- New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote, in 1893.
- New Zealand’s national day, February 6, is know as Waitangi Day. The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown, is considered the county’s founding document.
- New Zealand has more bookstores per head of population than any other country.
- The kiwi, New Zealand’s national symbol, is the only bird in the world to have nostrils at the tip of its bill instead of at the base. It’s a flightless, nocturnal bird, and now endangered so you’re unlikely to see it in the wild. Although they look cute, kiwis can be fierce and very territorial.
- Famous New Zealanders include the leading nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford, soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Everest, and actor Russell Crowe.
- New Zealand has the most southerly railway station in the world, the most southerly pub and the most southerly vineyard. Wellington is the most southerly capital city.
Rugby Union is considered a national religion in New Zealand. It’s been said that Kiwis consider being selected to play for the All Blacks is a greater honour than becoming prime minister. Weather New Zealand’s seasons are the complete opposite from the UK. Winter lasts from June until August and summer is between December and February. In most areas of the country the climate is neither uncomfortably hot nor unbearably cold; temperatures range from 68-86F (20-30C) in summer to 41-59F (5-15C) in winter. Education New Zealand’s education system is very similar to that of the UK. School is compulsory for children aged between 5 and 15, and the country’s schools have an excellent reputation and offer a wide range of learning options. All children are entitled to free places at state schools; there are also private (fee-paying) schools. Most schools, even those in inner city areas, have their own playing fields, gymnasiums and swimming pools. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, spent two years at Wanganui Collegiate School during his ‘gap’ year as a junior master. The school year begins in late January or early February and ends in December. It has four terms with breaks of two to three weeks between. Students have a six week summer holiday. New Zealand’s higher education system includes universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and private training establishments. Universities receive around 70 percent of their funding from the government, with the balance made up by fees. Lifestyle Most Kiwis live within half an hour’s drive of the coast and like to spend their weekends swimming, boating, diving and fishing. New Zealanders tend to be sports-mad and the most popular sport is golf – there are more golf courses per capita in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world, and Kiwi golfer Michael Campbell recently brought the country to a virtual standstill as people sat by their TVs to watch the playoff which won him the US Open. Tennis, touch rugby, rugby, cricket, netball, surfing and sailing are also popular. In winter there is skiing, heli-skiing and snowboarding to keep you busy. As far as cultural activities go, there are many Maori and Pacific festivals during the year, as well as a New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. CuisineNew Zealand cuisine has come on in leaps and bounds to match the renown of the country’s wines, and takes its inspirations from other countries in the Pacific Rim such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan as well as Europe. Local produce includes wonderful pork, lamb, venison, crayfish, Bluff oysters, abalone, mussels and scallops. New Zealand’s wines are famous all over the world, particularly the whites, although the reds are catching up fast. New Zealanders are characterised by their friendliness, individuality, invention and self-reliance. These are all good qualities to have anywhere, but especially in a new country that offers so many possibilities Geography It may be a gruelling 25-hour flight To New Zealand from the UK , but in the past few years New Zealand has become one of the hottest tourist destinations for British visitors. Uncrowded, unspoilt, friendly, with jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery and lots of fabulous wines as well – is it any wonder New Zealand is seen by many as a dream destination? Located in the South Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is made up of two large islands, the unexcitingly named North and South Islands, and many other smaller, scattered islands including Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands and Great Barrier Islands. Slightly bigger in size than the UK, the country has a population of just over 4 million. The Maori were the first to arrive in New Zealand, followed in the 19th century by an influx of migrants from Europe and China. From the 1960s many people from neighbouring Pacific Islands such as Samoa and Tonga began settling there. Today, emigrants from 145 different countries call New Zealand their home. The country’s magnificent landscape – as seen in the Lord of the Rings films, shot in New Zealand by Kiwi director Peter Jackson – has everything from huge mountain ranges, fjords and forests to miles of beautiful beaches, bays and inland lakes. There are 14 national parks scattered throughout the country. Housing Prices Two-thirds of New Zealanders own their own home – one of the highest home-ownership rates in the world. Most people choose to live in the suburbs, but inner-city apartments and semi-rural locations are becoming increasingly popular. Typical median house prices by region: (in NZD)
- Auckland $640,000 (£330,000)
- Wellington $390,000 (£201,000)
- Northland $299,000 (£154,000)
- Waikato/Bay of Plenty/Gisborne $325,000 (£168,000)
- Manawatu/Wanganui $227,000 (£117,000)
- Taranaki $284,000 (£146,000)
- Hawke’s Bay $268,000 (£138,000)
- Canterbury/Westland $375,000 (£193,000)
- Otago $245,000 (£126,000)
- Central Otago Lakes $419,000 (£216,000)
- Nelson/ Marlborough $342,000 (£176,000)
- Southland $190,000 (£98,000)
Source: Based on Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures from September 2013.