New Zealand

Situated in the Southern hemisphere, about 2200 km East of Australia and 10,400 km south west of the United States, New Zealand comprises two large islands, the North Island and the South Island, and a great number of other smaller islands and groups of islands midway between the South Pole and the Equator.
It is a land of fascinating landscapes, ranging from forests covering high mountains as Mount Cook (3754 mt a.s.l.), lakes and rivers, still active volcanoes. Though rich of natural resources, New Zealand has also a highly technological economy.

In short

Area: 268,680 km² -- Population: under 4 million inhabitants -- Government: constitutional monarchy -- Capital: Wellington -- Language: English, Maori -- Religion: Protestant and other Christian denominations, many minority religious groups -- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD) -- Phone Area Code: +64 -- Car Plate: NZ -- Internet suffix: .nz -- Member of: the UNO since 1945, the Commonwealth -- Useful Links: Official website of the New Zealand Government.

New Zealand

Administrative division

New Zealand is divided into the following regions: Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Chatham Islands.

New Zealand is formally a constitutional monarchy with one House of Parliament, the House of Representatives, consisting of 120 members; the Head of State is the sovereign of the UK, represented by a Governor General.

The Climate

In the north it is sub-tropical while in the south it is temperate, characterized by very low temperature differences between summer and winter, thanks to the ocean that surrounds the islands on all sides, with rains mostly concentrated in the west. The country enjoys over 2000 hours of sunshine a year, which is a perfect condition for vineyard cultivation, cattle and sheep breeding and of course tourism.


The Maori, a name which in their language means "original people", the first inhabitants of New Zealand, settled here around the 8th century AD, though the massive arrival, known as the "Great Fleet", took place from Polynesia around 1350. When the Europeans first met the Maori, they believed this population to be still in the Stone Age, whereas the Maori culture was already highly developed in the use of natural resources and adaptation to the environment. They handcrafted with mastery stone and bone, made their clothes from animal skins, feathers and plants. James Cook described the natives as a fierce and proud people, divided into tribes frequently at war with one another, who enslaved or ate their prisoners.

Among the Maori typical customs is the world-famous "Haka", an ancient tribal dance performed usually before battles, with typical face grimaces that aimed at frightening the enemy. the dance is nowadays performed by the New Zealand national sports teams, as the celebrated All Blacks rugby team, before important matches, and is a classic example of the fusion of the Maori and Pakeha cultures in the unique New Zealander spirit.

The Population

The country has a very low population density and a tradition which merges the English and Scottish heritage with the local Maori culture. However, the majority of the inhabitants are of European stock, called Pakeha (the Maori name for the Europeans), followed by the Maori, whose ancestors settled centuries ago in the North Island coming from other Pacific islands, and a growing percentage of immigrants from southern Asia, mainly Indians and Chinese.

Cities and places of interest

  • Aukland, with over 1 million inhabitants including the Greater Auckland, therefore the home of one fourth of all New Zealenders, is the main city and commercial centre. The urban area extents for over 50 km, almost as London or Paris, thouth with a low population density, since Aucklanders like their houses to have a large garden and barbecue area, and wide green parks interrupt the urbanised districts. Auckland has the nickname of "City of Sails" since there are more boats per person than in any other city in the world. The city landscape is characterised by the Gulf of Hauraki and on the horizon the profile of the volcano of the Rangitoto island, whose last eruption took place only 600 years ago.
  • Rotorua, a town situated along the southern banks of Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region, a spa paradise already known and used by the Maori for cooking and bathing, is nowadays among the main tourist destinations, a favourite choice for whoever would like to join a healthy holiday with a first-hand insight into the Maori culture, their dances and songs, the traditional houses and fortresses, and their beautiful craft production.
  • Wellington, the capital of the country and the second largest city, is situated on the Cook Strait, a 26 km channel separating the North from the South Island.
  • Christchurch, the main city in the South Island, is nicknamed as the "most British town out of Britain". Founded by Anglican settlers, it became soon a flourishing agricultural centre, and still today is strongly characterised by a typically British urban and countryside architecture; it is also known as the "Gateway to Antarctica" since other countries use its airport to support their Antarctic bases.
  • Dunedin, founded by Scottish settlers who gave it the Gaelic name of Edinburgh, is an elegant city with rich 19th-century palaces, and the most ancient university in New Zealand.
  • Queenstown, the world capital of the native bungee (or bungy) jumping sport, is built around a bay on the long, thin Lake Wakatipu, in an area of spectacular mountain landscapes; it is a popular destination for adventure and ski tourism.
  • And last but not least there is the whole West Coast, a fascinating region, with large still almost uncontaminated areas of rain forests, lakes, glaciers and snow-capped Alpine summits. It was the Maori native land, where they picked the greenstone (jade) used for jewels and ornaments.

How to arrive

New Zealand has three international airports: Mangere 22 km from Auckland (website: www.auckland-airport.co.nz), Rongotai 8 km from Wellington (website: www.wellington-airport.co.nz), in the sothern part of the North Island and at Christchurch in the South Island (website: www.christchurch-airport.co.nz).

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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  • New Zealand sub-antarctic islands (Snares Islands, Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands and Campbell Islands);
  • Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand (Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, Westland/Tai Poutini National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park);
  • Tongariro National Park