New Zealand Facts – All You Need To Know

This post is a list of New Zealand facts. I tried to collect as many facts about New Zealand as possible. Sometimes the data from different sources show differences, in many cases I used the data from the Statistics New Zealand ( official website.
I also allocated these facts to different groups so that you can find the ones you are interested in more easily. Enjoy!

Basic and interesting facts about New Zealand

Basic facts about New Zealand

  • Total area: 269,652 sq km (104,113 sq mi)
  • Population (2018): 4.9 million
  • Population density: 18/sq km (46.6/sq mi)
  • Capital: Wellington (411,000 – 2018)
  • Largest city: Auckland (1,556,000 – 2018)
  • Official languages: English, Maori, NZ Sign Language
  • GDP (nominal, 2017): US$ 206 billion
  • GDP per capita (nominal, 2017): US$ 43,000
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar
  • Government: Constitutional Monarchy, democratically elected House of Representatives
  • Head of State: Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II

Geographical facts about New Zealand

New Zealand facts, geographical facts, Southern Alps
The highest peaks of the Southern Alps rise well above 3000 m (10,000 ft)
  • Climate: temperate maritime (with significant variations)
  • Area of the North Island: 114,154 sq km (44,075 sq mi)
  • Area of the South Island: 150,416 sq km (58,076 sq mi)
  • Land cover: pasture: 41% | native forest: 26% | exotic forest: 7% | cropping/horticulture: 2% | fruit/vegetable: 1% | Urban: 1% | Other: 22%
  • Highest peak: Mt Cook / Aoraki, 3724 m (12,218 ft)
  • Length of coastline: approx. 18,000 km (11,000 mi)
  • Highest peak of the North Island: Mt Ruapehu, 2797 m (9177 ft)
  • Largest lake: Lake Taupo, 616 sq km (238 sq mi)
  • Longest river: Waikato River, 425 km (264 mi) long
  • Number of nearshore islands (within 50 km of coast): over 600
  • Outlying islands: 9 island groups
  • Nearly half the area of New Zealand is covered by mountains
  • The Southern Alps is approx. 500 km (310 mi) long
  • The Southern Cross (Crux) constellation is shown on the flag of New Zealand. It is visible only south of latitude 25°N.
  • Mt Taranaki is a classic-shaped stratovolcano. It is 2518 m (8261 ft) high.
  • The green colour of the Emerald Lakes in the Tongariro region is due to minerals dissolved in the water.
New Zealand facts, geology
The water of the Emerald Lakes fill explosion craters
  • There are 23 named peaks in the Southern Alps over 3000 m.
  • No inland spot lies more than 120 km (75 mi) away from the sea.
  • There are approx. 3000 glaciers in the Southern Alps over an area of 1 hectare (2.5 acres).
  • The deepest cave of the southern hemisphere is Nettlebed Cave, which goes down 1200 m (3930 ft) below the surface.
  • The Canterbury Plains have been formed by rivers during the last 3 million years.
  • Australia lies 2000 km (1250 mi), Antarctica lies 2500 km (1550 mi) away from New Zealand.
  • At Te Paki in the North Island, there are sand dunes exceeding 100 m (330 ft) in height.
  • Snow in Auckland is very rare, just a few snowfalls occur in an average lifetime.
  • The Bay of Islands comprises 144 islands.
  • There are approx. 3800 lakes in New Zealand.
  • Lakes occupy 1.3% of the land area.
  • Deepest lake: Lake Hauroko, 463 m (1519 ft) deep
  • There are more than 1500 waterfalls in New Zealand.
  • Highest waterfall: Sutherland Falls, 580 m (1904 ft)
  • Most areas have an average annual rainfall of 600–1600 mm (24–64 in).
  • The driest region is Central Otago with 300-400 mm (12-16 in) of rain yearly.
  • The wettest area is near Hokitika on the West Coast where with approx. 11,000 mm (430 in) of annual rainfall (the highest recorded was over 18,000 mm / 700 in).
  • The Huka Falls near Lake Taupo has a volume of 220,000 litres per second.

Geological facts about New Zealand

New Zealand facts, geological facts, Mount Ngauruhoe
Mount Ngauruhoe is an active stratovolcano, last erupted in 1977
  • Zealandia, the continental fragment on which New Zealand now sits, broke away from Gondwanaland about 85 million years ago.
  • The total area of Zealandia is 3.5 million sq km (1.4 million sq mi)
  • 93% of Zealandia is still submerged
  • Lake Taupo, a caldera lake, was formed approx. 26,000 years ago after a gigantic volcanic eruption
  • Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, and Mt Ruapehu are situated next to each other and are all active volcanoes
  • The city of Auckland is built on top of some 50 volcanic cones
  • Mt Taranaki is a relatively young volcano, only 130,000 years old
  • Rangitoto Island, close to Auckland, is a young, 600-year-old dormant volcano
  • Frying Pan Lake, in the Rotorua area, is the largest thermal lake in the world
  • The city of Dunedin is built on the remains of a huge basaltic volcano
  • Hanmer Springs has the greatest thermal baths in the South Island
  • GNS Science records more than 15,000 earthquakes annually in New Zealand, about 100-150 of these can be felt
  • The largest earthquake in New Zealand (8.2 magnitude on the Richter Scale) took place in 1855 in Wellington
  • The Port Hills near Christchurch are eroded remnants of the once very large (1500 m / 5000 ft high) Lyttelton Volcano
  • The largest geyser in New Zealand is Pohutu Geyser, located in Rotorua.

New Zealand wild animals facts

New Zealand facts, animals facts
The kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, considered highly intelligent compared even to mammals
  • New Zealand has no snakes.
  • There are only two native land mammal species, both are bats.
  • Only four native frog species live in New Zealand.
  • The tallest bird on earth, the giant moa (3.6 m / 12 ft tall) lived in New Zealand.
  • Giant Weta, native to New Zealand, are the largest insects in the world (60-70 grams / 2.1-2.5 oz).
  • The endemic, flightless kakapo is the largest parrot species in the world.
  • There are five species of kiwi, a total population of 70,000.
  • The kiwi is the only bird that has nostrils at the end of its beak.
  • Kea, the only alpine parrot on earth, lives in the South Island.
  • Hector’s dolphin is the rarest dolphin in the world, native to New Zealand.

New Zealand plants facts

New Zealand facts, plants
Nikau palms grow in both the North Island and South Island
  • 80% of New Zealand’s flora is endemic.
  • New Zealand has the southernmost mangrove forests in the world.
  • The oldest giant kauri trees are estimated to be 2000-2500 years old.
  • New Zealand southern beech comprises five species.
  • Tree ferns can reach as high as 20 m (65 ft).
  • Southern beeches are evergreen trees.
  • Nikau palm, native to New Zealand, is the southernmost palm species on earth.

Historical facts about New Zealand

New Zealand facts, history
The Rotorua area has been inhabited by the Maori since the 14th century
  • The first people, from Polynesia, arrived in New Zealand in the 13th century.
  • Abel Tasman, as the first European, discovered New Zealand in 1642.
  • Tasman named the new land as “Nova Zeelandia”, after one of the regions in the Netherlands, i.e. Zeeland.
  • The Southern Alps was named by Captain James Cook in 1770.
  • Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound “The Eighth Wonder of the World” during his visit in 1891.
  • The first men on Mt Everest were Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand climber and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay. Hillary got his climbing experience mainly in the Southern Alps in the middle of the 20th century.
  • Maori burned approx. one-third of NZ forests within two centuries to grow their crops.
  • Europeans started settling down in New Zealand in the early 1800s.
  • The country’s first national park, Tongariro National Park, was established in 1894.

Economic facts about New Zealand

New Zealand facts, economy
Cattle in the city: farming is present even in Auckland
  • Main industries: food processing, textiles, machinery, and transportation equipment, finance, tourism
  • Labour force: agriculture: 7% | industry: 20% | services: 73% (2017)
  • Unemployment (2018): 3.9%
  • Number of businesses (2018): 535,000
  • Number of dairy cattle (2017): 6.5 million
  • Number of sheep (2016): 27.6 million

New Zealand people & culture facts

New Zealand facts, culture
The world’s first permanent commercial bungee jumping site: the Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown
  • North Island population: 3.8 million (77% of total population)
  • South Island population: 1.1 million (23% of total population)
  • Largest cities: Auckland (1.6 M, Wellington (0.42 M), Christchurch 0.40 M)
  • Ethnic groups (a number of people identified with two or more ethnicity): European (74%), Maori (15%), Asian (12%), Pacific peoples (7%), Middle Eastern / Latin American / African (1%)
  • Number of regions: 16
  • Most populated region: Auckland, 1.63 million residents
  • Least populated region: West Coast, 33,000 residents (2018)
  • Poor Knights Islands in Northland was rated among the top 10 diving spots in the world by Jacques Cousteau.
  • New Zealanders have been called “Kiwis” since World War I, when Australian soldiers started to call their New Zealand brothers-in-arms Kiwis.
  • Sweet potato is called ‘kumara’ in Maori.
  • Nearly one-third of New Zealand’s area is protected land.
  • Auckland is called the “City of Sails”: about every third household owns a boat.
  • Jogging, commercial bungee jumping, and the Blokart are all New Zealand “inventions”.
  • A number of famous movies, e.g. Vertical Limit, King Kong, The Lord of the Rings, were shot in New Zealand.
  • Kiwis love their own country: more than 4.5 million domestic trips are made each year.

Interesting facts about New Zealand

New Zealand facts, interesting facts
Lake Dunstan, in Central Otago, was created by man in 1993
  • The Maori name Aotearoa means “The land of the long white cloud” or “Long bright world”.
  • Wellington is the windiest capital in the world, about half of the year there are wind gusts of 60 km/h (37 mi/h) or faster.
  • The famous Ninety Mile Beach at the northern tip of the North Island is actually only 55 miles (88 km) long.
  • Lake Dunstan (26 sq km / 10 sq mi) is an artificial lake on the Clutha River, formed after the Clyde Dam had been completed in 1993.

Text and photographs © Daniel Kerek
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