First, let’s get through the facts. Okay, take a big breath.
New Zealand is made up of two large islands, cleverly named the North Island and the South Island, as well as a number of smaller islands. It has a land mass of 103,738 square miles which is slightly larger than the size of Britain or slightly smaller than the size of Japan. Actually, if you squeezed all of New Zealand together into a rectangle, it is almost exactly the size of our state of Colorado in the US.
Here’s New Zealand superimposed over the eastern United States.
New Zealand is located in the Southern Pacific. Right next to Australia, you might say. Well, yes and no. Closer to Australia than to any other major country but actually Australia is some 900 miles away.
New Zealand lies within the Roaring Forties, not to be confused with the Roaring Twenties a particularly, fun frivolous time in the United States. The Roaring Forties are particularly dastardly strong westerly winds found between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees in the Southern Hemisphere and are responsible for bringing New Zealand more than its share of weather.
The population of New Zealand is 4.4 million. And yes, there are lots of sheep there. Way lots of sheep – 31 million. Seven sheep to every one human. Maybe someday the sheep will rise up and take over – if only they could get organized. The capital is Wellington. If you ever plan to be on Jeopardy, you should know that Wellington is the southernmost capital of a country in the world. The largest city however is Auckland. There are three official languages: English, Maori (the indigenous people’s language) and New Zealand Sign Language.
Ancestors of Maori arrived in canoes from Polynesia about 1300 CE. The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa – “Land of the Long White Cloud.” The first European to discover the land was Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, in 1642.
The people like living there. According to 2010 survey data, 88% of the people feel they have excellent, very good or good health, and 87% are satisfied or very satisfied with their lives.
Yes, they did film Lord of the Rings there.
The main exports are milk powder, butter, cheese and meat products. New Zealand trades more with China and Australia than with the United States. Its currency is the New Zealand dollar.
A kiwi is New Zealand’s native flightless bird but is also used to denote the people of New Zealand. That little fuzz-ball fruit is not a kiwi. It is called kiwifruit. If you don’t want to call it that, you can call them by their other name: Chinese Gooseberries.
New Zealand was originally governed as a part of New South Wales (part of Australia). When Australia became a country in 1901, Australia said New Zealand could be one of their states. New Zealand said “no way” and became its own country, a self-governing British dominion since 1907 with a parliamentary democracy modeled on that of the United Kingdom.
Queen Elizabeth II is officially Queen of New Zealand. If you become a citizen, you have to swear allegiance to the Queen. In New Zealand she is represented by the Governor General.
New Zealand was the first major nation to give women the right to vote. It was also the first country to have three top positions of power held simultaneously by women, the Prime Minister, the Governor General and the Chief Justice. New Zealand is fairly liberal but doesn’t seem to make a big deal of it. Homosexual marriage, prostitution, soliciting, and brothel keeping are all legal. The driving age is 15, the consensual sex age is 16 and the drinking age is 18. What’s not to like?
Famous Kiwis – well, there are a lot of them. But the only one you have to remember is Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the top of Mt. Everest.
Okay, have you got all that? There will be a test.