Information about New Zealand


Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, New Zealand consists of two main islands: the South Island and the North Island. The country, also known by its Māori name of Aotearoa, stretches over some 268,021 km², and while it is often lumped in with Australia is actually still over 2,000 km away at its shortest point. New Zealand's “Coolest Little Capital” city is Wellington, which serves as the creative and cultural hub as well as the centre of government, while Auckland is by far the biggest and most populated city with 1.5 million of the total population.

Though there are two main islands, the country is also made up of an additional 600 nearshore islands. Stewart Island, Chatham Island, Great Barrier Island and Waiheke Island are the most populated and most visited of these. Most of the others are relatively uninhabited or used as nature reserves.

Demography

New Zealand's population, as of 2017, is just over 4.6 million inhabitants, roughly a quarter of whom are expatriates born overseas according to the latest 2013 census. Additionally, 4 million of this can be attributed to the cities while only 600,000 make up the rural areas of the country. The main ethnicities found in New Zealand are European, Māori, Pacific Islanders and Asian. While English is the most widely spoken language, distantly followed by Māori, Samoan and Hindi, the two officially declared languages of the country are Māori and New Zealand sign language.

New Zealand's economy

In 2017, New Zealand was ranked the easiest country in which to start a business by World Bank, as well as the second easiest place to carry out business, and it was rated the third freest economy in the world by The Heritage Foundation. New Zealand came out of the 2008 world recession quicker than most countries and it is considered to be one of the fastest growing economies.

Agriculture is still its primary industry, but over the years tourism and construction have also become two of the country's main industries. New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of March 2017 amounted to over NZ$265 billion with a growth rate of 0.5% since the last quarter.

New Zealand's main trading partners are Australia, the People’s Republic of China, the European Union and the United States. It is also part of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Politics

New Zealand’s government is considered a constitutional monarchy, meaning a democratically elected House of Representatives advises the sovereign, or head of state, who then acts on this advice. Technically, the sovereign of New Zealand is Queen Elizabeth II, however the Queen’s head of state duties are carried out by a representative within New Zealand called the Governor General. The Governor General is appointed by the Prime Minister and the position is currently occupied by Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy.

The House of Representatives is typically made up of 120 Members of Parliament, or MPs, elected every three years by a mixed member proportional representation voting system. This means each voter gets two votes: one for their local MP and one for their preferred political party.

The percentage of votes won by the party directly correlates with the percentage of seats that party will get in the House of Representatives. The winning local MPs from those parties will fill those seats, plus other party members from a party list. The Governor General appoints a Prime Minister based on who she thinks is most suited to command the House of Representative, though this is virtually always the party leader of the party with the most MPs.

On rare occasions there is an overhang, or fewer party seats available than MPs elected. In this case, seats are not taken away, rather there are more than 120 MPs that make up the House of Representatives. Currently, there are 119 MPs in the House of Representatives due to the outcome of the last election in 2014. A general election is scheduled for 23 September 2017.

New Zealand's climate

New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, which means its seasons and temperatures are the opposite to what many northern hemisphere dwellers would expect. The northernmost point is closest to the equator and therefore warmest, while the southernmost point is nearing Antarctica and therefore colder. Summer officially runs from December to March with average temperatures ranging from 20-30º Celsius, while winter is June to September spanning 10-15º Celsius.

With it being an island nation, New Zealand as a whole has a fairly moderate, coastal climate year round affected by the sea and mountains. In general, Auckland and Northland get the warmest weather for the longest period of time and have a more subtropical climate in the summer, Wellington has a more maritime climate similar to that of the UK, and the South Island has more traditional seasons with wider temperature changes and even snowfall in the Alpine areas.

Rainfall is prevalent all over, but the country gets more sunshine per year than Europe. Be careful, though – with low levels of air pollution and very strong UV rays, it is very easy to get sunburnt in New Zealand.