I’ve lived in Aotearoa New Zealand for a life-time!! (The Aotearoa is the Maori name for NZ and it is said to have been coined by Kupe, the ‘captain’ of the first canoe
after he first sighted the new land. It means ‘The Land Of The Long White Cloud‘ and apparently that was what Kupe saw first, clouds clinging to mountain ranges.) I was lucky enough to have been born into the pre-television generation (it HAD been invented, but we didn’t own one for a long time,) son of a rural school Principal (who was lucky enough to have 10 weeks holidays a year, and chose to spend those holidaying with us in different parts of the country) in a time when books were the main option for recreational ‘down time’ and as a consequence a real inquisitiveness developed, and a want to find out about all sorts of things, not the least of which was the country we lived in. Fortunately that inquisitiveness continues- and I found out the following!!
New Zealand is a very small country- even though it has 15,811kms (9824 miles) of coastline, nowhere in the country will you be further than 128kms from the sea. The nation is barely 1600kms (1000 miles) long, but our longest river, the Waikato,
in the North Island flows more than a quarter of that length- 425km (264 miles).
We have lots of islands, but 2 principal ones- North and South,
which have all of the towns and cities, almost all of the industry and agriculture, as well as most of the wonderful scenery, although any or all of the other islands will offer wonderful treats for any who visit them.
We also have quite a number of interesting facts, figures, and novelties. For example the animal that featured on out 5c coin (sadly no longer in circulation) is the tuatara
which many think is a lizard but is, in fact is the oldest living genus of reptile in the world. Its ancestry can be traced back 190 million years to the dinosaur age. With this in mind, it should be remembered that less than five per cent of New Zealand’s population is human (just over 4 million)- the rest are animals. This is one of the highest ratios of animals to humans in the world. (Incidentally New Zealand’s basic currency unit is the New Zealand dollar, known in international markets as “The Kiwi”,
the same nickname given to we natives of Aotearoa.)
New Zealanders are very active people, whether it’s in sports, experiencing the ‘great outdoors’, or cultural pass-times. There are more Scottish pipe bands per head of population in New Zealand than in Scotland. There are more golf courses per capita in New Zealand than any other country in the world – with 400 courses, that’s one for every 10,000 people. Auckland, the City of Sails, has more boats per capita than anywhere in the world with 80,000 privately-owned boats
one for every eight Aucklanders. (Of course New Zealand is the only nation, other than USA to successfully defend the Americas Yachting Cup.)
Auckland is the biggest sity with around 1.2m people of a total national population of around 4 million. New Zealand’s indigenous Maori make up 14 per cent of the national population, six percent are Polynesian, and a further six per cent are Asian. Wellington is our capital.
The highest mountain, Aoraki (The Cloud Piercer) Mt Cook
stands at 3754 metres (12316 ft) in the Southern Alps, the backbone of the South Island. (Just 5 years ago it was 10m taller but aging caught up and a block of 10m fell off the peak!)
There are no ‘alps’ in the North Island but a notable hill stands near the coast in central Hawkes Bay that has the distinction of being the longest placename in the world. (Although I understand the full version of the name for Bangkok could take some beating!! Krung-dēvamahānagara amararatanakosindra mahindrāyudhyā mahātilakabhava navaratanarājadhānī purīramya uttamarājanivēsana mahāsthāna amaravimāna avatārasthitya shakrasdattiya vishnukarmaprasiddhi.)
“Taumatawhakatangihanga- koauauotamatea- turipukakapikimaungahoronukupo- kaiwhenuakitanatahu” It tells the tale of Tamatea who played his nose flute to his loved one, fell down the hill and injured his knee but recovered and ate up some mountains!!
Lake Taupo, our largest lake found in the middle of the North Island, was formed by the world’s biggest recorded eruption in the last 75,000 years. The dust from the eruption could be seen as far away as Rome and China. The collapsing tephra column is believed to have spread out at upwards of 600kph and was deep enough to have gone over the top of nearby Mt Tongariro, and 2 thirds of the way up farther Mt Ruapehu,
both active volcanoes today. They are in the ‘Tongariro National Park’, one of the oldest in the world. Almost one third of the country, almost three million hectares (7.5 million acres), is protected in national parks or recreational reserves, and Tongariro National Park, with its desert-like plateau and active volcanoes, is a dual World Heritage area – recognising its Maori cultural and spiritual associations, and its volcanic features.
One last notable- Baldwin Street in Dunedin
is known as the steepest street in the world with a maximum gradient 1 in 2.9 angle over 38 degrees.