New Zealand is situated in the Southwest Pacific (Te Moana Nui
a Kiwa) ocean, some 2000 km east of Australia in temperate latitudes,
and lies close to the 180° meridian, extending from the 162nd
degree of east longitude and 173rd degree of west longitude, and
between the 33rd and 53rd parallels of south latitude.
New Zealand's people are principally derived from Maori (Polynesian)
and European descent. English and Maori are the two official languages.
English is most widely spoken, though the Maori language, is making
a comeback due to the revival of Maori culture. New Zealand has
a population of 4m, of whom about 15% are Maori or of Maori descent.
New Zealand lies across the obliquely convergent boundary of
the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. To the north east,
the Pacific plate is subducted under the Australian Plate. To
the south-west the Australian plate is subducted under the Pacific
plate. Motion of about 40 to 55 mm per year occurs on the boundary
through New Zealand. Its landscape is characterised by high and
steep mountains, rugged landscapes and volcanic activity. It consists
of two major islands; the North Island (115,000 sq. km) and the
South Island (151,000 sq. km) and several smaller islands and
has 15,134 km of coastline.
The North Island has a number of large volcanoes and highly active
thermal areas. The South island is dominated by the Southern Alps/Ka
Tiritiri o te Moana, with Aoraki/Mount Cook as the highest peak
(3755m). These mountains form a spine of peaks running almost
the length of the South Island, featuring also the Alpine fault.
New Zealand's natural resources are natural gas, iron ore, sand,
coal, timber, hydropower, gold, limestone. Approximately 9% of
land is used as arable land, 5% for permanent crops, 50% for permanent
pastures, 28% for forests and woodland and 8% for other uses.
About 80% of the New Zealand population live in cities.