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New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand 2

Landscape 2

Demography 4

Politics 4

History 6

Economy 8

Life in General 9

North Island 12

South Island 14

New Zealand

Where is New Zealand?

New Zealand is a country in Southwestern Oceania, southeast of Australia in

the South Pacific Ocean, with two large islands (North and South Island),

one smaller island (Stewart Island), and numerous much smaller islands. New

Zealand has a total land area of 268,670 sq km and a coastline of 15,134


Time Zones

New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) making it one of

the first places in the world to see the new day. Summer time (or Daylight

Saving Time) is an advance of one hour at 2am in the morning on the first

Sunday in October and back to NZST at 3am in the morning on the third

Sunday morning of March.



New Zealand is a long narrow country lying roughly North/South with

mountain ranges running much of its length. It is predominately mountainous

with some large coastal plains and is a little larger than Britain,

slightly smaller than Italy, and almost exactly the size of Colorado.

The only `geographical feature' New Zealand doesn't have is live coral

reef. New Zealand has all the rest: rainforest, desert, fiords, flooded

valleys, gorges, plains, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, geothermics,

swamps, lakes, braided rivers, peneplains, badlands, and our very own

continental plate junction... As a result of the latter, earthquakes are

common, though usually not severe.

The North Island has a number of large volcanoes (including the currently

active Mount Ruapehu) and highly active thermal areas, while the South

Island boasts the Southern Alps - a spine of magnificent mountains running

almost its entire length. Another notable feature of New Zealand is its

myriad rivers and lakes: notably the Whanganui River, Lake Taupo and the

breathtaking lakes Waikaremoana and Wanaka.

Flora and Fauna

New Zealand is believed to be a fragment of the ancient Southern continent

of Gondwanaland which became detached over 100 million years ago allowing

many ancient plants and animals to survive and evolve in isolation. As a

result, most of the New Zealand flora and fauna is indigenous/endemic.

About 10 to 15% of the total land area of New Zealand is native flora, the

bulk protected in national parks and reserves.

New Zealand has the worlds largest flightless parrot (kakapo), the only

truly alpine parrot (kea), the oldest reptile (tuatara), the biggest

earthworms, the largest weta, the smallest bats, some of the oldest trees,

and many of the rarest birds, insects, and plants in the world.... New

Zealand is home to the world famous Tuatara, a lizard-like reptile which

dates back to the dinosaurs and perhaps before (260 mill years?). The only

native land mammals are two rare species of bat. New Zealand's many endemic

birds include the flightless kiwi, takahe, kakapo and weka. Far too many

species of bird have become extinct since humans arrived on New Zealand

included the various species of Dinornis (moa) the largest of which stood

up to 2.5 metres high. There is also some unique insect life such as the

Giant Weta and glow worms. Other than two spiders, there is a lack of any

deadly poisonous things (snakes, spiders, etc.) which is why New Zealand

Agricultural Regulations are so strict.

Introduced species - pigs, goats, possums, dogs, cats, deer and the

ubiquitous sheep - are found throughout New Zealand but their proliferation

in the wild has had a deleterious effect on the environment: over 150

native plants - 10% of the total number of native species - and many native

birds are presently threatened with extinction.

New Zealand's offshore waters hold a variety of fish, including tuna,

marlin, snapper, trevally, kahawai and shark; while its marine mammals -

dolphins, seals and whales - attract nature-lovers from around the world.

There are 12 national, 20 forest, three maritime and two marine parks, plus

two World Heritage Areas: Tongariro National Park in the North Island and

Te Waihipouna-mu in the South Island.

One of the most noticeable plants is the pohutakawa (known as the New

Zealand Christmas tree) which detonates with brilliant red flowers around

December. The great kauri trees in the few remaining kauri forests in

Northland are very old with some believed to be up to 2000 years old. Much

of the South Island is still forested, particularly the West Coast.


Lying between 34S and 47S, New Zealand sits squarely in the `roaring

forties' latitude which means a prevailing and continual wind blows over

the country from east to west; this can range from a gentle breeze in

summer to a buffeting, roof-stripping gale in winter. The North Island and

South Island, because of their different geological features, have two

distinct patterns of rainfall: in the South Island, the Southern Alps act

as a barrier for the moisture-laden winds from the Tasman Sea, creating a

wet climate to the west of the mountains and a dry climate to the east;

while the North Island's rainfall is more evenly distributed without a

comparable geological feature such as the Alps.

The New Zealand climate is temperate with no real extremes. Temperatures

are a few degrees cooler in the South Island, and both islands receive snow

in winter. Being an island nation, the yearly range of temperatures is

quite small, around 10 degrees Celsius variation between winter and summer.

Winter falls in the months of June through August and summer from December

through to February.

It is important to remember that New Zealand's climate is maritime, rather

than continental, which means the weather can change with amazing rapidity

and consequence. New Zealand enjoys long hours of sunshine throughout the

year making it an ideal year round destination. In winter the South Island

mountain and central North Island do have heavy snowfalls providing great

skiing. The busy tourist season falls in the warmer months between November

and April, though ski resorts, such as Queenstown, are full during winter.


Total population is about 3.7 million. Over 70% of the population are in

the North Island. The largest centre is Auckland (over 1 million), and the

capital Wellington.

The official languages are English and Maori. English is more widely

spoken, though the Maori language, for so long on the decline, is now

making a comeback due to the revival of Maoritanga. A mellifluous, poetic

language, the Maori language is surprisingly easy to pronounce if spoken

phonetically and each word split into separate syllables. Pacific Island

and Asian languages may be heard in cities.


The dominant cultural groups are the Pakeha and the Maori. Other smaller

groups include Yugoslavian Dalmatians, Polynesians, Indians and Chinese. A

common thread that binds the entire population is its love of sport -

especially the national game of rugby union - and outdoor pursuits such as

sailing, swimming, cycling, hiking and camping. The secular aside,

Christianity is the most common religion, with Anglicanism, Presbyterianism

and Catholicism the largest denominations. An interesting religious

variation is the synthesis of the Maori Ratana and Ringatu faiths with


New Zealand art is multifarious, valuing innovation, integrity and

craftsmanship that reflects Pakeha, Maori and Melanesian heritage. Wood,

stone, shell and bone carvings are readily available while larger works

such as tukutuku (wood panelling) can be seen in most maraes (meeting

houses). Paua shell, greenstone, greywacke and greenwacke pebbles are often

fashioned into jewellery that takes its inspiration from the landscape:

earrings shaped like the leaves of a gingko tree; sunglasses modelled on

native fern tendrils; and necklaces in frangipani-flower designs. There is

a lively theatre scene in the country, especially in Wellington, and a

number of galleries, including the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, which is the

oldest viewing room in New Zealand and one of its best. The music scene is

vigorous and fecund, spawning a pool of talent - from Split Enz and Crowded

House to the thrashing guitar pyrotechnics of Dunedin's 3D's and

Straitjacket Fits - lauded locally and overseas.



New Zealand shares with Britain and Israel the distinction of being one of

the three developed countries that does not have a codified Constitution on

the U.S. model. When the country was annexed by Britain in 1840, the

British parliament enacted that all applicable law of England as at 1840

became the law of New Zealand. In 1856, the New Zealand parliament was

given the power to enact its own law and nothing changed when full

independence was achieved (26-9-1907) except that the British parliament

lost its overriding authority. We have, thus, never had the problem that

Australia and Canada have had of "repatriating" a constitution that was

really an Act of the British parliament.

Our constitution, like the British, consists of parliament's own

conventions and rules of conduct, some legislation such as the New Zealand

Constitution Act (1986, not enacted), and fundamental rules applied by the

Courts which go back into English history. It evolves rather than is


The flag of New Zealand is blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-

side quadrant with four red five-pointed stars edged in white centered in

the outer half of the flag; the stars represent the Southern Cross


The National Anthem of New Zealand is "God Defend New Zealand".

Form of Government

Constitutional monarchy, with a single-chamber parliament.

The monarch is said to "reign but not rule": except for a residual power to

actually govern in the event of some complete breakdown of the

parliamentary system, the monarch has merely ceremonial duties and advisory

powers. When the monarch is absent from the country, which is most of the

time, those duties and powers are delegated to the Governor-General who is

appointed by the monarch for a limited term after approval by the


Parliament is the consitutional "sovereign" - there is no theoretical limit

on what it can validly do, and the validity of the laws which it enacts

cannot be challenged in the courts (although the courts do have and use

wide-ranging powers to control administrative acts of the government). A

new parliament is elected every three years (universal suffrage at age 18).

The leader of the party which commands majority support in parliament is

appointed prime minister and he or she nominates the other Ministers of the

Crown. The ministers (and sometimes the whole majority party in parliament)

are collectively called "the government". Our system almost entirely lacks

formal checks and balances - the majority party can virtually legislate as

it likes subject only to its desire to be re-elected every three years.

Until now, members of parliament have been elected on a single-member

constituency, winner takes all, system similar to those of Britain and the

U.S.A. As a result of referenda conducted in 1993, future parliaments will

be elected on a mixed-member proportional system modelled on that of


The administration is highly centralised. The country is divided into

"districts" (the urban ones called "cities") each with a District (or City)

Council and Mayor, but their powers are limited to providing public

facilities (not housing) and enforcement of by-laws (local regulations)

such as parking regulations. The Police are a single force controlled by

the central government.

The Justice System

There is a four-level hearings and appeals system:

Top level Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (London)


Court of Appeal (Wellington)


High Court (in all cities)


Bottom level District Courts (most towns)

There is also the Small Claims Court which handles smaller personal


Civil and criminal cases start in the District or High Court, depending on

their seriousness and appeals go up the chain. Certain rare cases can start

in the Court of Appeal. District and High Court judges sit alone or with

juries. The Court of Appeal (and on certain rare occasions the High Court)

consists of three or five judges sitting "en banc". The Judicial Committee

of the Privy Council consists mainly of British Law Lords with New Zealand

judges also sitting in New Zealand cases; in theory its decisions merely

"opinions" for the benefit of the monarch as the fount of all justice, but

in practice its rulings have the force of ultimate appeal.

All judges are appointed by the government - High Court judges are

nominated by the Law Society, but District Court judges apply for the job

like any other. Various special-purpose courts (Industrial Court, Maori

Land Court, Family Court, etc.) exist and have the same status as either a

District Court or the High Court.


The Polynesian navigator Kupe has been credited with the discovery of New

Zealand in 950 AD. He named it Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud).

Centuries later, around 1350 AD, a great migration of people from Kupe's

homeland of Hawaiki followed his navigational instructions and sailed to

New Zealand, eventually supplanting or mixing with previous residents.

Their culture, developed over centuries without any discernible outside

influence, was hierarchical and often sanguinary.

In 1642, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman briefly sailed along the west coast

of New Zealand; any thoughts of a longer stay were thwarted when his

attempt to land resulted in several of his crew being killed and eaten. In

1769, Captain James Cook circumnavigated the two main islands aboard the

Endeavour. Initial contact with the Maoris also proved violent but Cook,

impressed with the Maoris' bravery and spirit and recognising the potential

of this newfound land, grabbed it for the British crown before setting sail

for Australia.

When the British began their antipodean colonising, New Zealand was

originally seen as an offshoot of Australian enterprise in whaling and

sealing: in fact, from 1839 to 1841 the country was under the jurisdiction

of New South Wales. However, increased European settlement soon proved

problematic: a policy was urgently required regarding land deals between

the settlers (Pakeha) and the Maori. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was

signed, with the Maori ceding sovereignty of their country to Britain in

exchange for protection and guaranteed possession of their lands. But

relations between the Maori and Pakeha soon soured (the Maoris became

increasingly alarmed at the effect the Pakeha had on their society while

the Pakeha rode roughshod over Maori rights outlined in the treaty). In

1860, war broke out between them, continuing for much of the decade before

the Maori were defeated.

By the late 19th century, things had temporarily calmed down. The discovery

of gold had engendered much prosperity, and wide-scale sheep farming meant

New Zealand became an efficient and mostly self-reliant country. Sweeping

social changes - women's suffrage, social security, the encouragement of

trade unions and the introduction of child care services - cemented New

Zealand's reputation as a country committed to egalitarian reform.

New Zealand was given dominion status in the British Empire in 1907 and

granted autonomy by Britain in 1931; independence, however, was not

formally proclaimed until 1947. The economy continued to prosper until the

worldwide recession in the 1980s, when unemployment rose dramatically.

Today the economy has stabilised, thanks largely to an export-driven

recovery. Internationally, New Zealand was hailed during the mid-1980s for

its anti-nuclear stance - even though it meant a falling-out with the USA -

and its opposition to French nuclear testing in the Pacific (which France

countered, to much opprobrium but little penalty, by blowing up the

Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior as it sat in Auckland Harbour).

The Maori population is now increasing faster than the Pakeha and a

resurgence in Maoritanga (Maori culture) has had a major and lasting impact

on New Zealand society. Culturally, the most heartening aspect had been the

mending of relations between the Maori and Pakeha (in 1985, the Treaty of

Waitangi was overhauled, leading to financial reparations to a number of

Maori tribes whose land had been unjustly confiscated). However, a recent

clumsy take-it-or-leave-it attempt by the New Zealand government to offer

financial reparations has resulted in an upsurge of militant Maori

protests. Maoris have disrupted events, occupied land claim areas, set up

roadblocks and threatened to blow-up the New Zealand parliament. The

disharmony has shocked New Zealanders and placed national conciliation at

the top of the political agenda.

26,000,000 B.C.

Southern alps rise above the ocean.

700 A.D.

Possible early settlement on the South Island by an archaic Maori

population originating in Polynesia.


Date of discovery of New Zealand by Polynesian navigator Kupe according to

Maori legend. Islands named Aotearoa, "Land of the Long White Cloud".


Settlement of the North Island.

13 and 14C

"Great Migration" from the Society Islands. Dwindling moa population.

Warrior society established.


Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovers west coast of the South Island. Dutch

name the country "Nieuw Zeeland" after the Dutch island province of



Captain James Cook circumnavigates and charts both islands, taking

possession of "New Zealand" for Britain.


First European settlement (in the Bay of Islands).


Intertribal wars abate due to introduction of musket and wholesale



Treaty of Waitangi signed. Maoris cede sovereignty to Britain, obtain

guarantees of land ownership and "rights and privileges of British



"Wool period" with importation of sheep from Australia. Also a period of

war and conflict over land ownership.


Refrigerated ships introduced. Farmers turn to meat and dairy production.


New Zealand becomes the first country in the world to give women the vote.


Independence from UK.


One of every three men between 20 and 40 killed or wounded fighting for

Britain in World War I.


New Zealand sends troops to fight for the Allies in Europe.


Threatened by Japan, defended by United States Navy (eventually led to

ANZUS pact in 1951, a defensive alliance with the U.S. and Australia).


New Zealand becomes independent by adopting Statue of Westminster.


Britain joins European Economic Community and adopts their trade barriers

to New Zealand's agricultural products. Combined with high oil prices, this

was enough to devastate the economy.


Robert Muldoon's National Party expands welfare state and government

interventionism, running huge budget deficits financed with overseas money.

High inflation and unemployment cause massive emigration to Australia.


Treaty of Waitangui Act passed to settle Maori land claimson the basis of

original treaty.


New Labour government eliminates agricultural subsidies and wage and price

controls, lowers tax rates, begins a radical program of privatization.


The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior from Greenpeace in Auckland by French

secret service agents. One man was killed (Fernando Pereira).


Since 1984 the government has been reorienting an agrarian economy

dependent on a guaranteed British market to an open free market economy

that can compete on the global scene. The government had hoped that dynamic

growth would boost real incomes, reduce inflationary pressures, and permit

the expansion of welfare benefits. The results have been mixed: inflation

is down from double-digit levels, but growth has been sluggish and

unemployment, always a highly sensitive issue, has exceeded 10% since May

1991. In 1988, GDP fell by 1%, in 1989 grew by a moderate 2.4%, and was

flat in 1990-91. Current (1994) growth is around 2-4% and rising.

The economy is based on agriculture (particularly dairy products, meat, and

wool (68 m sheep, 2 m dairy cows)), food processing, wood and paper

products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, banking and

insurance, tourism, mining. Fish catch reached a record 0.5 m tonnes in

1988. Highly dependent on external trade, New Zealand is currently trying

to move from being a primary to a secondary producer.


Decimal system based on New Zealand dollar, with cent denominations. Coins

are 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, 1 and 2 dollars. Notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, and

100 dollars. Major credit cards are accepted widely.


Same as overseas.

Interest Rates

Fluctuating between 6 and 8% depending on overseas markets.


New Zealand operates a Goods and Services Tax of 12.5 per cent on ALL goods

and services sold and this is usually included in the display price. The

exceptions are purchases at duty free shops. Visitors cannot claim refunds

on this tax however when a supplier agrees to export a major item to a

visitors home address then GST will not be charged on the goods or the


Income tax 24% on first $30,874/year, 33% for every $ above this. There are

various rebates for things like low incomes, children, donations,

Housekeeper, Home/Farm/Vessel Ownbership, and others.

|Government Revenue Source|How it was expected to be |

|(1990) |spent (1990) |

|Income Tax |$16,95|Education |$3,912.|

|Gost and Service |0 |Health |5 |

|Tax |$5,500|Transport |$3,791.|

|Other Direct | |Administration |1 |

|Taxes |$360 |Development of |$711.6 |

|Excise Duties |$1,670|Industry |$2,769.|

|Highway tax | |Government |0 |

|Other Indirect |$670 |Borrowing |$1,231.|

|Tax |$790 |Foreign Relations |3 |

| | |Social Services |$575.1 |

| | | |$1,733.|

| | | |7 |

| | | |$10,292|

| | | |.1 |

|Total |$25,94|Total |$25,016|

| |0 | |.4 |

Life in General

Business Hours

Banks 9:00am to 4:30pm - can vary slightly. Otherwise, Monday to Friday

9:00am to 5:30pm. Late night for shopping is either Thursday or Friday.

Changes to the Shop Trading Hours Act means that most shops are open for

longer hours than this. Almost all are open Saturday morning, many are open

on Sunday with some shops and markets remaining open later during the week.

Automatic teller machines are widely available including a system in many

supermarkets and petrol stations called EFTPOS where you can buy goods with

your card and a PIN number and/or obtain cash. All international credit

cards are accepted in New Zealand. Travellers cheques can be changed in

banks, hotels, stores, etc.

There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency which may be

brought into or taken from New Zealand. Funds may be in the form of bank

notes, coins, travellers cheques or any other instrument of payment.

Visitors may convert surplus New Zealand currency at any outlet authorised

to deal in foreign exchange.


Some of the noteworthy cultural events include: Summer City Programme

(January to February; Wellington) which is a series of festivals around the

city; Marlborough Food & Wine Festival (2nd week in February; Blenheim);

International Festival of the Arts (February, even-numbered years only;

Wellington), an entire month of national and international culture; Golden

Shears Sheep-Shearing Contest (March; Masterton), a must for lovers of

sheep, scat and sweat; and Canterbury Show Week (November; Christchurch)

which has agricultural exhibits, rides and local entertainment.


Tipping is not unheard of in New Zealand. Employed people don't depend on

tips for their income and service charges are not [usually] added to hotel

and restaurant bills. Tip for service if you think it's deserved.

Getting There & Away

The overwhelming majority of visitors arrive by air. There are three

airports that handle international flights: Auckland (the major exit/entry

point), Wellington and Christchurch. Departure tax on international flights

is NZ$20. A few cruise ships visit New Zealand, but there are no regular

passenger ship services and working your way across the Pacific as crew on

a yacht now seems a thing of the past.

Getting Around

Although New Zealand is a compact country and generally easy to get around,

it makes good sense to fly - especially for the views over the mountains or

volcanoes. A variety of discounts also makes flying economical. New Zealand

has two major domestic airlines: Air New Zealand and Ansett New Zealand.

Several smaller airlines - Mt Cook Airline, Eagle Air and Air Nelson - are

partly owned by Air New Zealand and have been grouped together as `Air New

Zealand Link'. This network provides thorough coverage of the country.

New Zealand also has an extensive bus network, with the main operator being

InterCity (servicing both the North Island and South Island). The two other

major bus operators are Newmans (North Island) and Mt Cook Landline (South

Island). Services on main bus routes are frequent (at least once a day);

unfortunately they can be expensive and slow. A good alternative is to use

shuttle bus companies which are smaller, cheaper and friendlier than the

large bus companies. Some of them are designed to cater especially for

foreign travellers and/or backpackers and have lots of little `extras' that

make them particularly attractive; other companies, perhaps drawing on the

experiences of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, can take you around New

Zealand on `alternative' buses which are often an unhurried way of seeing

the country.

Main train routes are few, though train travel is reasonably quick. Trains

are modern and comfortable, and the fares are sometimes cheaper than those

by bus on the same routes.

Car travel (New Zealanders drive on the left) is recommended as the roads

are good and well signposted and the distances short. Rentals of cars,

motorcycles and campervans are popular with a range of special deals


There are plenty of boat services, including the Interislander ferry

(operating between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South


And finally, there's always cycling around the country. Many travellers

describe New Zealand as a cyclists' paradise: it's clean, green, uncrowded

and unspoiled, and there are plenty of places where you can camp or find

cheap accommodation. Bicycle rental can be daily, weekly or monthly and is



While it may be `safe' compared to most other countries, serious crime does

exist here and visitors should take sensible precautions. Always lock your

vehicle, and don't leave it in isolated locations for extended periods.

Avoid leaving valuables visible in the car. Avoid areas/situations which

appear unwholesome. The emergency phone number (police, ambulance, fire) is

111, and ask the operator for the service required (this can be used from

payphones without paying).


New Zealand operates a no-fault accident compensation scheme which covers

residents and visitors. Personal injury through accident entitles the

injured party to compensation for reasonable expenses related to the

accident. Due to abuse, this has been reworked recently and compensation is

far harder to obtain.

Water Supply

New Zealand cities and towns have good public water. Water is safe to drink

out of the tap. The water in Christchurch *is* totally untreated and is

supposed to be the purist domestic water supply in the world...

In bush walking areas giardia has been found so its advisable to check

before drinking from rivers or streams. Boiling water for five minutes or

more is advised where advice is not available.


Telephone Country Code = 64

The Telephone is similar to British Telecom style. Uses BT 600 plug (not RJ-

11) Phone line is pins 2 and 5 of the BT 600 plug (RJ-11 is pins 3 & 4).

Hotels will have difficulty in converting plugs styles but conversion

cables are available from retailers.

Most New Zealand telephone systems can handle DTMF tone dialling. BEWARE:

New Zealand pulse dialing is the reverse of most countries. The digit are

reversed and so produce different numbers of pulses. The conversion is:

digit | # of Pulses


0 | 10

1 | 9

2 | 8


8 | 2

9 | 1

The best solution is to use tone dialing.


The normal electricity supply is 230 volts 50 hertz alternating current


3 pin appliance socket from a viewpoint looking at the wall or a plug seen

from the inside as one would while wiring it up.

phase ----- / \ ---- neutral

(or live)

| --------- earth

If the wires you have are brown, blue, and green [yellow or white striped],

then; brown = phase, blue = neutral, green = earth. The old code is red,

black, green respectively. If you have ANY doubts, please consult a

qualified electrician.

Most hotels will have shaver plugs suitable for all international appliance

of low power rating, and which will supply 110 and 230 volts. These plugs

may be for shavers only.

TV Information

New Zealand runs on PAL G on UHF. This gives the same picture and sound

spacing (5.5MHz), but the channel spacing is slightly wider - the same as

that used for 6MHz intercarrier spacing. Standard 50 hertz field rate, 25

hertz frame rate. We also use NICAM for stereo tv, rather than one of the

various analogue systems.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the locally-vertical component of the field is

in the opposite direction to where it would be an equivalent distance north

of the equator. This affects the colour convergence of video monitors. It's

not a *huge* difference, and it took computer companies until the late

1980s' to wake up to the difference and ship different monitor versions to

New Zealand, South America, and Australia. Northern hemisphere monitors

*work* but the colours won't be as crisp as you'd expect.

North Island

In ancient Maori mythology, the North Island is Te Ika a Maui (the Fish of

Maui). According to the story, Maui was fishing with his brothers when he

hooked the North Island from the ocean. His ravenous brothers, ignoring

orders not to touch the fish, began gnawing at its flesh, causing the fish

to writhe and thresh about - this frenzy of movement is the reason behind

the island's undulant and mountainous landscape.

There are snow-fringed mountains in the Tongariro National Park,

exclamatory geysers and bubbling mud pools in Rotorua and a profusion of

rivers, lakes and streams. But the North Island is more than rips and

fissures: it has its share of rolling pastures, forest-clad hills and

stretches of long, sandy beaches. It also has New Zealand's two largest

cities - Auckland to the north and the country's capital, Wellington, to

the south - which are focal points for arts and entertainment, historic

buildings, great dining and a variety of accommodation.


The largest city in New Zealand, Auckland, is almost enclosed by water and

covered in volcanic hills. Auckland has a spectacular harbour and bridge

(and a fanatical number of yachting enthusiasts) which has earned it the

sobriquet 'City of Sails'. A magnet for the people of the South Pacific

islands, Auckland now has the largest concentration of Polynesians in the

world. Highlights include the Auckland Museum, which houses a memorable

display of Maori artefacts and culture, and Kelly Tarlton's Underwater

World & Antarctic Encounter, a unique simulacrum of ocean and exploration


There is great shopping in the suburbs of Parnell and Newmarket, well-

preserved Victorian buildings in Devonport, Polynesian handicrafts, cafes,

restaurants and markets in Ponsonby, panoramic views of the city from the

extinct volcano One Tree Hill, and good swimming beaches including

Kohimarama and Mission Bay.

The Hauraki Gulf off Auckland is dotted with islands such as Rangitoto,

Great Barrier and Waiheke, which have affordable accommodation, a number of

walks and diving possibilities and, in the case of Waiheke Island,

excellent art galleries. Auckland is also a good starting-point for

visiting the amazingly scenic Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains

regions to the south-east.


Northland is the cradle of both Maori and Pakeha culture: it was here that

the Pakeha first made contact with the Maori, the first whaling settlements

were established and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Often referred to

as the 'winterless north' because of its mild year-round temperatures,

Northland has a number of interesting museums (Otamatea Kauri & Pioneer

Museum), glorious, blonde beaches (Ninety Mile Beach) and diving spots

(Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, reckoned by Jacques Cousteau to be

among the top 10 diving sites in the world), historic towns (Pahia and

Waitangi), game fishing (Bay of Islands) and flora and fauna reserves

(Waipoua Kauri Forest).

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island at the mouth of the Hauraki Gulf has acres of long,

white sandy beaches on its eastern shore, deep-water sheltered inlets on

its western shore, and a rugged spine of steep ridges running down the

centre. The 80,000 hectare preserve has a number of walking tracks which

combine old logging trails and tramways. Natural hot springs, towering

kauri forests and a serene aura make it a perfect escape. Flights and

ferries operate from Auckland, 88 km south.

Bay of Plenty

The Bay of Plenty, given its name by Captain Cook in 1769 because of the

number of thriving Maori settlements, has a consistently mild climate year-

round, good beaches and is the home of the kiwi fruit - a fuzzy, brown,

sweet-tasting fruit and a major source of export revenue for the region.

The city of Tauranga offers activities such as jet-skiing, water-skiing,

windsurfing, parasailing, diving, surfing, fishing and harbour cruises.

Across the inlet from Tauranga is Mt Maunganui, a popular holiday resort

with beaches and saltwater pools. Rotorua, one of the most visited cities

in New Zealand, is famous for its kinetic thermal activity (Whakarewarewa

is the best known site and the location of Pohutu, an active geyser that

gushes forth every hour), a large and influential Maori population, trout

springs and wildlife parks.

East Cape

The East Cape, as opposed to the Bay of Plenty, is little visited, but its

isolation belies an area endowed with native forest, wild coasts and

picturesque bays, inlets and coves. During the summer, the coastline turns

vermilion with the explosion of flowers from the pohutukawa trees lining

the shores.

Cape Runaway

A succession of picturesque bays leads to Whangaparaoa (Cape Runaway), at

the very tip of the East Cape. The beaches are deeply shelved and littered

with driftwood, and the old Anglican church, nestled under Norfolk pines on

a lone promontory, should not be missed. Cape Runaway can only be reached

by foot and it's advisable to seek permission before going on private land.

Central North Island

Hamilton, New Zealand's largest inland city, is surrounded by some of the

world's richest dairy farming and agricultural regions. It is a city of

museums, zoos and parks, and offers river cruises on the Waikato River, the

country's longest (425 km). Further south is the region of King Country,

once the stronghold of powerful Maori chiefs. The town of Waitomo is famous

for its limestone caves and subterranean black-water rafting (a wetsuit,

caver's helmet, inner tube and abundant courage are all that's required)

while Te Kuiti, named after the belligerent Maori leader Te Kooti, is

recognised as 'the shearing capital of the world'. Even further south is

Taumaranui, which makes a good base for kayaking, rafting and jet-boating

on the Whanganui River.

The west coast region of Taranaki is dominated by Mt Taranaki (also

officially known as Mt Egmont), a dormant volcano rising 2518 metres. Other

highlights in Taranaki include the Egmont National Park and the region's

world-class surfing and windsurfing beaches. New Zealand's largest lake,

and the geographical centre of the North Island, is Lake Taupo. Dotted

around its shores are towns with cheap accommodation and great dining

possibilities (trout is a speciality). Nearby are the spectacular Tongariro

and Whanganui national parks; the former is renowned for its ski slopes

while the latter has several excellent walking tracks and recreational

water activities on the Whanganui River. East of the national parks is the

Art Deco city of Napier, with its splendid weather and beautiful beaches.


The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington, is situated on a splendid

harbour at the southern tip of the North Island. Often maligned by its

northern counterparts for its ill-tempered weather - the winds are often of

gale-force calibre in winter - Wellington is a lively city of culture and

arts (with festivals almost every month), and great ethnic restaurants and

cafes. It is also home to the country's government and national treasures.

Buildings of interest include: the modernist Beehive (the executive wing of

Parliament); the old Government Building (one of the largest all-wooden

buildings in the world); the National Library (housing the most

comprehensive collection of books in the country); and the Katherine

Mansfield Memorials (the property where the famous author was born in

1888). In addition, there are museums, a zoo and stunning views of the city

from atop Mt Victoria. Cuba Street has great shopping, Thorndon has

historic sites of interest, Lambton Quay is the primary business street and

Mt Victoria is the place to go for cheap accommodation and dining.

South Island

The South Island crams in glaciers, fiords, turbulent rivers, trout

streams, rainforests, mossy beech forests, palmy beaches and a number of

mountains that top 3000 metres - a repertoire to inspire even the most

sluggish arms, legs and lungs. It's an island where you can fish, paddle,

pedal, raft, hike and walk in some of the most gorgeous scenery on earth.

Most journeys begin in postcard-perfect Picton, where the ferry from the

North Island arrives, or Christchurch, a city under the delusion that it is

somewhere in southern England. From either of these points, you can make

your way to any number of attractions: the labyrinth of tributaries known

as the Marlborough Sounds; nearby Nelson, a city famous for its wines and

succulent seafood; Mount Cook National Park, where New Zealand's tallest

peaks are found; Queenstown, nestled beneath the saw-toothed peaks of The

Remarkables; and, further south, the reserves of podocarp forests and fauna

found in the Catlins. The people, much like the weather and topography, are

robust. The roads are excellent for a self-drive holiday.

Marlborough Sounds

The convoluted waterways of the Marlborough Sounds, formed when the sea

invaded a series of river valleys after the ice ages, are home to bays,

islands and coves. Separated by forested knuckles of land that rise from

the sea, the Sounds are an exhilarating place with activities such as sea

kayaking and white-water rafting and interesting wildlife that includes sea

gannets, tuatara lizards (relics from the dinosaur age), even carnivorous

snails! There are also great walks, including the Queen Charlotte Walkway

(a 58-km track among lush forest) and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track in the

Abel Tasman National Park (220 sq km of beaches, sea coves, forest and

granite gorges).

Wine, good food and a climate conducive to year-round activity are features

of the towns of Nelson, Picton and Blenheim. The crayfish from Kaikoura are

superb but it is a town famous for much larger fry - sperm whales.

Whalewatch and dolphin swimming tours are manifold and inexpensive.

West Coast

Wild, craggy and desolate, the West Coast is an area buffeted by heavy seas

and drenching rain. Keri Hulme, the Booker Prize winner, calls the region

home, drawing inspiration from its 'bleak and ascetical' landscape.

Understandably, those who live here - commonly known as `Coasters' - occupy

a unique place in the national folklore. Activities include canoeing and

riding the rapids down Moeraki River, fishing for brown trout in the lakes,

watching penguins and fur seals lazing on the greenstone beaches, and

squelching through forests (which are much to the liking of the rapacious

ringtail possum).


Harihari, a small town on the West Coast, made world headlines in 1931,

when Guy Menzies completed the first solo flight across the Tasman Sea from

Australia. The journey was hassle-free but the landing proved a disaster:

the aircraft overturned in a swamp, and Menzies, on undoing his safety

straps, fell - much to the delight of the cheering locals - head first into

the mud. The town is now known as a base for coastal walks, birdwatching

and trout and salmon fishing.

Westland National Park

The Westland National Park has over 60 glaciers, with the most accessible

being the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier: you can almost hear the

strangulated groans, tweaks and gurgles as they slowly advance down the

mountainside. The town of Greymouth is the western terminal for the

passenger train TranzAlpine Express, which winds its way over the Southern

Alps - through beech forests, glacial valleys and mountains - on to



The hub of the South Island, Canterbury is one of the driest and flattest

areas of New Zealand. The predominant feature of the region is the

capacious Canterbury Plains, situated between the coast and the mountain

foothills, which is devoted to farming and agriculture.

Paradoxically, Canterbury contains most of New Zealand's highest mountains

such as Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. The area's major city is Christchurch which

has genteel, sylvan suburbs, up-market eateries and cafes, and is home to

the Wizard, a Rabelaisian figure who dominates lunchtime discussion in

Cathedral Square. Gently steering its course through the city and suburbs

is the ankle-deep, willow-lined Avon River - perfect for punting.

To the east of Christchurch is the feral coastline of Banks Peninsula,

dominated by gnarled volcanic peaks; it is also the location of Lyttelton,

which has excellent arts and crafts stores. A good day trip from

Christchurch is to the Frenchified town of Akaroa which boasts the best

fish & chips in the country. West of Christchurch is the settlement of

Arthurs Pass, which is a great base for tackling walks, climbs and skiing

in Arthurs Pass National Park. To the south lie the picturesque towns of

Geraldine and Fairlie, the high, tussock-grass plateau known as the

Mackenzie Country and the World Heritage Area that is Mt Cook National

Park. The imperious Mt Cook (3755 metres) is the highest peak in

Australasia, and offers plenty of walks and unlimited scope for tramping,

rock climbing, lung-cleansing and sightseeing.

Copland Pass

The gruelling four-day Copland Pass trek in the Mt Cook National Park is a

once-in-a-lifetime adventure that can only be completed in good weather by

well-prepared, experienced teams or with professional guides. The terrain

varies from glaciers and snowfields to rainforest and thermal pools. The

pass is 2150 metres high and is surrounded by dramatic 3000-metre peaks.

This is no stroll and should only be attempted by professional masochists

experienced in the use of ice axes, crampons and alpine route-finding.

Apparently the sense of achievement in crossing the pass entitles you to

enter an elite club of euphoric high-achievers.


Queenstown, set in a glacial valley on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, is a town

synonymous with hairy adventures: parasailing; schussing down icy rapids in

jet boats; white-water rafting; and bungy jumping off Skippers Canyon

Bridge - the latest and most terrifying stunt is plunging 300 metres from a


Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park, which takes its name from its glacier-carved

coast, is a wilderness of mountains, ice and beech forests. The scenic

climax of Fiordland is undoubtedly Milford Sound where cruise ships bob toy-

like beneath the shadows of towering mountains and waterfalls. There are

classic alpine walks, including the Routeburn Track (in Mt Aspiring

National Park), the Hollyford Valley and the Milford Track (billed as the

'finest in the world').

Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula is a significant wildlife area with woodland gardens,

albatross, penguin and seal colonies, plus aquariums, museums and historic

sites. Dunedin, a student city on the peninsula, is a hub for arts and

entertainment, and is famous for producing an eclectic pool of

internationally successful rock bands. Scottish to its core, the city has a

rich architectural heritage with many museums, galleries and castles.


There are a series of huge lakes in the area, including Hawea and nearby

Wanaka in Otago, and Lake Te Anau in Southland. Te Anau, gouged out by a

huge glacier, is New Zealand's second largest lake and features caves full

of glow worms, and waterfalls and whirlpools. The Catlins, the largest

remaining area of native forest on the east coast of the South Island, is

between Invercargill and Dunedin. It has reserves of rarefied plants and

trees, plus fauna such as fur seals, sea lions, penguins and ducks.

Stewart Island

New Zealand's third largest island, Stewart Island is an ornithologist's

delight: tuis, parakeets, kakas, bellbirds, fernbirds and robins abound.

The kiwi, rare in both the North and South Island, is common over much of

the island, particularly around beaches. A good network of walking tracks

and huts exist in the northern part of the island but the south is

forgettable, being undeveloped and isolated. The people (a paltry 450 in

all) are hardy, taciturn and suspicious of mainlanders, the weather is

changeable and the accommodation is basic; there are, however, excellent-

value homestays on the island.


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