New Zealand Facts And Figures

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This page provides all the New Zealand facts and figures you need to make the most of your self drive tour of NZ.

New Zealand Facts and Figures

Horse riding at PunakaikiHorse riding at Punakaiki
  • New Zealand is the youngest country in the world as it was the last land mass discovered
  • New Zealand is on the Pacific Rim of Fire - you may feel earth tremors and there are active volcanos in the Central Plateau in the North Island
  • The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa - meaning "Land of the Long White Cloud"
  • The Maori settled in New Zealand about 1000 years ago having sailed south from their Polynesian home of Hawaiki
  • The first European to sight New Zealand was Dutchman Abel Tasman but he never set foot on land
  • Captain James Cook was the first European to visit New Zealand and map it - he first visited in the Endeaveour in the late 1700's. Many placenames bear Cook's name and he named many NZ places
Kayaking at CoromandelKayaking at Coromandel
  • Initial European settlers in New Zealand were whalers and sealers. Later in the late 1800's, there were those chasing gold as it was discovered in the Coromandel Peninsula (North Island), Westland (South Island) and Central Otago (South Island) - you can still pan for gold at Shanty Town near Greymouth (in Westland)
  • In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed - it was an agreement between the tangata whenua (Maori) and the British government
  • New Zealand is part of the Commonwealth - the head of state is the British monarch, and the Prime Minister is the most senior executive member of government
  • The official languages of Aotearoa/New Zealand are English and Maori (te reo)
  • The population in New Zealand is mostly made up of pakeha (largely descendants of European settlers), Maori, Pacific and Asian peoples
  • The population of New Zealand is just over 4 million with about 75% of the population living in the North Island
  • New Zealand is 268,021 sq km - which is slightly larger than the United Kingdom. NZ is long (1600 km from north to south) and narrow and you are never far from water - either the sea or a lake
  • New Zealand is made up of 2 larger and 1 smaller islands - North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui) which is 115,000 sq km, South Island (Te Waipounamu) which is 151,000 sq km and Stewart Island (Rakiura)
  • The South Island is dominated by the Southern Alps which run like a spine the length of the island. The largest mountain is Aoraki/Mount Cook which is 3754 m. It was here that Sir Edmund Hillary climbed before conquering Mt Everest
  • The main cities are Auckland, Wellington (which is also the capital), Hamilton and Tauranga in the North Island and Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson in the South Island. Most international visitors fly into Auckland or Christchurch
  • The longest river is the Waikato river, which runs through Hamilton. The longest navigable river is the Whanganui river which runs through Wanganui - it was the location of the film "River Queen"
  • The largest lake in New Zealand is Lake Taupo, in the central north island. It was formed after a massive volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago. Another large eruption in the second century (about 180 CE), was so huge that ash clouds were seen by the Romans and Chinese
  • New Zealand has active geothermal areas - you can walk through a city park in Rotorua and be surrounded by bubbling mud pools
  • Most New Zealand power is produced by hydroelectricity generated by dams on the Southern lakes of the South Island - a beautiful area to visit
  • The national symbols of New Zealand are the kiwi - a flightless bird with nocturnal habits - and the silver fern - often depicted as the koru (which is the unfurling fern frond)
  • New Zealanders who are also known as "kiwis" love sport and the outdoors - the most famous national teams are the All Blacks (rugby), the Black Caps (cricket) and the Silver Ferns (netball)
  • New Zealand is the home of extreme sports and there's plenty for the adrenaline junkie - Queenstown in the South Island was where bungy-jumping was born

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