New Zealand

New Zealand Facts

Want to know all the coolest facts about New Zealand? Well you’ve come to the right place. Read on for all the information you could ever want about this awesome country. You’ll be so clued up you’ll be just like a ‘Kiwi’, a nickname given to New Zealanders.

Interesting New Zealand History

New Zealand has an interesting history, from wars and ultimately peace! Take a read of these to get the lowdown.

  • The Maori people arrived by canoe from islands in Polynesia near Tahiti around 1,000 A.D. That is a seriously long time ago.

maori

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  • New Zealand was founded in 1642 by a Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. He visited the islands, but his party high-tailed it out of there over 100 years later after being attacked.

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  • New Zealand was first called ‘Nieuw Zeeland’ after a region in the Netherlands.

New Zealand map

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  • In 1769, Captain James Cook came to the islands. He was British and they settled there. In 1840 they signed a treaty with the Maori people called The Treaty of Waitangi. This made New Zealand a colony of the British Empire, so their ruler is actually the Queen of England! But the Maori people fought the treaty as all their land was seized. That’s not cool! In the 1860’s war broke out and it carried on for 12 years. Luckily there was a peaceful ending in the 1870’s.

captain cook ship

New Zealand Geography

New Zealand is a really remote country, and a flight there from America would take about 13 hours and if you were flying from the UK you’d only get there about 24 hours later. This is one difficult place to get to.

  • This far away country has two main islands, the North and South Islands and these are separated by the Cook Strait.

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  • It is rather small at 103,883 square miles (269,055 square kilometers). Now this is something to think about – it is about the same size as the UK. Now the UK has 63 million people living there, and New Zealand only has about 4 million. Wow. This means New Zealand is one of the least populated countries in the world.

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  • Do you know how the islands were created? Well, 23 million years ago the land literally popped out of the ocean by volcanic forces. That’s amazing.

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  • There are over 50 volcanoes, some of which can still erupt. Watch that you don’t go heading up an active volcano if you’re there.

volcanic eruption

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  • The capital city of New Zealand is Wellington; however the largest city is actually Auckland where most people live.  Interestingly Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world.

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  • The highest mountain is Aoraki Mount Cook which is 12,316 feet high (3,754 metres).  It was first just called just Aoraki or “Cloud Piercer” by the Maori people as they believed that the sons of the sky father, Raki, turned to stone and became the mountains. The summits are considered sacred, as the Maoris believe spirits live there. So if you ever decided to take on the challenge of this big beast of a mountain, don’t stand on the summit, as it’s disrespectful.

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  • Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, was formed by a massive volcanic eruption 26,000 years ago. It was so huge that the dust could even be seen in China…that’s one mighty eruption. Lake Taupo is as big as Singapore. A swim across this lake could take some time.

New Zealand Nature

As it’s really remote, New Zealand has some really cool and unusual wildlife that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Read on for some amazing nature info.

  • Unbelievably nearly all the land mammals are birds and most of them can’t fly anymore.

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  • This is a frightening fact! In the last 1,000 years, half of all animals on the islands are now extinct.

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  • But there’s more…other animals are also in danger of becoming extinct as forests are cut down and swamps are drained. There are fewer than 75,000 kiwi birds remaining in the wild. It may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. But there’s good news too; some species are making a comeback like the kakapo, kokako, kiwi, and tuatara. Ever heard of these animals before? Wow, they’ve got some strange names.

kiwi bird

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  • Bats are the only land mammals to have made the ocean crossing.

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  • New Zealand is home to one of the world’s heaviest insects. It’s called the weta and is part of the cricket family. It weighs 2.5 ounces (70 grams). That is very heavy for an insect; it weighs three times more than a mouse and looks like a giant cockroach. Yuk! It’s hard to imagine an insect that size.

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  • The world’s only parrot that can’t fly is found here too. It is also home to the oldest reptile, the biggest earthworms and the smallest bats. They really do have some interesting creatures on this awesome island.

parrot

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  • So snails are herbivores right? Well not here…there is a giant carnivorous snail that lives on the South Island.

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  • Another extinct species, the Moa bird came from New Zealand. They were 12 feet tall (nearly 4 meters) and weighted over 500 pounds (230kg). That’s as heavy as a lion…whoa that’s big for a bird.

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  • There is one seriously strange reptile living here called the Tuatara, which are a species that are really closely linked to dinosaurs – awesome, it would be cool to see one of these. They’ve been around for about 150 million years and can live to be 300 years old. Imagine if we lived until 300? All the things we could do. But there’s something even more interesting about these reptiles, they are the only creature on earth that is born with a third eye, just like the character from Captain America, only their eye gets covered with skin after 6 months.

dinosaur tuatara

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  • There was a tuatara named Henry and in 2008 he became a proud father at the ripe old age of 111.

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  • One cool thing, unless you like them of course, is that there are absolutely no snakes in New Zealand at all.

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  • Another animal that is only found in this part of the world is the Hector’s Dolphin. It’s the world’s smallest marine dolphin, and only grows to about 5 feet (1.5 metres) long. Let’s compare that to the world’s biggest dolphin, the Killer Whale (yes it’s a dolphin). They grow to about 26 feet (8 meters long) and can weigh up to 6 tons. The killer whale is about 5 times bigger than the Hector’s Dolphin.

The People of New Zealand

Here we’ve got some cool info on the people of New Zealand:

  • We’ve given you some information about Maori people, but they’re indigenous to the island and descend from Polynesia.

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  • The Maori named the country, Aotearoa, which means “The Land of the Long White Cloud.” What an awesome name.

carvings of maori people

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  • New Zealand has three official languages: English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

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  • There are two national anthems and everybody learns them and sings them both equally throughout the country.

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  • There is actually a word for New Zealand English, which is a mixture between English and Maori, it’s called ‘Newzild’.

More Interesting Information about New Zealand

Here are some totally random facts that are hard to believe, but super interesting!

  • Bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand, and the world’s first commercial bungee jump was a 140 foot (43 meter) jump off the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988. That leap is just under half the height of the Statue of Liberty…that is a long, long jump. Do you think you would be up for the challenge?

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  • The Kiwi’s love their cars. There are 2.5 million cars for 4 million people which make their car ownership one of the highest in the world. That’s more than half the population. When you compare it to the UK, about ¼ of households don’t have a car at all!

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  • Did you know that Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first person to climb Mount Everest was a New Zealander?

mount everest

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  • New Zealand is the very first country to see the sun every day!

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  • There are more golf courses and book shops in New Zealand when compared to the population, than any other country in the world. So they must be super fit and pretty smart.

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  • A huge 220 pounds (100kg) of butter and 143 pounds (65kg) of cheese are produced for each person that lives in New Zealand each year. If you’re eight you would probably weigh around 57 pounds; so they’re producing about 4 times your weight in butter and about double your weight in cheese. Try and pick up something that heavy…bet you won’t be able to!

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  • There are nine sheep to every person in the country! That’s a whole heap of sheep.

sheep

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  • In New Zealand you can drive when you’re 15, that’s pretty young.

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  • If you want to be an official citizen you have to sing the national anthem in front of the immigration committee. Best you brush up that singing voice.

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  • Try this for a tongue twister! The longest place name in the world is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, which is a hill in Hawkes Bay. Do you think you could pronounce that?

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  • In the Star Trek: First Contact movie there’s a scene where you can see earth from space, and guess what’s missing? New Zealand of course. How weird!

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  • There is a bird called the kea, and it does the strangest thing; it pulls windscreen wipers off cars and eats the rubber. That can’t be too tasty!

kea bird

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  • Can you take a guess as to how much of the population is made up of animals? Amazingly 95%, making humans a mere 5% of the population.

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  • You probably know this, but all three Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in New Zealand. What you might not know is that this put heaps of money into the country’s pockets; around $200,000. They even created a Minister for Lord of the Rings.

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  • Super cool fact. A man broke into a radio station in 1996 and held the manager hostage. Why? Well he really wanted to hear the Muppet song “Rainbow Connection”.

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  • To prove the intelligence of shelter animals, two rescue dogs were taught to drive a car around a track. Imagine if your dog could drive, it could take you everywhere you need to go.

dog driving cartoon

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  • Right, now this is weird but true. In 1990 the New Zealand Prime Minister actually made someone a National Wizard. Maybe it was to make up potions to bring the Hobbits back.

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  • Ever seen a train truck running across an airport runway? Don’t think so. Well at Gisborne airport there is a train track…often planes or trains have to wait their turn for the other to pass. Sounds a bit dangerous.

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  • On the island of Niue, which is part of New Zealand, they have Pokemon on their coins, and even some with Star Wars images on them. That would be cool money to collect.

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  • How cool would money be with Hobbit images on it? Well New Zealand is the only country allowed to do this. Awesome.

the hobbit

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  • A family wanted to name their child 4Real, but guess what, the government wouldn’t allow it. So what did they call him? Superman! Ha, there’s a real live superhero running around New Zealand.

Superman 4Real

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  • Can you believe this? There are more vending machines in Japan than there are people in New Zealand.

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  • The most unique McDonalds in the world is situated in an area of New Zealand called Taupo. You eat in a decommissioned DC3 plane. That’s definitely a place to visit.

For such a small and remote country, there is so much about New Zealand that is both entertaining and interesting at the same time!

Are you ready to share your new found knowledge with your friends? 

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet guide to NZ.

Next topic: Australia Facts for Kids