New Zealand comprises two main islands – the North Island and South Island. More than 90 per cent of New Zealand’s population lives on the North Island, which is also home to the country’s capital city, Wellington.
As a country with no land borders situated in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s landscape has an extraordinary amount of natural beauty. Its landscape, which features towering mountains, long and winding rivers, open plains, amazing coastlines and vast stretches of farmland, makes it the perfect backdrop for lifestyle and leisure activities.
Population and cities
New Zealand is home to nearly 4.7 million people, and is predominately made up of two cultural groups – the Māori, who are descendants of Polynesian settlers, and people of European ancestry. More than 53 per cent of its population lives in the four largest cities – Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch (North Island) and Hamilton (South Island).
The country’s history is largely influenced by Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures – making it a multicultural community.
New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere, making the seasons opposite to those living in the Northern Hemisphere.
The weather seasons in New Zealand are:
- Summer (December to February)
- Autumn (March to May)
- Winter (June to August)
- Spring (September to November)
While the country’s climate is generally mild, with moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine, it is influenced by two main geographical features: the mountains and the sea.
In the warmer months, you’ll find the average daytime temperature is around 16 – 25˚C, while in the colder periods the average daytime temperature is between 12 – 21˚C. It’s important to note, the average temperature decreases as you travel south, with inland alpine areas of the South Island experiencing temperatures as cold as -10˚C in the winter months.
Remember, it’s a good idea to wear a coat or warm sweater as the weather can change dramatically and quickly in New Zealand.
Politics and government
New Zealand is part of the British Commonwealth – a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The head of state is the British sovereign and the Governor General represents the Queen in New Zealand.
The country operates under a system of ‘responsible government’ – a system in which government Ministers must first be elected as members of the House of Representatives. The government can only remain in power while it has a majority of members in the House of Representatives.
Every three years, New Zealand hosts a general election in which the public votes.
Ethnicity and religion
New Zealand is a multicultural country with the five largest ethnic groups being New Zealand European, Māori, Chinese, Samoan and Indian. As a multicultural society, its people are very welcoming and friendly towards visitors from other ethnicities, making it easy to make friends, build relationships and assimilate into society.
As well as its ethnic diversity, the country is also home to many different religions. Although Christianity is the predominant religion in New Zealand, many also follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, as well as Ringatū and Rātana.
The Māori people were the first inhabitants of New Zealand and their culture is still at the core of the nation’s identity. The Māori people – otherwise known as ‘Tangata whenua’ (people of the land) are recognised by New Zealand law due to their strong connection and traditional relationship with the land.
Since the 1850s, the Māori population has experienced strong growth and their presence, history and culture has become increasingly recognisable in everyday life in New Zealand.
Language and accents
As a former British colony, English is the main language of New Zealand and is spoken by 98 per cent of the population. Māori, is also an official language and is spoken by the indigenous Māori people.
New Zealanders, or ‘kiwis’ as they are also known, have their own unique form of slang language, so you’ll soon become familiar with words like ‘brekkie’ (breakfast), ‘cheers’ (thanks) and ‘g’day’ (hello).