New Zealand Facts: Location, Population, and a Lot More

People feeding ducks in the lake in Queenstown

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Location: New Zealand lies southeast of Australia between latitudes 34 degrees south and 47 degrees south.

Area: New Zealand is 1600 kilometers from north to south, with an area of 268,000 sqr km. It comprises two major islands: the North Island (115,000 sqr km) and the South Island (151,000 sqr km), and several small islands.

Population: In 2017, New Zealand had an estimated population of close to 4.8 million.

According to Statistics New Zealand, the country's estimated population growth is one birth every 8 minutes and 13 seconds, one death every 16 minutes and 33 seconds, and a net migration gain of one New Zealand resident every 25 minutes and 49 seconds.

Climate: New Zealand has what is known as a maritime climate, as opposed to the continental climate of larger landmasses. Climate and weather conditions in the seas around New Zealand can cause climatic volatility. Rain is more evenly distributed in the North Island than in the South.

Rivers: The Waikato River in the North Island is the longest New Zealand river at 425km. The longest navigable river is the Whanganui, also on the North Island.

Flag: See New Zealand flag image.

Official Languages: English, Maori.

Major Cities: New Zealand's largest cities are Auckland and Wellington on the North Island. On the South Island, Christchurch and Dunedin are the major cities. Wellington is the national capital, and Queenstown in the South Island calls itself the Adventure Capital of the World.

Government: New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of England as head of state. The New Zealand Parliament is a unicameral body without an Upper House.

Travel Requirements: You need a valid passport to visit New Zealand but may not need a visa.

Money: The monetary unit is the New Zealand dollar, which is equal to 100 New Zealand cents. Currently, the New Zealand dollar has a lower value than the US dollar. Note that the exchange rate fluctuates.

First Inhabitants: New Zealand's first inhabitants are believed to be the Maori, although it has also been hypothesized that the first Polynesians to inhabit what is now New Zealand arrived around 800 AD and were the Moriori, or moa hunters. (The moa is a species of birds, now extinct, some of whom were as tall as three meters.) The hypothesis that the Moriori were the first to arrive in New Zealand appears to have been disproved by Maori oral history. The Moriori and the Maori belong to the same Polynesian race.

European Exploration: In 1642, Dutch explorer Abel van Tasman sailed up the west coast of the place he named Nieuw Zeeland, after the Netherlands province of Zeeland.

Captain Cook's Voyages: Captain James Cook sailed around New Zealand on three separate voyages, the first in 1769. Captain Cook gave names to many New Zealand places that are still in use.

First Settlers: The first settlers were sealers, then missionaries. The Europeans started arriving in higher numbers in the early 19th century.

Treaty of Waitangi: This treaty signed in 1840 ceded sovereignty over New Zealand to the Queen of England and guaranteed Maori possession of their land. The treaty was written in English and Maori.

Women's Right to Vote: New Zealand gave its women the right to vote in 1893, a quarter-century before Britain or the US.