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 km.

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.

Map of New Zealand


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 Christianity.

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 amended.

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 constellation.

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 government.

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 Germany.

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 disputes.

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 Zeeland.

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 slaughter.

Treaty of Waitangi signed. Maoris cede sovereignty to Britain, obtain guarantees of land ownership and "rights and privileges of British subjects."

"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 freight.

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 (1990)

How it was expected to be spent (1990)

Income Tax
Gost and Service Tax
Other Direct Taxes
Excise Duties
Highway tax
Other Indirect Tax


Development of Industry
Government Borrowing
Foreign Relations
Social Services