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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. These islands are one of Earth's most unique biozones, inhabited by flightless birds seen nowhere else such as weka and kiwi. Indeed the Kiwi is not only one of the national symbols - the others being the silver fern leaf and koru - but is also the name New Zealanders usually call themselves.

These islands are sparsely populated, particularly away from the North Island, but easily accessible. There are sparklingly modern visitor facilities, and transport networks are reasonably developed. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature: it's the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.

Māori culture continues to play an important part in everyday life and government and corporate symbolism. New Zealand is increasingly known, both in the indigenous Māori language and by Pakeha, as Aotearoa, often translated as land of the long white cloud. (Pedantically, Aotearoa was really just the name for the North Island, the South Island being known as Te Wai Pounamu or Te Waka a Maui). There are abundant opportunities for visitors to understand and experience the history and present day forms of Māori life.

   
Climate

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.

Part situated in the Roaring Forties, unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington. The winds seem to be stronger around the equinoxes. In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.

   

 

Cities

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).

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.

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 centre of all and surrounded by incredible coastal and mountain scenery, three stunning national parks, vineyards and orchards. Well known for its strong art culture and excellent cuisine. Gateway to the South Island's famous motorcycle rides and races.

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

 
 
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