Located in the Southern hemisphere, New Zealand is one of the easternmost islands in the world. Even if Japan is called the Land of the Rising Sun, New Zealand is actually the second place where you can observe the first glimpse of the sunrise, next to Suva in Fiji. In the new millennium, the sun first shone on the peak of Mount Hakepa, located on the Pitt Island, one of the islands in the group comprising Chatham Islands in New Zealand.
New Zealand is one of the greenest and cleanest countries in the world, where its indigenous people, the Maoris, are recognized and celebrated. The Maoris call New Zealand Aotearoa, which roughly translates to “land of the long white cloud.” Despite being small in land size, New Zealand makes up for it with its breathtaking landscape, its extreme temperatures and at times, very comfortable climate. Traveling to New Zealand can be very exciting and extremely fascinating, where you can enjoy fantastic local festivals, experience the wonderful Maori culture, sample great food and wine and delight in outlandish outdoor experiences you may not find in other travel destinations in the world. Travel to Middle Earth and explore it like Frodo and his buddies Merry, Pippin and Sam – of the Lord of the Rings trilogy fame, all shot in the one of the lands down under, New Zealand.
:: Background of New Zealand ::
New Zealand, one of the youngest countries in the world, being the last to be discovered by the Europeans due to its distance, is also considered one of the most beautiful. It remains basically unspoiled, with breathtaking sceneries and wild countryside that bore witness to numerous battles between the different Maori tribes and well as battles with European explorers and conquerors.
In this Country Profile
The first explorer to see the land now known as New Zealand was Abel Tasman but the two islands, the South Island and the North Island were discovered by the Dutch in 1642 and gave it the name Nieuw Zeeland in reference to a Dutch province with the same name. However the indigenous Maoris have already inhabited the islands around 1000 and 1300 AD but some artifacts discovered suggest that the natives were there earlier than recorded. The Maoris are seafarers, and they gave the islands the name Aotearoa or the Land of the Long White Cloud. They were skilled hunters, farmers and fishermen. They have the tradition of throwing the first fish they caught, a tradition that is still practiced today, back to the sea to thank the sea god for a bountiful catch. They also hunted the Moa, the largest bird in the world to near extinction. Aside from fishing and hunting, they also survived by eating potatoes and vegetables. The Maoris were very fierce people, fighting with wooden clubs of different sizes and there were records of foes being eaten by them during the numerous battles they were engaged in. They look fiercer because of their facial and body markings, called ta moko, seen on men and women as a symbol of high social status.. These markings are different because they are carved with chisels called “uhi” rather than punctured with needles.
A century passed before Captain James Cook, a British explorer arrived in New Zealand around the 18th century. Captain Cook circumnavigated the two islands and made maps of the region after he was able to befriend a local tribesman. Despite their battles with the Maoris they were able to persist and established settlements on the island and trade between the Maoris and the British was started. Goods were exchanged, including muskets, traded for pigs and fruits. The availability of the muskets led to more fighting between the tribes, which led to the Musket Wars, a very bloody period in the history of New Zealand.
After several in-fighting, the British were able to unite the tribes through the Treaty of Waitangi created in 1840 through William Hobson, who succeeded in persuading the Maori chief to accept annexation of the land to Britain and the Maoris became British subjects, with a guarantee that they will still have possession of their land. Auckland was named the capital of New Zealand. In 1865, Wellington replaced Auckland as the capital of New Zealand.
The Europeans introduced sheep and later cattle to the region and the industry flourished. But livestock was not all that the Europeans introduced to New Zealand. They also introduced diseases that nearly decimated the number of Maoris in the country. From about a population of 100,000 Maoris living in New Zealand when Captain Cook first arrived on the island, their number dwindled to about 42,000 in 1896. Their numbers lessened not only because of their non-resistance to introduced diseases but also because they fought for Britain during WWI.
Gold was discovered around 1860 and the white population of New Zealand swelled. The country’s economy enjoyed a boom and reforms were introduced, such as compulsory education for all children and old-age pension. All men were allowed to vote in 1877 and in 1893 New Zealand also became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote in national elections.
Wool, meat, dairy became staple exports for New Zealand, which stabilized its economy for many years and still continue to do so to this day. However, tourism to this land of striking contrasts and pristine beauty is also making a contribution to the wealth of island nation today.
:: Geography of New Zealand ::
Majority of the land area in New Zealand is rugged that is why almost 90% of the country’s population lives in cities like Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Napier-Hastings in the North Island and Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson in the South Island. Wellington, the capital of New Zealand is the southernmost national capital in the world, located on the North Island and situated in latitude 41° 17’ south and longitude 174° 47’ east. Wellington is also called Windy Wellington, being the only capital in the world located in the region where the “Roaring Forties,” the strong westerly winds displaced from the Equator and moving to the South Pole, combined with the earth’s rotation cause wind to blow from west to east at a much faster speed because there is very little land below to break the air currents.
New Zealand is located in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. It is about 1,500 kilometers away from its closest neighbor in the east, Australia and about 1,000 kilometers south of Fiji, Tonga and New Caledonia. Its geographic coordinates are 41° 00’ south and 174° 00’ east.
The total land mass area of New Zealand including the other islands is 268,680 square kilometers. New Zealand comprise of several groups of islands, including Auckland Islands, Chatham Islands, Bounty Islands, Campbell Islands, Kermadec Islands and Antipodes Islands. Collectively the total land area of New Zealand gives it a size that is just about the size of Colorado in the United States.
New Zealand does not have any land boundaries being a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean but it does have quite a long coastline that measures 15,134 kilometers in length.
The territorial sea claim of New Zealand extends for 12 nautical miles, with a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles. Its exclusive economic zone reaches up to 200 nautical miles with a continental shelf of 200 nautical miles or to the edge of the islands’ continental margin.
The climate in New Zealand is very complex. It ranges from cool temperate climate in the far south section of the country while the climate is warm subtropical in the northern parts. Mountain ranges divide the country that is why climate and temperatures in New Zealand are vastly different. The mountain ranges act as barriers for the westerly winds, rendering the western coast of the South island into the wettest region of the country while the areas located east of the mountain ranges are the driest. In the north the mean annual temperature ranges from 50°F to 60.8°F. Seasons are different in the Southern Hemisphere therefore the highest temperatures can be experienced during January and February while July can be the coldest month. While the temperatures vary slightly between summer and winter, it can be warmer inland to about 57.2 °F. It is also normal for temperatures to drop to about 33°F for every altitude change of about 100 meters.
Much of New Zealand is steep hill country, due to the mountain range along its length. There are also large coastal plains along the western side of South Island.
The highest point in New Zealand is Aoraki//Mount Cook, located at the South Island on the Southern Alps that ran along its length. The Aoraki/Mount Cook mountain rises to a height of 3,754 meters. Long before the English explorers saw Mount Cook, the Maoris had been calling it Aoraki, which roughly translates to Cloud Piercer. It was renamed Mount Cook, given in 1851 by Captain John Lort Stokes in honor of Captain James Cook, who, in 1770 became the first person to survey and circumnavigate New Zealand, even if he did not see the mountain. It was officially renamed Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1998 to incorporate its Maori name. While Aoraki/Mount Cook is the highest point in New Zealand, its lowest point is the Pacific Ocean at zero meters.
New Zealand is very rich in natural resources that contribute greatly to the island nation’s economic stability. Gold, coal and natural gas are dominant resources. Timber, hydropower, iron ore, sand and limestone are also abundant and some are yet to be explored.
While plains are scarce in New Zealand due to its rugged and hilly terrain, the arable land, representing about 5.54% of the total land area is very fertile. Permanent crops are planted in 6.92% of the total land area while the major portion of the land or 87.54% is designated for other industrial and residential use.
New Zealand has one of the most active volcanoes in the world so volcanic activities are common. New Zealand also experiences earthquakes, which although common are usually not the severe. New Zealand has three types of volcanoes, cone, caldera and volcanic field. Volcanism occurs on the North Island because the Ruapehu Volcano is located there. It rises to a height of 2,797 meters and had last erupted in 2007. Ruapehu normally has large eruptions. Other active volcanoes are Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Mount Tarawera and White Island. Classified as dormant volcanoes are Taranaki, also called Mount Egmont and Rangitoto, although they can still be hazardous due to lahar flow and avalanches.
Current Environmental Issues
Timber is one of the natural resources of New Zealand but as demand grows, the country is facing problems on deforestation and the eventual soil erosion. The country’s native flora and fauna are slowly dwindling, as invasive species introduced or inadvertently brought into the country affected their native habitat, food source and existence.
International Environmental Agreements
New Zealand has entered into several international environmental agreements and had signed, although had not yet ratified the agreement on marine life conservation and the agreement regarding Antarctic seals. Other agreements it had entered into include tropical timber 83 and 84, wetlands, whaling, endangered species, biodiversity, Antarctic-environmental protocol, Antarctic-marine living resources, climate change, Antarctic treaty and climate change-Kyoto protocol. It also entered into agreements regarding desertification, hazardous wastes, environmental modification, ship pollution, marine dumping, ozone layer protection and law of the sea.
:: People of New Zealand ::
Citizens of New Zealand indicate their nationality as New Zealander (s) as a noun while New Zealand is used as an adjective. An indigenous native of New Zealand is usually called a Maori. Internationally, a New Zealander is more commonly called a Kiwi, derived from the national symbol of the country, the flightless kiwi bird. A resident of New Zealand who does not have a Maori bloodline is usually called a Pakeha.
According to the New Zealand Statistics office, the estimated number of resident population in the country is 4,403,000 as of March 31, 2011. The scheduled census for 2011 was postponed to 2013 due to the devastating effect of the earthquake that hit Christchurch on February 22, 2011.
Residents of New Zealand are quite young with 66.4% of the population belonging to the 15 to 64 age group, with 10,426,595 males and 1,420,643 females. Those belonging to the zero to age 14 group comprise 20.4% of the population, segregated into 448,106 males and 426,348 females. The older population, belonging to the 65 years and over age bracket comprise 13.3%, estimated to be 260,454 males and 308,201 females, showing that the females outlive the males in this age group.
Out of the total population, the median age is 37 years. When broken into males and females, the median age for males in 36.2 years while it is 37.8 years for females, based on 2011 estimates.
Population Growth Rate
Based on the estimates done in 2011, the population growth in New Zealand is placed at 0.880%. Net migration is quite high, with 2.28 migrants per 1,000 inhabitants as of 2011 estimates. Total fertility rate, as of 2011 estimates is 2.08 children born for every woman of child-bearing age in New Zealand.
Birth and Death Rates
It is estimated in 2011 that there are 13.68 births for every 1,000 inhabitants in New Zealand. The death rate on the other hand is 7.15 for every 1,000 members of the population.
Based on the total population, the average gender distribution slightly favors the males. It is estimated in 2011 that there is about 0.99 male for every female. In the 16 to 64 age group, the ratio is even, with one male for every female. At birth the ratio varies slightly with 1.048 males for every female and almost the same ratio continues for those under 15 years of age, with about 1.05 males for every female. The ratio goes down in the older age, as there is only 0.84 male for every female aged 65 years and over.
Infant Mortality Rate
Infant mortality rate in New Zealand is quite low, with only an average of 4.78 deaths for every 1,000 live births. Based on gender breakdown, the average is higher for the males, with about 5.37 deaths occurring for every 1,000 live births while for the female, the data only shows about 4.16 deaths for every 1,000 live births in the nation.
Life Expectancy at Birth
People living in New Zealand enjoy a long life, with the average for the total population placed at 80.59 years. The females outlive the males, with their average life expectancy reaching 82.67 years, according to 2011 estimates while it is only 78.61 years for the males.
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in New Zealand is very low. According to the data from the New Zealand Ministry of health, there are 149 people diagnosed with HIV in 2010, with most of them males who had sex with male partners. Some acquired the infection from heterosexual relationship and while some cases reported unknown causes. There was one reported case of mother-to-child transmission. AIDS occurrence is also low with a total of 39 cases reported, 25 of which where males infected through male to male sexual relationship, while 11 cases reported to have acquired the infection from heterosexual relations. One case reported that the AIDS infection was acquired through injecting drug use and 2 cases did not report where they acquired the infection. Less than 100 people have died from HIV/AIDS, according to estimates done in 2009.
Europeans dominate the presence of ethnic groups in New Zealand. Based on the 2006 census, there are 56.8% Europeans out of the total population of the country, and the rest are broken down into 8% Asians, 7.4% Maoris and 4.6% Pacific Islanders. There are also inhabitants of mixed heritage which numbers about 9.7% while other ethnic groups comprise 13.5% of New Zealand’s total population.
Several religions are practiced by people living in New Zealand. According to the 2006 census, the Anglicans dominate with 13.8%. Roman Catholics follow closely with 12.6% while the combined Presbyterian, Congregational and Reformed followers comprise 10%. Christians with no specific denomination total 4.6%, the Methodist number about 3% while those that follow the Pentecostal faith comprise 2%. The Baptist faith is also represented in New Zealand with 1.4% while there those practicing the Christian religion comprise about 3.8%. On the other hand, the Maori Christian faith is followed by 1.6% of the population, so does the Hindu faith. Buddhism is also practiced by 1.3% following and other religions are practiced by 2.2% of the people. Still there are others at 32.2% who said they do not follow any religion while others or 9.9% of the population did not identify the religion they practice.
Due to the dominance of Europeans, most of them coming from Britain, English is the official language in New Zealand, with 91.2% speakers. However, the country also honors its indigenous population and Maori, spoken by 3.9% of the population is also an official language in the island nation. The New Zealand Sign Language is also an official language in the country. Other languages spoken in New Zealand are Samoan at 2.1% due to the presence of Pacific Islanders in the country. French is spoken by 1.3% of the population while 1.1% speaks Hindi. The same percentage applies to speakers of Yue. Northern Chinese language is spoken by 1% of the population, with others, or 12.9% speak unspecified languages.
New Zealanders are highly literate, with 99% of the population age 15 and over able to read and write. The average stay in school of students in New Zealand is 19 years, although the females stay a year longer on the average.
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