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1. Physical characteristics

The territory of the N. is composed of two large islands (North Island and South Island), separated by the Cook Strait, and by some smaller islands (including Stewart) still on the base of the two major ones; on the other hand, the islands of Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie, towards Antarctica, the islands of the Antipodes, Bounty and Chatham, towards the E, and the Kermadecs, towards the N, on the western edge of the very deep ocean trench of the same name, are considered ‘external’. Freely associated with N. are also the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, in the middle of the Pacific. Finally, N. claims the Ross Dependency, on the Antarctic continent.

The dominant feature of these lands is the variety of the relief, mostly rugged: the few plains, inland or coastal (Canterbury Plains), are in fact flanked by weak hills (clayey-marly and calcareous of the Tertiary), present above all in the Island of North, and also imposing mountains, arranged according to the prevailing orientation of the two major islands. The modest undulations that form the backbone of the Auckland and Coromandel peninsulas are followed, in the central part of the North Island, by a high plateau, very ancient massif, surmounted by trunks of chains and crowned by volcanic buildings, active and dormant, with the summits sometimes cloaked by snowfields: the Ruapehu (2797 m), which represents the maximum height of the island; at the western end of the Taranaki peninsula, the lonely Egmont (2518 m), with a dissymmetrical crater and adventitious cone. The plateau sloping down towards the Bay of Plenty or dell’Abbondanza is home to a different and intense volcanic activity: in the hundreds there are hot springs, geysers, steam explosions, sulfataras, mud volcanoes, especially in the surroundings. of Rotorua. The eastern edge of the island is affected by a series of chains, which from the Eastern Cape, after 480 km, connect, beyond the Cook Strait, to the corrugations culminating in the New Zealand Alps. These, in the South Island, leaning against the west coast, represent the backbone: it is a very high chain (27 peaks exceed 3000 m, the highest is Mount Cook with 3764 m), with few steps, full of glaciers (those of Tasman and Murchison are the longest, on the eastern side). The steep western slope of the Alps contrasts with the less steep eastern slope, which slopes down into the lowlands of the SE and into the fertile and populous Canterbury plain to the E, the largest in the country, formed by fluvio-glacial sediments and löss, suitable for diversified crops , cereals and forage crops. The volcanic soils are limited to the two peninsulas of Banks and Otago.

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2. Flora and fauna

As for the flora, the absence of typically Australian genera, such as Eucalyptus and Acacia, is remarkable. The character of the vegetation is Melanesian, but with notable differences in the landscape of the various parts. Rainforests extend into the northern regions and into the extreme SW. Proceeding from N to S or climbing towards the tops of the mountains, the Malay element is increasingly associated with the Antarctic element, which is in common with that of Australia, Tasmania and the Magellanic region of America. Primitive or secondary shrubs, following the destruction of the original forests, are often characterized by the abundance of the blueberry Leptospermum scoparium or the fern Pteridium aquilinum var. esculentum. Herbaceous formations, essentially of Graminacee, abound throughout the territory.

3. Population

When the first Europeans landed in N., the territory was inhabited by the Maori, a population of Polynesian lineage far from primitive, divided into groups and dedicated to agriculture and some industries. The true aborigines would be the Moriori (ie the inferior people according to the Maori), perhaps related to the Melanesians, gatherers and hunters who lived in caves; overwhelmed by the Maori, they were driven back to the South Island or Chatham, where they partly merged with them. White penetration occurred massively in the mid 19th century. The relations, at first quite peaceful, between Whites and Maori deteriorated when the former seized the lands with violence and imposed themselves with all sorts of harassment and abuse. Armed conflicts followed with the inevitable defeat of the Maori, whose number began to decrease until, at the end of the 19th century, they feared their definitive extinction (in 1896 there were about 42,000 individuals).

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4. Economic conditions

Agriculture and livestock, complementary to each other, remained for a long time, with the related industrial and commercial activities, the pillars of the economic structure of N. and, at the same time, the reasons for its prosperity until the crisis of the years. 1980, determined above all by the increase in oil prices, and which forced it, like neighboring Australia, to loosen the ties that bound it to the British motherland and to the other Commonwealth countries and to get closer to the new political-economic realities of ‘East Asia, as well as to carve out a role for itself in the Pacific area. The N. then overcame its problems and achieved a new prosperity, not without internal traumas, essentially due to a merciless policy of liberalization and cuts in public spending; however, it was touched by the consequences of the crisis that hit Asian countries in the late 1990s and was even more severely hit by the global crisis of 2008-09. For its GDP pro capital of 34,121 dollars (2008), which ensures the inhabitants economic comfort, but above all for the good health and cultural conditions and the satisfactory quality of life, N. certainly ranks among the developed countries. The excellent organization of public services in general and in particular those relating to education, which guarantee a very high level of ‘school quality’, contributed above all to achieving these satisfactory goals. For Visa Related issues


In 1642-43 the Dutch A.J. Tasman skirted the western parts of the two major islands; the complete survey of the coasts and the first internal penetration were the work of J. Cook (1769-72). In the following years the fame of the ferocity of the indigenous peoples prevented any colonial settlement or missionary initiative, while on the southern coasts and around the Cook Strait English, American and French whale hunters began to call. Hence the decimation of the natives, also as a result of the trafficking of tattooed and smoked human heads. Britain began to intervene in 1835; created a company of N., in 1840, with the Treaty of Waitangi, the Maori leaders recognized the British sovereignty against the recognition of the possession of the territories traditionally belonging to them.