Haere Mai – a Maori welcome to you from New Zealand.
So let’s introduce the natural world of New Zealand - a fabulous natural place to explore by the most ardent outdoor pursuit or the easy casual drive through fantastic vistas. New Zealand lies about 6500 miles south of San Francisco and about 1200 miles southeast of Sydney, Australia. The country consists of the North, South, Stewart, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Bounty Islands, Campbell Island, Chatham Islands, and Kermadec Islands.
Origins of the New Zealand Landscape –
550 million years in the creation of New Zealand. The country of New Zealand was the result of upheaval and collision along two of the earth’s major tectonic plates – the Pacific and the Indian-Australia plate. It is a part o f a mass of continental crust. The area that is down the middle of the South Island where the Southern Alps have been thrust up is known as the Alpine Fault. In the south-west the Indian-Australian plate s being dragged along under the Pacific plate. Rocks from Fiordland have slid over 500kms north to as far as Nelson. In the north-east the Pacific plate is being drawn under the Indian-Australian plate. Deep down in the crust under the country the rock material melts and in areas of New Zealand this rises to the surface. The Taupo volcanic zone from Mt Ruepehu to White Island is a good example. New Zealand is a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The distribution of fossil plants and animals and detailed comparisons of rock show the country of New Zealand was once a part of the massive continent of Godwanaland that was made up Australia, Antarctica, India, Africa and South America. New Zealand is very young. New Zealand parted ways around 70 million years ago.
The scenery of Fiordland is the most dramatic where granite upheavals have been carved by natural forces such as glaciers and the remaining steep fiords have been drowned by the rising sea. The flat agricultural plains of Canterbury were created by intense glacial erosion and the extreme frost of the ice age.
When the first Polynesian settlers came to New Zealand around 1000 years ago there was no other human population and the only land mammals were small bats. There were a number of birds such as the giant flightless Moa. There still is a population the Tuatara a direct descendent of dinosaurs.
For a thousand years the early Polynesian settlers with the use of uncontrolled fire for clearing decimated the majority of the lowland forest. They completely destroyed the Moa population and seemingly many others. They also introduced the rat.
The arrival of Europeans took a heavy total on the environment with the introduction of pigs, goats and fowl by Capt James Cook. Near extinction of seals and whales can be attributed to the over hunting.
The arrival in the first part of the 19th century of early settlers brought a host of animals they required to hunt and fish for. With no natural predator and abundant natural food supply they exploded in numbers then the predators were introduced for their control.
The two main islands, North Island and South Island, extend about 1600kms/1000 miles along a diagonal fault line. The impressive alpine mountain chain of the Southern Alps extends 650kms/400miles along the western side of South Island from the Marlborough Sounds in the far north of the island clear through to the fiords in the far south. Its highest peak is Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki in the Maori language, at 12,349 ft (3,764 m). It is a land mostly shaped by volcanic action in the north and glaciers in the south. This natural world of lakes, streams and mountains dominates life in New Zealand and what draws visitors from all over the world.
The size of the country is only 268,680 square kilometres (104,000 sq miles approx – about the size of Colorado) but the scenery found in very short distances to one another represents almost every type of landscape found in the world. It is but a short distance (68miles) to the sea anywhere you are with a coastline of 15,134kms (9,404 miles) more than the entire USA. Don’t take it for granted you can drive around and see the entire country in a few days. The extreme least you would want to do is two weeks but 4-6 weeks is more like it.
The South Island is of breath-taking beauty with vista after vista of nature’s best from snow capped peaks to black beech forests plus the magical rain forests of the South Island West Coast. Great portions of much of this untamed land are uninhabited. There are over twenty mountains that reach over 3000metres (9843 feet) with many mountains rising, it seems, directly from the sea.
The landscape is dotted with volcanos some still active. There are bubbling mud pools and geysers of steam. The many shorelines range from vast amounts of golden sand with others of grey volcanic sand or scenic rocky shorelines with crashing sea. The vegetation of New Zealand is striking with giant tree ferns that appear primeval like having stepped into Jurassic Park or in other areas high country desert. Vast forests of native black beech with some remaining giants of the forest, the Kauri. Most is called bush that is formed with heavy underbrush.
Much of the flora and fauna is unique and found in no other land. The New Zealand hardwood forests are left over from before the ice ages. 84% of New Zealand’s flowering plants are found nowhere else.
Remember seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere very important when you plan your visit. I will describe more in detail further along on the best times to visit.
Here is a quick overview -
Location - New Zealand is southeast of Australia between latitudes 34 degrees south and 47 degrees south.
Area. New Zealand is 1600 kilometres north to south with an area of 268,680 sq km. It comprises two major islands: the North Island (115,000 sq km) and the South Island (151,000 sq km), separated by Cook Strait and a number of small islands. One third of New Zealand is protected park land and reserves.
Climate - New Zealand is a maritime climate meaning it has its weather governed by the surrounding sea. The weather conditions around New Zealand can cause real climatic volatility. I will add more later.
The South Island receives the brunt of the Antarctic chill making it great for winter activities plus the rains are here as noted by the rain forests but what magic waterfalls!
Major cities - Auckland and Wellington in the North Island are the largest cities with Christchurch and Dunedin in the South Island. Wellington is the nation’s capital. Queenstown in the South Island is known as the Adventure Capital of the World.
Population - New Zealand has a population of around 4.36 million, of whom 10 per cent are Maori. (check this before printing) An influx of people from the Polynesian Islands and also many from Asia are diversifying the overall population. Every person you will meet in New Zealand is either an immigrant or a descendant of one.
Official languages: English, Maori. 80% of the population lives in cities.
Government - New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of England as head of state. The New Zealand Parliament is a unicameral body without an Upper House It is divided into 12 regions and 74 districts, both of which have elected councils, as well as several community boards and special-purpose bodies. It is considered an independent part of the Commonwealth of Nations. It has no formal written constitution and was formally declared a dominion in 1907.
Political conditions - Political parties: Labour, National, Progressive Party, New Zealand Green Party, New Zealand First, ACT, United Future New Zealand, Maori Party, and several smaller parties not represented in parliament.
The traditionally conservative National Party and left-leaning Labour Party have dominated New Zealand political life since a Labour government came to power in 1935. The 2008 general election on November 8 was comfortably won by the John Key-led National Party. Voting at 18.
Travel Requirements - You need a valid passport to visit New Zealand but may not need a visa. Check the section I have provided more information in.
Money - The monetary unit is the New Zealand dollar equal to 100 New Zealand cents. Currently the New Zealand dollar has a lower value than the US dollar but hovers around 70-74 US cents but note that the exchange rate fluctuates.
European exploration - Dutch explorer Abel van Tasman in 1642 sailed up the west coast of what he named Nieuw Zeeland, after the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands.
Cook's voyages - The number one explorer was without a doubt Captain James Cook. He sailed around New Zealand on three separate voyages, the first in 1769. Captain Cook named many of New Zealand places.
First inhabitants - New Zealand's first inhabitants 1000 years before Europeans are known as the Moa Hunters. Arriving around 800 AD were the Moriori.. The Chatham Islands still have the remaining people with Moriori blood lines. Whatever there was no indigenous population prior to the arrival of Polynesians from islands to the north.
First settlers - From around the world came the first settlers who were sealers and whalers then the usual missionaries followed. In the early 19th century an influx of early pioneers began coming in numbers with greater numbers arriving when gold was discovered in the Coromandel in 1852 by whalers. The real gold rush began in 1861 when Gabriel Read discovered gold in the Otago region.
Treaty of Waitangi - This treaty signed in 1840 ceded sovereignty over New Zealand to the Queen of England with the English colonists and the Maori chiefs signing. British heritage joins with Maori culture in this land of scenic wonders.
There is a constant battle with Maori asking for redress over land and rights claimed taken by incoming settlers.
Culture - Cultural activities and café society are as good as anywhere in the world. Outside of venues that top entertainers in the world come to play. We also have our own world class musicians, singers, writers and painters and available in small venues easily accessed by the public.
Trade and investment - New Zealand's top six trading partners (total trade) as of November 2009 included Australia, the United States, the People's Republic of China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Korea.
New Zealand welcomes and encourages foreign investment without discrimination. The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) must give consent to foreign investments that would control 25% or more of businesses or property worth more than NZ $100 million. Restrictions and approval requirements also apply to certain investments in land and in the commercial fishing industry. Foreign buyers of land can be required to report periodically on their compliance with the terms of the government's consent to their purchase. The American Chamber of Commerce is active in New Zealand, with its main office in Auckland.
Other interesting information for the traveller –
Some important concepts:
New Zealand gave women the right to vote in 1893, a quarter century before Britain or the US.
It was the first sovereign state with free public health and minimum wage.
New Zealand has been declared a nuclear free zone
In 2004 same sex couples were given the right to marry
Ranked the 2nd least corrupt country in the world.
Doesn’t have pollution, congestion, health issues and cramped city living as in so many places
People are not judged on their gender or how they sound or what colour they are, how they vote, or where – or if – they go to church.
76% of New Zealanders (known as Kiwis) live on the North Island with 32% living in the Auckland region.
15% of New Zealand's energy comes from renewable sources
There are no snakes in New Zealand
Sheep farming and dairy farms are the major farming activities
Tourism ranks right up there for economic returns and eco-tourism is high on the agenda
Major oil reserves off the coast with wells mostly off the Taranaki coast
The sport of rugby is king in New Zealand
Fabulous sailors having won the America’s Cup and always on top in any sailing world regattas
New Zealand is one of the world's main exporters of wool, cheese, butter and meat and a large producer of kiwi fruit, apples and grapes.
Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
International disputes: territorial claim in Antarctica (Ross Dependency)
Natural resources: natural gas, iron ore, sand, coal, timber, hydropower, gold, limestone
Environmental current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; native flora and fauna hard-hit by species introduced from outside.
Internet savvy - As of March 2008 New Zealand had 1,506,000 Internet subscribers, amounting to approximately 65% of New Zealand households, ranking above Australia, the U.K., and the U.S.
Who visits New Zealand?
Overseas visitor arrivals numbered 2.5 million in the year ended June 2009. This was a 2.5% decrease from the June 2008 year. The largest sources of visitors to New Zealand in the year ended June 2009 were Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, and Japan.
New Zealand Embassy (USA) - New Zealand maintains an embassy in the United States at 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-328-4800, fax 202-667-5227). A consulate general is located in Los Angeles (tel. 310-207-1605, fax 310-207-3605). Tourism information is available through the New Zealand Tourism Board office in Santa Monica, California (toll-free tel. 800-388-5494)
All in all it is a fabulous lifestyle in one of the most beautiful places in the world. (my personal opinion) So that should provide a good basis to begin on understanding a little bit about the country of New Zealand. I just wanted to touch base and not get too carried away as the most important to you is what does it all mean to you and your visit here. What you can see and experience. That is the pure essence of this book, your enjoyment while here, so let’s get started…