common market between these two countries and even talk of a common currency. Such a move could gain more traction as the world further falls into different trading blocks. Australia is the biggest export market for New Zealand with the United States being second. The national currency is the New Zealand Dollar also known as the 'kiwi'.


Oceania photos, maps, & travel by country

OCEANIA: Photos ›› Maps ›› Travel ››

AUSTRALIA: Photos›› Maps ›› Travel ››

NEW ZEALAND: Photos ›› Maps ›› Travel ››

NEW CALEDONIA: Photos ›› Maps ›› Travel ››

TONGA: Photos ›› Maps ›› Travel ››

Author & photographer: David Johnson (Virtual Oceania)

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