New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fiords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. New Zealand has been called “God’s own country” and the “Paradise of the Pacific” since the early 1800s.
Consists of two main islands named North Island and South Island and many smaller ones in the South Pacific Ocean, it lies about 1,600km (1,000 mi) south east of Australia. New Zealand is the fifth largest wholly island nation on earth, its land area surpassed only by Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the Phillipines; NZ’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is fifteen times larger, being exceeded only by Australia in the preceding list. With a population of nearly 4.5 million in a country larger than the United Kingdom, many areas are sparsely settled. Auckland, with a population of around 1.5 million people, is the largest city in Polynesia.
As recorded there are 14,000 earthquakes per year but only around 150 are usually felt.
New Zealand has a temperate climate – winters are fairly cold in the south of the South Island but mild in the north of the North Island. The nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F)and only fall below 0°C (32°F) in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds.
The South Island
Huge beech forests, great beaches, large glaciers, spectacular mountains and fiords, a motorcyclist’s mecca.
Offshore Islands (Stewart Island, Chatham Islands, Sub-Antarctic Islands)
The other, more wild, islands of New Zealand, ranging from the nearby and accessible Stewart Island to the remote, uninhabited islands of the Kermadecs and the windswept Sub-Antarctic.
Cities you should see:
Nature takes pride of place in New Zealand, so we list only nine of the most prominent settlements. Here they are from north to south:
• Auckland — “The City of Sails”, the largest and most populated conurbation, with over a million in the metropolitan area, making it the largest in New Zealand by far
• Hamilton — 128 km (80 mi) south of Auckland and leafy capital of the rich and fertile Waikato on the banks of the mighty Waikato River. Home to the Chiefs (Super 14 Rugby) and the Magic (ANZ cup netball).
• Rotorua — famous for Māori culture, geysers and beautiful hot pools.
• Napier — “Art Deco capital of NZ” since destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in this style. Famous as a wine region, especially Bordeaux style reds and Cape Kidnappers. Renowned golf course, gannet breeding grounds and wildlife sanctuary.
Try taking a Cable car above Wellington.
• Wellington — the national capital, known rightly as “The Windy City” – Parliament, the Beehive and the wonderful, totally free and exciting Te Papa museum.
• Nelson — safe and friendly, with New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours. Nelson’s the geographic center of all and surrounded by incredible coastal and mountain scenery, three stunning national parks, vineyards and orchards. Well known for its thriving arts culture and varied cuisine emphazising local produce. Gateway to the South Island’s famous motorcycle rides and races. Craft brewing capital and largest fishing port in Australasia
• Christchurch — still the “Garden City” and the “Air Gateway” to Antarctica even after the recent and continuing earthquakes. The second largest conurbation both in population and urban sprawl with a neat International Airport
• Queenstown — adrenalin and adventure capital of the world, where you can ski, skydive, bungy jump, jet-boat, and thrill yourself to your heart’s content
• Dunedin — the “Edinburgh of the South”, proud of its Scots heritage, chocolate factory, Southern Albatross colony and its wonderful tramping tracks all within a short drive from the CBD
Other destinations to explore:
New Zealand has a wealth of national parks, rural areas and other out-of-the-way places that are worth a visit. Nine of the best are listed below:
• Abel Tasman National Park — golden sand beaches, kayaking and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track
• Aoraki Mount Cook National Park — lots of hiking opportunities and New Zealand’s highest mountain
• Bay of Islands — pretty spot in the North Island with historical significance
• Coromandel Peninsula — rugged coastline with plenty of beaches and hiking opportunities just one and a half hours from Auckland
• Hawke’s Bay — wineries in the hills and art deco architecture in Napier
• Milford Sound — beautiful fiord in Fiordland National Park
• Taupo — trout fishing and adventure activities in the central North Island
• Tongariro National Park — three volcanoes, two skifields and one of the most popular hikes in the country
• Westland National Park — home of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
• Wanaka — two beautiful lakes and the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canyoning, rock climbing. A small town with a great feel.
More things you should see:
Wild lupins growing on Lake Ohau near the Southern Alps on the South Island. At Milford Sound you will find plenty of mountains, lakes and glaciers.
Mackenzie Country, the snow-capped jagged peaks rising above turquoise lakes have provided the inspiration for many postcards.
Aoraki Mount Cook. The lakes and mountains continue south, becoming a stunning backdrop for the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy.
Another region where mountain meets water is Fiordland National Park where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea. The most accessible, and most beautiful spot, is Milford Sound. The road in is spectacular and the view even more so when you arrive.
Glaciers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an island in the South Pacific, but New Zealand has several. The most notable are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in Westland National Park. These glaciers are unique in how close they get to sea level and are sustained by the enormous amount of precipitation that falls on New Zealand’s west coast.
New Zealand is mostly Volcanoes and Geysers
New Zealand is a geological hotspot and has many dormant and active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The best place to start is Rotorua, where the smell of sulphur lets you know you’re close to the action. The surrounding countryside has many parks with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand’s more famous eruptions, lies a short drive away.
South of Rotorua is Taupo and Lake Taupo, which was formed in a massive volcanic explosion thousands of years ago. Beyond Lake Taupo is Tongariro National Park, dominated by its three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapheu. All three mountains are still active (Ruapehu last erupted in 2007) and Ruapehu has a crater lake that can be viewed with a bit of hiking. Ngauruhoe is famous for filling in as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
North of Rotorua is Whakatane, with tours to White Island, a volcanic island just off the coast. The island is truly a different world with its smoke plume, green crater lake and the pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.
Flora and fauna.
Being so remote, New Zealand has very unique plants and animals. One of the most impressive is the kauri tree, one of the biggest species of tree in the world. Few of these giants are left (a result of overlogging), but a visit to the Waipoua Forest in Northland will afford a glimpse.
The beaches of the South Island, particularly The Catlins and the Otago Peninsula, are good places to see marine animals such as penguins, seals and sea lions in their natural habitat. The Otago Peninsula is also noted for its albatross colony.
Unfortunately, many of New Zealand’s most unique animals are endangered and can only really be seen in captivity. This includes the kiwi, a common national symbol, the flightless takahe and the tuatara (a small lizard-like reptile believed to have existed at the time of the dinosaurs).
New Zealand’s National Parks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and various local governments. Access is usually free but may be restricted in some parks during some parts of the year due to weather (avalanche risk) or farming (lambing season). It is best to check with local tourist information centers for up to date information on park access.
While the countryside is the main attraction of New Zealand, you’ll need to visit a few cities to see the truth of that. Auckland is a pleasant city with its waterfront districts like the Viaduct Harbour and Mission Bay, old volcanoes (Mt Eden and One Tree Hill), a handful of museums and the Sky Tower, the tallest free-standing building in the Southern Hemisphere. The more interesting architecture and the fine Te Papa museum can be found in Wellington, the nation’s capital. Napier is worth a stop, if you have the time, for its Art Deco CBD, and Christchurch was interesting for its English character along the banks of the River Avon. After the destruction wreaked by recent earthquakes, Nelson is the arts, crafts, pottery and craft brewing capital and has the only European style cathedral left standing (confusingly called “Christ Church Cathedral”); it doesn’t hurt that Nelson has great beaches and is surrounded by three national parks!
Your best bet would be to take at least a one month vacation to see New Zealand example:
• Nine days in New Zealand’s North Island
• Two weeks in New Zealand’s South Island
• Eighteen Day Small Group Tour Covering Both Islands
Other entertaining things to do:
Snow capped mountain ranges in New Zealand as seen in Lord of the Rings
Outdoor and adventure activities include:
• Abseiling Waitomo
• Aerial sightseeing (helicopter and fixed-wing)
• Black water rafting (cave rafting)
• Boat Tours
• Bungy Jump Queenstown, Auckland, Lake Taupo – the modern bungy jump was invented here by New Zealander A.J. Hackett.
• Canoeing and kayaking on rivers and lakes
• Caving Waitomo, Nelson, South Island West Coast, Te Anau
• Fishing – trout (some of the finest trout-fishing in the world), salmon, marlin, broadbill, sharks and many other salt-water species
• Fly by wire (invented here)
• Four-wheel driving
• Gliding – Omarama is one of the best places in the world for gliding
• Golf – New Zealand has over 400 registered golf courses, from local clubs to internationally renowned resorts, offering uncrowded golfing and superb scenery.
• Heli-hiking at Fox Glacier
• Hiking – New Zealand has a number of national parks and other wilderness and forested areas, much of which is managed by the Department of Conservation. The activity known in other countries as hiking, trekking or bush walking is known as tramping in New Zealand and is a very popular activity for visitors and locals.
• Horse trekking
• Hot-air ballooning
• Hunting – several species of deer, wild pig (wild boar), tahr, chamois, goat, wallabies (they are protected in Australia but a pest here), game birds.
• Kite surfing
• Lord of the Rings Tours that show the actual locations used in the filming.
• Luge (on concrete not ice) Auckland, Queenstown, Rotorua.
• Mountaineering – this was the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people to climb Mt Everest.
• Mountain biking
• Nature tours
• Quad biking
• Rap jumping
• River jetboating – the Hamilton jet was invented by New Zealander William Hamilton.
• Rugby – the national game.
• Scuba diving and snorkelling, especially down to the sunken Rainbow Warrior at Matauri Bay, not far from Kerikeri.
• Sea kayaking Abel Tasman Marine Reserve
• Shark cage diving Kaikoura
• Skiing and snowboarding including heli-skiing Queenstown
• Swimming with dolphins Kaikoura, Bay of Islands
• Swimming with seals
• Whale watching Kaikoura
• White water rafting Fox Glacier
• White water sledging / dam dropping
• Zorbing (invented here) Agrodome in Rotorua
English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages of New Zealand. English is universal and is officially written with Commonwealth (British) spelling – although as in Australia Microsoft’s US English spell checkers have made considerable inroads!
New Zealand English is one of the major varieties of English and is different enough from other forms to justify the publication of the Oxford New Zealand English dictionary.
20 New Zealand Dollars (NZD) should be obtained
Currency used in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Other currencies are not readily accepted other than at some of the larger hotels and at banks throughout New Zealand. Attempting to make a transaction in a foreign currency may result in some light hearted bemusement.
The smallest coin is 10c, since New Zealand reduced the size of its silver (cent) coins in 2006, and eliminated the 5c piece. The 10c piece is a coppery colour similar to a U.S. or UK penny. The 20c piece is silver with a Māori carving depicted, as is the 50c piece with captain James Cook’s ship the Endeavour. The gold $1 features a kiwi, whilst the $2 features a heron. Banknotes come in $5 (orange with Sir Edmund Hillary), $10 (blue with Kate Sheppard), $20 (green with Queen Elizabeth II), $50 (purple with Sir Apirana Ngata), and $100 (red with Lord Rutherford of Nelson).
New Zealand is a user of the CHIP and PIN credit card system which uses an electronic chip in the card and the holder’s PIN number to allow a transaction to go through. Most merchants also accept the swipe and sign method which is mostly used by U.S. credit card holders; as they have not yet adapted to the CHIP and PIN system. However, automated machines may not accept credit cards without a chip. Therefore, it is recommended that you have enough cash on hand to make purchase. These mainly appear in rural areas. If you are using a credit card with a magnetic strip (no chip embedded) at a staffed stand, then you shouldn’t have problems using your credit card. After your card is swiped; the terminal will prompt you for your PIN. Just press “ENTER” and your transaction should be approved. After signing the printed receipt, the clerk is required to check that your signature on your credit card matches that of a valid identification before he/she can complete the transaction. This is to minimize fraud. A driver license or passport, from your home country, will suffice.
Note that the New Zealand cards can be setup to have up to 3 accounts loaded, the terminal will prompt “Cheque – Savings – Credit”. Overseas cards will need to use the “Credit” option, regardless of card type.
The Discover credit card is accepted by a limited number of merchants in Auckland. It is not known whether Discover is accepted in other parts of New Zealand.
There is no negotiation of prices
Because of strong advertising laws, the displayed price is normally the purchase price for most goods sold in New Zealand. The principle The price stated is the price you pay is strongly ingrained in New Zealand culture.
Most retailers will not negotiate on price, though some have a formal policy of matching the competition and will match or even discount their prices for you if you can find a better price for the exact same product elsewhere.
“Visitors to New Zealand must pay GST on all goods and services that they buy in New Zealand. There is no refund of GST available when you leave New Zealand.”
In lodgings, restaurants, and bars the prices charged include the services provided and tips are not expected. For some New Zealanders their unfamiliarity with tipping can make them ill-at-ease with it when traveling in countries where it is practiced. It can be viewed very negatively by New Zealanders as being made to ‘pay twice’, or as a form of bribery. Staff in some establishments may risk their job in accepting a tip. In the major cities, tipping tends to be embraced by workers, especially over the summer when students wait tables for part-time work. Tipjars may be placed on counters, but these are for loose change and although it is appreciated, you are not expected to place coins in them. It is common practice and polite to donate your spare change from the meal to what ever charity has a collection jar on the counter, and this acts as the standard substitute for tipping.
New Zealand has a distinctive cafe culture, with arguably some of the best espresso on the planet. Cafes often have excellent food, serving anything from a muffin to a full meal.
In smaller towns food is always available at the local pub/’hotel’/’bistro’, although the quality tends to be of the burger-and-chips variety. Fast food/convenience food is fairly easy to come by.
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation.
International quality hotels can be found in the major cities.
New Zealand is also known for its luxury lodges
Free camping is also available in many places. Unless there is a “no camping” sign it is common to find a tent or hammock pitched for the night in many picnic areas or in a grove of trees off the road.
For many years, New Zealand schools and universities have educated foreign students from the countries of Southeast Asia and education has now become a major source of export earnings for the country. In recent years English language schools have been established for students from the region, particularly South Korea and China, but also many other countries.
Overseas students need to have a student visa and a reasonable level of cash to spend in order to undertake a course of study at a New Zealand based educational institution. Visas are generally valid for the duration of the course of study and only while the student is attending the course of study. New Zealand educational institutions will inform the appropriate immigration authorities if a student ceases to attend their enrolled courses, who may then suspend or cancel that student’s visa. Educational institutions often also exchange this enrollment and attendance data electronically with other government agencies responsible for providing student assistance.
To work in New Zealand you need to be a citizen or current permanent resident of either New Zealand or Australia, or else have a work permit or appropriate visa. If you are intending to work in New Zealand you should obtain a work permit along with any tourist visas you might apply for.
You will also need to have a New Zealand bank account, as the vast majority of employers pay using electronic banking rather than in cash; an Inland Revenue Tax Number, as with holding tax or income tax will be deducted from your wages by your employer; and a tax declaration form, as tax will be deducted at the no declaration rate of 45% unless you have a tax code. More information about New Zealand’s tax system, including appropriate forms, can be obtained from Inland Revenue.
The process of applying for an IRD number is between 8-10 working days. You will need to fill in the IRD number application form, and provide a photocopy of a passport or New Zealand birth certificate. It is possible to apply for the IRD number, then call the department around a week later to request the number by phone, however this will depend on the workload of the processing centers at the time. Calling the IRD requires several forms of ID, it is ideal to be able to provide your passport number and full address when requested.
New Zealand operates a simplified tax system that tends to collect more tax than people need to pay because employers pay their worker’s tax when they pay their workers. The obligation is then on the worker to claim overpaid tax back, rather than declaring their income and paying any extra tax. Be careful though, if you choose to work in New Zealand and you stay more than 183 days in any 12-month period, your worldwide income could be taxed. New Zealand has double taxation agreements with several countries to stop tax being paid twice. A safe rule of thumb is to pay all tax demands and not seek claims for redress on any matter.
Being a foreigner means that your New Zealand income is subject to local income tax at the fullest levels. Although many people believe that they can collect all their tax back when they leave the country, this is not true. It may be the case that filing an income tax return may result in a small refund if working for only part of the year; however, this is not likely the case. Tax in all its forms in New Zealand amounts to around half of a worker’s income.
If you want to stay in New Zealand long term, you should apply well ahead of time. New Zealand operates a points system for assessing applicants.
Refugee applications should be made before arrival since NZ has a formal refugee induction program.
Those who turn up in a New Zealand airport arrival lounge without papers, claiming refugee status, may find themselves put on a return flight to their country of origin or in jail awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.
For those considering long term stay in Christchurch the Canterbury Development Corporation has helpful information on living and working in Christchurch.
Emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111.
Ambulance, Fire, Police, Coastguard and Marine and Mountain Rescue can all be rapidly contacted via this one, FREE, emergencies only number.
This number (or 112 or 911) also works from mobiles – even when there is no credit available and even if no SIM card is present at all!
*555 can also be called for non-emergency traffic incidents from mobiles.
Full instructions are on the inside front cover of every telephone book.
• 0800161610 – Deaf emergency fax (connects to police)
• 0800161616 – Deaf emergency textphone/TTY (connects to police)
• 0800764766 – Poisons and hazardous chemicals emergency
• 0800611116 – medical advice (“Healthline”, run by the Ministry of Health)
• 0800808400 – railway emergencies (KiwiRail Network)
Crime and security