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New Zealand Geography

New Zealand consists of two large islands, North Island and South Island, plus several smaller ones of which Stewart Island is the largest and often referred to as 'our third island'. North and South Islands are separated by the 32km / 20mile wide Cook Strait. To the north and east lies the Pacific Ocean and between ourselves and Australia lies the Tasman Sea.

The total land area is 270,535 sq Km / 104,453 sq miles, about the size of Italy, the United Kingdom or the US state of Colorado.
North Island is volcanically active with a central plateau. South Island has the high snow covered mountain peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps, a range running almost 500Km / 300miles along the Island.

Our longest river is the Waikato on North Island (425 Km / 264 miles), the largest inland stretch of water is Lake Taupo also on North Island (607 sq Km / 235 sq miles) and the highest point is Mount Cook on South Island (3754 m / 12316 ft). Over 75% of New Zealand is above 200m.

Land use is broken down to approximately: forested 30% - meadows and pastures 50% - agricultural and under permanent cultivation 15% . Sheep and cattle graze on the rich farmland around Hamilton and New Plymouth in North Island and around Dunedin and Invercargill on South Island.


New Zealand has a mild and temperate maritime climate with mean annual temperatures ranging from 10C in the south to 16C in the north.Historical maxima and minima are 42.4 C (108.3 F) in Rangiora, Canterbury and −21.6 C (−6.9 F) in Ophir, Otago. Conditions vary sharply across regions from extremely wet on the West Coast of the South Island to almost semi-arid in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterbury and subtropical in Northland. Of the seven largest cities, Christchurch is the driest, receiving on average only 640 millimetres (25 in) of rain per year and Auckland the wettest, receiving almost twice that amount.[139] Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all receive a yearly average in excess of 2,000 hours of sunshine. The southern and south-western parts of the South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400C1,600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas of the country and receive approximately 2,400C2,500 hours.