Information – Introduction to New Zealand

The 1,200 miles (1,900 km) of the Tasman Sea separate New Zealand from Australia. Of the world’s larger islands (United Kingdom, Japan and Madagascar) New Zealand has the largest separation from a nearby continent.

New Zealand is mountainous, with 75% of its land is more than 660 ft (200 m) above sea level. No place is more than 70 miles (112 km) from the coast. The highest mountain is Mount Cook, at 12,350 ft (3,764 m), in the Southern Alps, on the South Island.

New Zealand occurs at roughly the same latitudes as France and Spain, but does not benefit from the Gulf Stream, as does western Europe. The climate in the north of the North Island of New Zealand is subtropical; the inland areas of the South Island have frequent frosts and snow. The mountains form an unbroken chain in the South Island, the Southern Alps. The weather in New Zealand is mainly from the west. The western areas, of the South Island, have high rainfall, over 390 in (1000 cm) per year; while in eastern areas it can be as low as 14 in (35 cm).

New Zealand has a similar area to the United Kingdom, but has a population of 4 million, compared with 52 million in the United Kingdom. The major cities are Auckland and Wellington in the North Island, and Christchurch in the South Island. New Zealand was settled by the Maori over a thousand years ago. Europeans arrived in 17th Century and started settling from 1830 onwards.

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