New Zealand - North to South
New Zealand is an island country in the far south-western Pacific; because of its remoteness it was one of the last landmasses to be settled by humans. The country is 1500kms east of Australia and 1000kms south of the Pacific island groups including Fiji and New Caledonia. There are 2 dominant cultural groups New Zealanders of European descent who arrived in the last 3 centuries and the minority Maori who's antecedents arrived from Polynesia 1000 years ago. The country is split into 2 main islands, North and South, and there are numerous smaller islands. The landscape is diverse and spectacular, with glacier-carved mountains, lakes, beaches and thermal springs. The North Island is 115,777 sq km and consists of low volcanic mountains, and because of its volcanic past features hot springs and geysers. The South Island is 151,215sq km and contains the Southern Alps, a mountain range covered in glaciers with the highest point being Mt Cook (Aoraki in Maori) at 3,764m above sea level. Because of the remote geographical location, most of the flora and fauna is unique to the country and it is considered a biodiversity hotspot. Total population is just 4.4 million people, 76% of whom live on the North Island. Agriculture is a mainstay of the economy, but manufacturing and tourism are vitally important.
New Zealand is GMT + 12 hours. In summer New Zealand changes to `Daylight Saving` and clocks switch to GMT + 13 hours.
English is spoken to 98% of the population and New Zealand English is similar to Australian English. The Maori language, which was suppressed in the early part of the 20th Century, has recently undergone a process of revitalization and is spoken by 4% of the population and there are now Maori language schools and television channels.
New Zealand has a mild and temperate martime climate, with mean annual temperatures ranging from 10°C in the south to 16°C in the north. Conditions vary sharply across regions from extremely wet on the West Coast of the South Island to almost semi-arid in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin (also on the South Island). Parts of the northern part of the North Island are subtropical. Christchurch (South Island) is the driest city receiving on average only 640 mm of rain per year and Auckland the wettest, receiving almost twice that amount. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all receive a yearly average in excess of 2,000 hours of sunshine. The southern and south-western parts of the South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400-1,600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas of the country and receive approximately 2,400-2,500 hours. The general snow season is about early June until early October in the South Island. It is less common on the North Island, although it does occur.
The unit of currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
It is possible to obtain or exchange New Zealand dollars outside the country. You can withdraw money in local currency from ATM's in throughout the country or your travel money can be carried in the form of cash or travellers cheques. (Sterling and US dollars are easily exchanged, but note that it can be difficult to exchange travellers cheques, and commission payments are often very high). Credit cards can be used to purchase goods and it is a good idea to carry one in case of emergencies.
No visas are required for travel to New Zealand by British and US citizens. British and US citizens are issued with permit to stay for up to 6 months on arrival. Citizens of Australia, Japan and Canada can stay indefinitely. Please note that your passport must be valid for at least six months. Other nationalities should contact the New Zealand embassy in their home country.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. For New Zealand current recommendation is to ensure primary courses and boosters are up to date as for life in Britain or the US. A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Lonely Planet. New Zealand
Fodor's Exploring. New Zealand
The Rough Guide. New Zealand
New Zealand Travel and Touring Map - Kiwimaps - 1:1,700,000