Geography in New Zealand
New Zealand is located in the Pacific, southeast of Australia and consists of the North and South Islands, as well as more than 700 smaller islands. The two main islands are separated from each other by the Cook Strait, which is 23 km wide at its narrowest point. The total land area of New Zealand is approx. 270,000 km², the territorial waters of New Zealand are very large with 167,653 km² relative to the land mass.
The 113,729 km² North Island is the more densely populated island of New Zealand. About three quarters of the population live on it, and both the capital Wellington and the largest city of the country Auckland are on the North Island.
The North Island is part of a volcanic belt whose peaks (Mount Ruapehu) reach up to 2797 meters and traverse the island. In addition, the landscape is determined by the hilly and lowlands around the large rivers.
The South Island is shaped from north to south by a mountain range that is not unlike the European Alps and is therefore called the New Zealand Alps. They divide the South Island in half and are home to the 3724 m high Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, as well as over 200 other peaks with heights of more than 2300 meters. The south and north coast of the South Island is strongly divided by numerous fjords, islands and peninsulas. The longest river in New Zealand is the Waikato on the North Island, which is over 425 kilometers long, while the longest river Clutha on the South Island reaches a distance of 340 kilometers. New Zealand has numerous lakes, some of which are used for hydropower plants and thus to generate electricity. The largest natural lake in New Zealand is the 606 km² Lake Taupo on the North Island.
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Flora and fauna in the New Zealand
Since the archipelago has been separated from other land masses for a long time, an extraordinary flora and fauna has developed here. About 85% of New Zealand’s plant species are endemic. The most common types of forest are evergreen deciduous and coniferous forests, e.g. stone slices, kauri trees and beeches. In addition, there is a unique fern landscape.
Most impressive are the tree ferns, which can grow up to 10 m high. A leaf of the ponga or silver fern is depicted in the coat of arms of New Zealand and the fern is also the national plant of New Zealand. Other plants are palm species, such as the Nikau palm.
There are no poisonous animals in New Zealand and rare conspecifics such as Hector’s dolphins, kiwis or yellow-eyed penguins can be spotted in several places. Many of the niches that are normally occupied by mammals have been occupied by birds. Flightless birds play a special role here. These include the kakapo, the kiwi, the weka or the kea. The island is also used by numerous flying birds as winter quarters or breeding grounds. There is a large colony of gannets near Auckland, but king albatrosses and petrels also have nesting sites along the coast.
The coasts of the South Island are shared by different penguin species such as the yellow-eyed penguin and the little penguin with seals and sea lions. Off the coast of Kaikoura there is the best opportunity to watch a whale, dolphins and small dolphin species are spread over the entire coastline. Furthermore, New Zealand is home to many lizards. There are almost 60 species of lizard in New Zealand. Including the tuatara, an ancient species of reptile.
National parks and conservation in New Zealand
New Zealand has only been settled for less than a thousand years. Before that it was the land of forests, mountains and beaches. The loudest noise was the singing of the birds, the rustling of the wind or the waves. Fourteen spectacular national parks, which together make up 10% of the total area of New Zealand, protect the country’s natural heritage. Specifically, these are the UNESCO World Heritage listed Tongariro National Park, Egmont National Park, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Fiordland National Park, Mount Cook National Park, Te Urewera National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park, Westland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, Whanganui National Park, Paparoa National Park, Kahurangi National Park, and Rakiura National Park.
Travel climate in New Zealand
Most of New Zealand has a temperate climate. Although the far north of the islands has a subtropical climate during the summer and the alpine areas in the interior of the South Island can cool down to -10 ° C in winter, most of the country is in the range of mild temperatures, moderate rainfall and abundant sunshine.
The mean annual temperatures range from 10 ° C in the south to 16 ° C in the north. July is the coldest month of the year, while January and February are the warmest. The temperature fluctuations over the year are relatively small. Most of New Zealand receives 600mm to 1600mm of rainfall per year, with drier periods in summer.
The northern areas of the North Island are characterized by a more subtropical climate, while the rest of the North Island has a more temperate climate. On the South Island, alpine weather conditions can be found along the New Zealand Alps, with the western flanks of the alpine mountain ranges having numerous rainy days. The weather in the northern part of the South Island can also be regarded as moderate, while the south is rather cool throughout the year.
The Otago highlands in the south of the South Island are an exception, with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers.