Living in New Zealand

Map of New Zealand

New Zealand is a small island nation in the south-west Pacific. With a population of 4.4 million people it is one of the world's least crowded countries.

New Zealanders are often referred to as "Kiwis", after the national bird of New Zealand, the kiwi.

Natural environment and climate

New Zealand is comparable in size (268,680 sq km) to the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

New Zealand comprises the North and South Islands, and a host of smaller islands. New Zealand's landscape is full of variety and beauty, and extensive areas are set aside as national parks,

Generally, New Zealand has a temperate climate, although the far north may experience subtropical weather during summer and the inland alpine areas of the South Island and parts of the North Island can get very cold in winter.

The North Island is mainly rolling hill country, much of which is farmed. The South Island is divided by the Southern Alps, which run most of its length and rise to over 3,000m.

Nowhere in New Zealand is more than 130km from the sea.

The Waikato region is located in the upper central North Island.

Main urban areas

The largest urban area is Auckland, with a population of 1.3 million. Wellington is the second largest, and is the capital city and centre of government.  Christchurch and Hamilton urban areas are third and fourth largest urban areas.


New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth. The capital is Wellington, home of the New Zealand's Parliament. New Zealand has a stable government, with several different parties represented in Parliament and government coalitions. There are elections every three years.

Language and religion

English is the everyday language of New Zealand. English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language are recognised as official languages. One-third of New Zealanders are not affiliated with any religion. Of those who are, the largest denominations are Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian.


New Zealand has a diverse multicultural population of 4.4 million people, making it one of the world’s least-crowded countries.  New Zealand’s indigenous Māori, a Polynesian people, make up around 15 percent of the population.


New Zealand became a British colony in 1840. In that year more than 500 Māori chiefs and representatives of Queen Victoria signed the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty is the country’s founding document and was a political compact between Māori and British settlers to build a government in New Zealand. The Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa (‘land of the long white cloud’). New Zealand was named by the first recorded European to visit New Zealand, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, in 1642.


While New Zealand has about 0.1 percent of the world’s population, its economy produces about 0.3 percent of the world’s material output. Compared with the rest of the world, it is one of the richer economies. New Zealanders are generally well educated, healthy, and have a comfortable standard of living. Dairy and meat exports continue to make a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy.  Tourism, forestry and manufacturing exports have become increasingly important, while wool has declined. New Zealand's largest export markets are Australia, USA, Japan, UK and South Korea.

Sport and recreation

SportSport is a major part of New Zealand life and New Zealanders are well represented at top level in many international sports including cycling, rowing, rugby and equestrian sports.

Most children participate in organised sport from primary school age onwards, and many adults are involved in local recreational sports. New Zealand is ideal for outdoor recreation activities.

Useful information about New Zealand

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