The Geography of New Zealand
By Clayton Brown
February 25, 1996
The well-known country of New Zealand is a small, resourceful nation
located 1,000 miles off Australia’s south east coast. New Zealand has an
impressive economy that continues to grow, a physical landscape that attracts
people from around the globe, and although small, New Zealand is a respected
nation for its advanced civilization and stable government. The geography of
this prestigious nation can be described through five principal categories, the
physical geography, the cultural geography, the citizens’ standard of living,
the government, and the nation’s economy.
New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, with an absolute
location of 37 degrees south longitude to 48 degrees south longitude and 167
degrees east latitude to 177 degrees east latitude. It is composed of two major
islands named the North and South Islands, and the total land area of the nation,
approximately divided equally between the two islands, is 103,470 square miles.
Surprisingly, only 2 percent of the land area is arable. New Zealand has an
abundance of natural resources, explaining why the country is so wealthy
compared to other nations. These resources include fertile grazing land, oil
and gas, iron, coal, timber, and excellent fishing waters.
New Zealand’s climate is basically moderate year round because of the
nearby ocean that regulates the climate. New Zealand enjoys a marine west coast
climate, that on average produces sixty to eighty degree temperatures in January
and forty to sixty degree temperatures in July. Because it is surrounded by the
ocean, New Zealand receives immense quantities of precipitation on both islands.
The average annual precipitation on the North Island is thirty to forty inches
and on the South Island it is forty to fifty inches. This climate produces
mixed forests, mid-latitude deciduous forests, and temperate grassland
vegetation. The terrain is dominated by meadows, pastures, wood lands, and a
small chain of mountains called the Southern Alps. The land is blanketed with
small lakes and rivers that drain the highlands and empty into the ocean. The
extraordinary diversity of the physical geography found in the United States
seems to have been duplicated in this relatively small country, where the ski
slopes and the beaches may be only an hour apart.
The cultural geography of New Zealand is not as diverse as its physical
geography. Currently 3,547,983 people live in New Zealand, but 83.7 percent of
the population live in urbanized areas. The chief cities, each containing more
than one hundred thousand people, are Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Manukau,
and Wellington. The average population per square mile is only 34, but it is
growing due to a 0.8 percent natural growth rate. Keeping in mind that only 2
percent of the land is arable, the crop land per capita is a meager 0.125 acres
per person. Large portions of New Zealand are devoted to sheep stations, for
there are more sheep in New Zealand than people.
The official language of New Zealand is English, although a small
percentage of the people speak Maori, the native language. Somewhat
corresponding to the language groups, the religious make up is 52 percent
Christian, 15 percent Roman Catholic, and 33 percent unspecified or none. The
country takes pride in a 99.9 percent literacy rate by having an excellent
education system. The entire nation resides in a single time zone that would
report 6:00 A.M. if the time in Amarillo, Texas was noon. From the country’s
cultural geography, it could be predicted that the nation would enjoy a good
standard of living. In 1994 the gross national product of New Zealand was a
colossal 56.4 billion United State’s dollars, generating a per capita income of
$16,640. For every 3.2 people there is a television, and for every 2.2 people
there is a telephone, meaning there are over 2,600,000 televisions and
telephones in New Zealand. Fortunately, 99.8 percent of the people are able to
enjoy safe drinking water, including the natives who live in rural areas.
New Zealand has a superb health care industry that serves as a paragon
to the rest of the world. There are presently 11,335 physicians and 31,122
hospital beds in New Zealand, for an ample ratio of one physician per 313 people
and one hospital bed per 114 people. The population of New Zealand is provided
with plenty of food and a healthy diet, the average person receives
approximately 3,250 calories per day. New Zealand has one of the highest life
expectancies in the entire world, that being 74 for men, 80 for women, and 77
for any person. Unfortunately, AIDS is a growing problem in New Zealand that
continues to spread at a phenomenal rate. There have been 3,548 AIDS cases
reported, affecting one out of every 1,000 people with the syndrome, not to
mention the thousands more infected with the HIV virus.
New Zealand’s government has contributed to its impressive standard of
living. New Zealand achieved independence from the United Kingdom on September
26, 1907. The government was placed in Wellington, on the North Island, and
still remains there today as the capital. The government is a constitutional
monarchy that was designed to resemble the United Kingdom government. It
includes an executive branch, legislative branch, judicial branch, and a King
and Queen employed only as figureheads. The military is divided into three
branches, the New Zealand army, the Royal New Zealand Navy, and the Royal New
Zealand Air Force. Presently there are 742,871 men fit for military service,
but only 10,500 active troops in service.
New Zealand has a flourishing economy that is based on three main
economic activities, livestock raising, farming, and foreign trade. The economy
is almost completely dependent on the export of goods, which include wool, lamb,
mutton, beef, fish, and forestry products. Twenty percent of the exports go to
Australia, 15 percent to Japan, 12 percent to the U.S., 6 percent to the U.K.,
and 47 percent to other countries. New Zealand’s monetary unit is the New
Zealand dollar, and the exchange rate is 1.46 N.Z. dollars equals 1 U.S. dollar.
With a 6.2 percent economic growth rate, New Zealand could soon have one of the
top five economies in the world.
New Zealand is among the world’s finest countries, because of its
exquisite landscape and first-rate economy.With an excellent standard of
living, perfect climate, and majestic terrain, New Zealand for many people is an
ideal place to live. Every year hundreds of thousands of people tour New
Zealand just to catch a glimpse of what many proclaim to be paradise, and after
researching this report, I intend to someday be one of those tourists.
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