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NEW ZEALAND  |  New Zealand Travel Guide
Saturday, September 21, 2019
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New Zealand

Destinations

From the sandy beaches of Northland to the snowy Southern Alps, New Zealand is a country of eye candy. When New Zealand was designed, it’s as if all the greatest places on earth were put together in one compact little land mass and most of the people were removed. Luckily for travelers, New Zealand is also a user-friendly kind of place, combining the laid-back attitudes of an island with the conveniences and life-style of the first world. New Zealanders, or Kiwis, are honest-to-goodness nice folks. It’s like living in a country full of labrador retrievers.

New Zealand is an outdoorsman's paradise, and the country is bursting with tracks, from local strolls in the park, to full-on mountaineering. The woods are called “the bush” and hiking is called “tramping.” Funny turns of phrase, but you’ll get used to the idea of tramping in the bush. You can’t go far without seeing water and many activities are sea- , river- or lake-based. One of the most amazing things about New Zealand is the proximity of places – you can be climbing on a glacier in the morning and hanging out at the beach in the afternoon. Also consider this: New Zealand has no snakes, no rabies, only one poisonous spider that’s so reclusive virtually no one ever sees it, and there is very little violent crime. Robust with bird and marine life, its only native mammal is a small bat.

However, one of the most striking aspects of New Zealand is that virtually in the middle of nowhere is an incredibly immense range of scenery all tucked into a very small space. New Zealand sits in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,900 km (1,200 miles) east of Australia and 10,000 km (6,210 miles) west of San Francisco. It lies between 34°S and 47°S and stretches for some 1,770 km (1,097 miles) in length from top to bottom (California is 770 miles long). The North and South islands are the two major landmasses, the North being 114,500 square km (44,655 square miles) in area, the South being 150,700 square km (58,773 square miles). Stewart Island, directly south of the South Island is the third largest, with a land mass of 1,750 square km (6,825 square miles).

New Zealand has long been celebrated for its clean, green image and, while a small island nation, it is rich in natural resources. It is a mountainous land – about 20% of the North Island and 65% of the South Island are mountains. The North Island, home to most of the population, has beaches, kauri forests, lakes, volcanoes and thermal areas. The South Island is punctuated by a more dramatic landscape including the mountains and glaciers of the Southern Alps, dense, lush bush and deep fjords. Approximately 50% of land is in meadows and pastures; 30% is forested and 15% is under permanent cultivation. Sheep and cattle grazing is virtually everywhere, but is most predominant around Hamilton and New Plymouth on the North Island and around Dunedin and Invercargill on the South Island. One of the unfortunate realities is that nearly all of New Zealand land has, at one time or another, been farmed. There is quite an effort to regenerate bush, but many stands of old-growth native trees have been lost.

Traditionally, New Zealand’s primary economy has been agricultural – and farming has centered around sheep and cattle. The meat industry is a big earner (80% of all meat produced is exported) and New Zealand is the world’s largest producer of crossbred wool. Dairy is the largest single industry (over 30% of agricultural production) and dairy giant Fonterra is the largest exporting company. While famous globally for sheep, numbers have dropped significantly over the last 20 years – from around 70 million in 1982 to 40 million now (though we still have 10 times as many sheep as people). The whole of agriculture (including fisheries) contributes 60% of New Zealand’s total export earnings and over half of all land is used for farming.

On a social level, the day-to-day culture of New Zealand is not so different from that of other primarily English-speaking countries. And its population mix is 75.8% of European descent, 13.8% Maori, 5.3% from the Pacific Islands, and 4.5% Asian.

And finally, New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy and the Head of State is Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of England. The government is a representative democracy, modeled after the British parliamentary system. There is a Prime Minister, a leader of the opposition, and a resident Governor-General who is the representative of the British monarch. The Prime Minister and the Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected by general election (voting age is 18) every three years. Parliament is New Zealand’s House of Representatives. The Prime Minister and Ministers of the Crown make up the Cabinet – Cabinet members are MPs.

 

Destinations in New Zealand (6)

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