Where New Zeland on the world map. Map of New Zeland
Map of New Zeland with cities. Where New Zeland is on the world map. The main geographical facts about New Zeland - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
New Zealand map
Fact File New Zealand
Official name New Zealand
Area 268,680 sq km (103,737 sq miles)
Time zone GMT+ 12 hours
Projected population 2015 4,141,000
Population density 14.7 per sq km (38 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 78.2
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 6.2
Official language English
Other language Maori
Literacy rate 99 %
Religions Anglican 17.5 %, Roman Catholic 13 %, Presbyterian 13%, other Christian 17%, other 2.5 9 unaffiliated 37%
Ethnic groups European 71.7%, Maori 14.5%, other (including Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islander, Asian) 13.8%
Currency New Zealand dollar
Economy Services 70%, industry 20%, agriculture 10%
GNP per capita US$19,500
Climate Temperate: warmer in north, colder in south and wetter in west
Highest point Mt Cook 3,764 m (12,349 ft)
Map reference Pages 132-33
Mountainous, partly volcanic, and situated approximately 1,600 km (1,000 miles) southeast of Australia, New Zealand is the biggest of the island groups that constitute Oceania. It consists of two main islands, which are separated by Cook Strait, as well as several smaller islands, and three small territories in the Pacific Ocean. The country's temperate climate has wide regional variations, the northern part of the North Island being subtropical while in the southern extremity of the South Island winter snow is common.
New Zealand has a liberal and progressive political history, pioneering votes for women in 1893, introducing a welfare state including a health service in 1938, and having a creditable record in ethnic relations.
The first people to arrive in the country were the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori around 750 to 1,000 years ago. In 1642 the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was probably the first European to sight the islands, and in 1769
Captain James Cook was the first to land on them. The period that followed was characterized by settlement by whalers and sealers, and by Maori tribal warfare using modern firearms. This conflict came to an end when the Maori chiefs ceded sovereignty to the British Crown in the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed on 6 February 1840. This day is still celebrated annually as the "Waitangi Day", New Zealand's national holiday.
After this date systematic and mostly peaceful colonization took place. By the 1860s, however, conflicts arose between settlers and Maori over land rights, especially in the North Island, eventually giving rise to outright war. When hostilities came to an end in 1872 the outcome in terms of landholding was decidedly in the settlers' favor. In recent years claims for compensation to Maori have become a major political issue. Aotearoa, which means "Land of the Long White Cloud", is the Maori name for New Zealand.
Geologically, New Zealand is a relatively young country. The Southern Alps in the South Island emerged from the sea in the course of the past 10 to 15 million years, while the volcanic action that shaped much of North Island occurred between 1 and 4 million years ago. The comparatively low ranges on North Island are formed from folded sedimentary rocks with higher volcanic peaks. Overlaying these rocks in the center of the North Island is a plateau of lava, pumice, and volcanic tuff. Minor earthquakes are common in New Zealand, and there are many areas of volcanic and geothermal activity on the North Island. Three volcanoes dominate the central plateau (Ruapehu being the most active of them) while Lake Taupo, the country's largest natural lake, occupies an ancient crater. In the South Island the Southern Alps form a northeast-southwest oriented ice-capped central massif with Mt Cook at its center. Glaciers descend the flanks of this massif and on the rainy western side forested slopes fall steeply to the sea. On the east, broad out-wash fans lead to the much drier, treeless lowlands of the Canterbury Plains. The rugged, forested coastline of the South Island's far southwest, deeply indented with fiords, comprises Fiordland, the country's largest national park.
Few landscapes have been as extensively transformed by humans as that of New Zealand. From 1850 to 1950 vast areas of forest in the North Island were cleared, leaving steep, bare hills which were sown with grass for grazing herds of sheep. Erosion is now a serious problem in many of these areas. Rich pastures produced by year-round rain made agriculture the original foundation of the economy. The export of frozen mutton to Britain began as early as 1881, and New Zealand is still one of the world's main exporters of wool, cheese, butter, and meat. While in earlier years these product were distributed primarily to Great Britain, today they are exported to Australia, the USA, Japan, and other parts of Asia. Since 1984 successive governments have sought to reorient the largely agrarian economy towards a more industrialized, open economy that is better positioned to compete globally. This was part of a wider attempt at economic reform which aimed to reduce the role of the state and increase that played by private enterprise.
New Zealand has only limited petroleum resources, though it does produce natural gas—almost a third of which is used to make synthetic petrol. There are large reserves of coal. The most important source of domestic energy is hydroelectric power, easily generated because of the favorable rainfall and terrain. This has allowed the development of aluminum production using imported bauxite. In recent years, new products have been developed for new international markets. One of these is kiwifruit, the main fresh fruit export in 1996; new varieties of high-quality apples are currently a leading export. A minor feature of the rural scene only twenty years ago, vineyards are now widespread, Marlborough, Hawke Bay, and Gisborne are some of the outstanding main wine-producing regions. Forest products play a vital economic role. Radiata pine, the main commercial timber, is grown in vast state pine forests. Cutting rights to parts of these areas have been sold and the industry as a whole widely privatized.
New Zealand's varied natural scenery, combining quiet harbors and sunlit beaches, with volcanoes, lakes, alpine snowfields and fiords, draws more than 1.5 million visitors per year. As a dollar-earner tourism is second only to primary industry.