New Zealand: Quick Facts

New Zealand lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,600 km (990 miles) to the south east of Australia, stretching between latitudes 34º and 47º. It has two main islands, North Island and South Island, and several smaller islands. Sitting on top of the junction of two tectonic plates, the lands are rich in volcanic activity. Down the length of the country runs a spine of mountain ranges, its highest being Aoraki Mt Cook at 3,764 m (12,349 ft) in the South Island’s Southern Alps. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island. Its biggest city is Auckland, home to over a quarter of New Zealand’s population.

Twelve hours ahead of GMT, New Zealand is the first country in the world to see the dawn of each new day. Its seasons are opposite to that of the Northern Hemisphere, with summer between December and March, and winter from June to September. New Zealand’s climate ranges from subtropical in the north to temperate in the south. In some regions, the summers are hot and dry and the winters cold and snowy. Its maritime environment, however, makes its weather very changeable.

The population of New Zealand has just 4 million, predominantly made up of New Zealanders of European descent. The indigenous Maori account for approximately 14% of the population. The country has two official languages, English and Maori, with English being predominant. Visitors to New Zealand will however notice a large number of Maori place names which can present a challenge to those not familiar with their pronunciations.

New Zealand is a monarchy with a democratic government, based on the United Kingdom’s Westminster System. Its constitution includes the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of New Zealand signed by Maori Chiefs and the British Government in 1840. The current prime minister is John Keys, leader of the National Party.

Provided by the Motel Association of New Zealand