What are the key facts about New Zealand?

You too can do this New Zealand bungee jump (photo by Andrew Currie - CC-BY)

You too can do this New Zealand bungee jump (photo by Andrew Currie - CC-BY, flag by butterstick - PD)

New Zealand lies in the Pacific Ocean to the south-east of Australia, remote from any other country. It comprises two large islands (“North Island” and “South Island”), plus the smaller Stewart Island, several minor islands, and a claim to Ross Dependency in Antarctica. The South Island is sometimes referred to jokingly as the Mainland.

New Zealand’s national anthem is God Defend New Zealand, a status it shares with God Save the Queen.

How big is New Zealand?

New Zealand has an area of 268,680 square kilometers (103738 square miles), including 659 square kilometers of enclosed water. This includes minor islands but excludes the Antarctic claim. New Zealand is about ten percent bigger than the United Kingdom.

What is the population of New Zealand?

In July 2009 the population of New Zealand was estimated at 4,213,418 – and growing at 0.935% per year. 20.7% of those are under 15, and 12.8% are over 65. The median age is 37.4 years. There are around 1.01 females for every male.

What is New Zealand’s climate?

Most of New Zealand has a temperate climate. It’s sometimes said that the North Island has a sub-tropical climate but that’s wishful thinking if you ask me. Auckland is warm and dry from January through April, and drizzly and cool-to-cold the rest of the time. Wellington is warm in summer, cold in winter, and always windy. The south-west of the south island is very wet, yet the north-east of the south island is the sunniest part of New Zealand. There are alpine areas on both islands.

What currency is used in New Zealand?

New Zealand uses a dollar of one hundred cents. Prior to decimalisation (in 1967) it used a pound of twenty shillings, each of twelve pence.

What is the political structure of New Zealand?

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy with one house (the “House of Representatives”). Most of the members of the House represent single-member constituencies, but in addition a sizeable minority are elected from party lists. There are also Maori seats. Anyone who identifies as a Maori may register to vote for those seats instead of the other seats.

The Queen is hereditary chief of state, and is represented by a Governor General whom she appoints. The Prime Minister heads the government and nominates members of parliament as his cabinet ministers. Coalition governments are an entrenched part of the political landscape.

What are the major cities of New Zealand?

  • The largest city is Auckland, towards the north of the North Island
  • The capital is Wellington, near the south of the North Island
  • Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island

What powers the New Zealand economy?

7% of the labor force work in agriculture, producing wheat, barley, potatoes, pulses, fruit and vegetables, lamb, beef, fish, dairy products and wool.

19% of the labor force work in industry: food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, banking and insurance, tourism and mining.

74% of the labor force work in services.

What does New Zealand export and import?

New Zealand exports dairy products, meat, wood and wood products, fish and machinery—primarily to Australia, the United States, Japan, China and the United Kingdom.

New Zealand imports machinery and equipment, vehicles and aircraft, petroleum, electronics, textiles and plastics—primarily from Australia, China, the US, Japan, Singapore and Germany.

What sports and recreations are popular in New Zealand?

New Zealanders are passionate about sport, with rugby union being the unofficial national sport. Other popular sports include cricket, netball, tennis, golf, swimming, squash, yachting, horse racing and cycling.

Outdoor recreation includes camping, “tramping” i.e. wilderness hiking, kayaking, rafting, mountaineering, snow skiing, swimming, fishing and just about any kind of boating.

New Zealand is also known for extreme sports: bungee jumping, zorbing, base jumping and blackwater rafting.

What are the tourism and travel highlights of New Zealand?

Auckland and the Bay of Islands to its north are havens for water sports. Further south, Rotorua is packed with Maori culture and is thermally active so there are hot pools, bubbling mudpools and geysers. Queenstown on the South Island is the place to go for extreme sports, and Dunedin to the south shows off its Scottish heritage.

There are great skifields around Queenstown, and also around Mt Ruapehu in the centre of the North Island, where there is also some tremendous walking available over and around the volcanoes, some of which are active.


CIA World Factbook (2009)

Wikipedia – New Zealand (2009)

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