Introduction to New Zealand
New Zealand is an island nation made up of 2 main landmasses – North Island and South Island – and many other smaller islands. The country is situated 1,500 km east of Australia and located within the GMT +12 time zone, making it half a day ahead of the UK at all times. The primary language spoken in New Zealand is English, although Maori is also an official language. Around 75% of the population have European heritage while 15% have a Maori background.
New Zealand is governed by a democratically elected Prime Minister, although the country remains part of the Commonwealth and officially ruled by Queen Elizabeth II. The population is a relatively small 4.5 million with only 170,000 of those living in the capital city Wellington. Auckland and Christchurch both have much larger populations at 370,000 and 340,000 respectively.
New Zealand has more than 15,000 km of coastline due its island make up. The northern beaches are very beautiful and sandy; they attract a lot of swimmers and sunbathers, whereas the southern beaches can be more dangerous and wild. The Southern island has a large mountain range known as the ‘Southern Alps’, with 66% of the island considered mountainous terrain. Erosion of the mountains in recent years has led to a new outcrop of rich and fertile land, brining about a rise in farming and agriculture in New Zealand – this has become a large part of the country’s economy.
New Zealanders are often known as ‘Kiwis’ after the flightless bird which is the national symbol of New Zealand. Many other unique bird species live on the islands due to New Zealand’s long-term isolation from any continental land mass. Since the arrival of humans and introduced mammals (non-indigenous mammals arriving by human activity) many of these rare birds have become extinct, but the country still retains an extensive variety of unique flora and fauna to compliment the beautiful volcanic landscape.