New Zealand lies in the southern Pacific Ocean, 1600 km east of
Australia. It is made up of the North and South Islands and a number of
smaller islands, with a total area of 268 000 sq km.
Mountain ranges and hill country dominate NZ's landscape; one of the
most striking physical features is the Southern Alps. These, along with
fiords glaciers and lakes and the coastal plains of Canterbury and
Southland add to the variety of the South Island scenery. In the North
Island the volcanic interior contains NZ's largest lake, Lake Taupo, and
most of the country's active volcanoes - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and
Tongariro - Ruapehu erupted as recently as 1995 and 1996. Hot springs,
geysers, mud pools also form part of the volcanic system centred around
What the Polynesians found was a land much different to the South
Pacific tropical isles of Polynesia. Instead they found a land of
mountains with a more seasonal climate. There were no large mammals to
hunt for food, but there was a large flightless bird called the Moa. The
Moa stood up to 15 feet tall and the Maori found it easy prey. By the
time Europeans had reached New Zealand the Moa was hunted to extinction.
Today New Zealand is a relatively peaceful country and the people are
extraordinarily friendly and outgoing. One quarter of New Zealand is
protected wilderness and much of the country is pollution free.