New Zealand Country Blog (2/2)

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4. Flora and Fauna

New Zealand has an ecosystem which is unique in the entire world. Due to its remoteness, wild exotic animals and plants could evolve peacefully without external threats. Let's talk about the flora first. New Zealand is probably best known for its ferns, the most notable being the silver fern, which happens to be a national symbol for the country. The biggest tree in New Zealand is the kauri, a coniferous tree which can be found in the North Island. Kauri can get up to five meters in diameter and 50 meters in height, which is very impressive. Sadly, those trees are affected by dieback, mostly caused by fungi in people's shoes. Therefore, you are required to wash your shoes before visiting a kauri forest! There are tons of other endemic mosses, grasses, flowers and trees, but we simply don't have the time to cover them all. The most famous New Zealand fruit is however, hands down, the kiwifruit, which serves as the national fruit and is famous throughout the entire world.


The majestic Kauri tree, Waipoua Kauri Forest. Source

When it comes to fauna, New Zealand isn't known for endemic mammals. In fact, indigenous New Zealand mammal species only include some bats and lots of aquatic animals. Most common pets we know and love were introduced by Europeans. But invasive species such as cats, dogs, or ferrets are a real threat to the original fauna of New Zealand, and many species went extinct due to that. Nowadays, New Zealand's Department of Conservation is looking for predator-free uninhabited islands off the mainland to preserve unique species which would otherwise be at stake. Because of missing predator mammals, lots of bird species could peacefully evolve for centuries. New Zealand is a bird haven, with approximately 200 different kinds of birds living here, about 1/3 of all species. The most famous species include birds such as the kākāpō, a heavy, flightless parrot; the kea, an alpine parrot known for its intelligence and its desire to steal things and of course the national animal, the kiwi, a flightless nocturnal bird. New Zealand people like their kiwi so much, that they frequently refer to 'Kiwis' when talking about themselves. But of course we can't forget the extinct birds, such as the moa, a huge flightless kind of ostrich, which was frequently hunted by the Haast's Eagle, which went extinct too. Both met their demise primarily due to Māori overhunting. Other than birds, I'd like to introduce you to two more New Zealand species. One of those is the tuatara, one of the very few endemic reptiles, and sometimes known as the 'last living dinosaur'. Tuatara are nowadays only found in conservation parks or on offlying islands. The other notable animal is the wētā, a giant cricket which belongs to the heaviest insects in the entire world. Wētā can also be found on offlying islands (which are hard to get to legally), and can reach a size of up to 10 cm. Their name comes from the Māori word 'wētāpunga' which means 'God of the Ugly Things'. Creepy, isn't it?

For a better understanding, here's pictures of the animals I just described:

Table 4 ~ Famous endemic New Zealand animals
AnimalProportionsImageSource
kākāpōlength: 60cm, weight: up to 4 kg[1]
kealength: 50 cm, weight: 1 kg[2]
kiwilength: 45 cm, weight: 3 kg[3]
moa /
Haast's eagle
moa: 3.6 m in height, 230 kg in weight
Haast's Eagle: wingspan: 3 m, weight: 12 kg
[4]
tuataralength: 80 cm, weight: 1.3 kg [5]
wētālength: 10 cm, weight: 70 g[6]


5. Transportation and Infrastructure

If traveling in New Zealand, you're traveling fastest and most convenient by either car or plane. New Zealand's aviation infrastructure is very good. New Zealand's flag carrier, Air New Zealand serves more than twenty bigger domestic destinations and many, many international ones too, primarily Asian and Oceanian destinations. There are 123 airports and aerodromes in New Zealand, the biggest one being Auckland International Airport, which handles more than 20 million passengers every year. Tiny airports are usually served by smaller, more expensive airlines. Domestic flights shouldn't take longer than two hours and are the most rapid form of transportation.
New Zealand is flown to by many different airlines and can be reached from most continents in a non-stop flight. Europeans, however, live too far away to benefit from such connections and therefore have to change flights, preferably in either Singapore, Hong Kong or the Gulf Region. When arriving in New Zealand, don't be surprised if custom officers look for any living animals, plants or seeds in your baggage. New Zealand has a very fragile ecosystem and invasive aggressive species could destroy that in no time. Therefore, all passengers arriving in NZ have to pass the biosecurity control before being allowed to enter the country.


New Zealand's representative to the world. Source

New Zealand has a well-developed road network. State Highways connect the biggest centres and most popular tourist destinations. The state highway network encompasses more than 10,000 km of roads. Most of these roads are single lane (each direction), that's because New Zealand has very few motorways. In fact, only 360 km of New Zealand's roads are classified as motorways, that's 4% of the networks' total! Most of those dual carriageway motorways can be found in the big cities, with the notable exception of the Auckland to Hamilton highway, which remains doubled for almost 100km. Speed limits is the same on motorways as for driving outside of settlements, 100km/h. Remember: New Zealand drives on the left side of the road. Sadly, it has to be noted that New Zealand has one of the highest ratios of road fatalities per capita in the Western world. Finally, the road gap between North and South Island is filled by a car ferry known as the Interislander.

     
Typical state highway next to a state highway sign.
P.S.: I drove on State Highway 43, nicknamed the Forgotten World Highway, and can highly recommend this insider tip!
Source 1. Source 2

Speaking of ships, it is rather uncommon to travel New Zealand by ship, unless you're visiting one of the numberless smaller islands off the mainland. Cruise ships were a thing before the COVID-19 pandemic, but didn't play a big role in NZ tourism. You'll most likely encounter regular ferries as public transportation in the city of Auckland, a type of transport that isn't much more expensive than regular bus services. Keep in mind that Auckland is built on an isthmus with lots of bays and peninsulas. Ideal conditions for ferry services.

New Zealand can't praise itself when it comes to rail travel. The country only possesses a rail network of a bit more than 4,000 km, and most of it is primarily used by freight trains. Tram systems do not exist in the country. Regular trains are only popular for commuters in big cities such as Auckland or Wellington. As of 2021, there are plans to establish a high-speed train between the cities of Auckland and Hamilton (duration of 120 mins) which would be the first inter-city train in New Zealand. Tourist trains are rare. The two most popular ones are the Northern Explorer connecting Auckland and Wellington at a duration of 11 hours as well as the TranzAlpine, a train which connects Greymouth on the west coast of South Island with Christchurch on the east, crossing (or better said: tunneling) the mighty Southern Alps.

Last but not least, inter-city buses (who operate under the name InterCity) are especially popular with backpackers and savers. They connect the biggest cities for little money. Regular buses can be found in any bigger city. One rather uncommon thing (that got me the first time) is the fact that you need to signal the bus driver to stop, otherwise they will ignore you.

bus ferry train
Different types of public transportation in diverse Auckland. Source 1. Source 2. Source 3.

6. People and Demographics

Now, let's finally talk about Kiwis! As already mentioned, New Zealand's population consists of 5 million New Zealanders. Approximately 65% of them classify as ethnically European, or pākehā. Māori only make up about 15% of the general population, and another 15% are Asian. Asians form the most rapidly growing community in the country, and Asian culture (food, traditions, etc.) can be found in every medium-sized city. The other 5% are either Pacific Islanders, Africans, Latin Americans or Middle Easterners. Most immigrants to New Zealand come from either England, Australia, India, or China, and the New Zealand diaspora is most present in Australia, with 600,000 Kiwis living in Oz.


Māori and Asians make up the biggest minorities in New Zealand. Source 1. Source 2

When it comes to education, New Zealand is a popular destination for many exchange students who wish to improve their English skills (such as me!). New Zealand gives student visas to applicants in order to legally study in Aotearoa while getting in touch with the local culture. Vice versa, many young New Zealanders do the same. During the so-called Overseas Experience (OE), which is similar to a gap year, many Kiwi students travel abroad to work or gain knowledge, sometimes for more than a year! OE has a big tradition in New Zealand. For students who like to remain in the country, New Zealand has eight universities which educate more than 130,000 students.

Religion doesn't play a major role in New Zealand, as almost half of all New Zealanders identify as 'irreligious'. New Zealand has no state religion or established church. The most common religion remains Christianity at 37%. The biggest Christian branches are Anglicanism and Catholicism, the former being predominant in rural parts of the country and the latter in Auckland and Wellington. The very south (Otago and Southland) is Presbyterian. The second-biggest religion is Hinduism at 2.6%. Māori people have sadly lost most of their ancient religions and identify nowadays mainly with Christianity. The biggest Christian Māori church is the Rātana Church with only 50,000 members, that's 1% of the population. Rātana is most common in the Eastern parts where many ethnic Māori live. And yes, of course there are cults and sects too in New Zealand. The best-known and most controversial is Destiny Church, led by Brian Tamaki, which is a fundamentalist Christian cult (yes, it is a cult cause tithing is common) that promotes hard outdated conservative stereotypes.


Biggest Christian denomination by territoriality. Source

Finally, famous people from New Zealand include:
- Sir Edmund Hillary, Everest climber
- Peter L. Jackson, director of the 'Lord of the Rings' - which is huge in New Zealand!
- Taika Waititi, director of Jojo Rabbit and starring Adolf Hitler
- Ernest Rutherford, father of nuclear physics
- Lorde, singer known for her song 'Royals'
- Flight of the Concords, comedy duo
- Steven Adams, NBA basketballer for Oklahoma City
as well as famous Rugby players
- Richie McCaw, long-time captain of the All Blacks and most capped player of all time
- Dan Carter, awarded the 'World Rugby Player of the Year' three times
- Jonah Lomu, youngest All Black and first global superstar
- Sonny Bill Williams, plays both Rugby Union and Rugby League (!) and is a boxer too


Taika Waititi (l.) and Richie McCaw. Source 1. Source 2


7. Culture of New Zealand

When talking about the culture of New Zealand, we need to start with the indigenous Māori, who have shaped New Zealand ever since their arrival 800 years ago. Their culture follows other Polynesian role models. Carving, tattooing and weaving are traditional features of it. Māori are also known for their jewelry, mainly necklaces, which are worn by both men and women. One of the most common jewelry depiction is the koru, an unfurling little silver fern. Historically, Māori didn't see themselves as 'one people', but rather identified as being part of the local tribe. With the arrival of the pākehā, Māori found a common identity. Māori identity and genealogy, known as whakapapa plays a big part in their culture. They meet in communal houses, so-called marae, which are richly decorated and carved. Tapu, the concept of forbidden and sacred things, is of Māori origin, and the English word 'taboo' is derived from it. Last but not least, we can't forget about the world-famous Māori war dance, the haka, nowadays most associated with the All Blacks.


A marae and a koru. Source 1. Source 2

You may have noticed that I didn't pluralize certain nouns, such as 'kiwi' or 'pākehā'. All those words are of Māori origin. Te Reo Māori doesn't know plurals. 'Two kiwi' refers to the birds, 'two Kiwis' refers to the people and 'two kiwifruit' refers to the fruit. Māori language only knows 15 letters, including two diphtongs 'ng' (pronounced as in song) and 'wh' (speak: f). The usage of macrons indicates a long vowel. Generally speaking, Māori words are stressed on the first syllable. With all that in mind, I'm sure you can pronounce the city of 'Whangārei' in proper Māori now.

Linguistically, the New Zealand English is a mix of British English, Australian English, and American English. In written New Zealand English, there is mostly a mix between both British and American English. For me it is quite hard to describe the accent, but in general it can be said that New Zealanders use the schwa (ə) quite often as a replacement for every vowel. In my opinion, the easiest way to tell if someone is a Kiwi are the e's. New Zealanders lengthen their stressed e's, such as yes, ten, or letter. A good exercise example is Prime Minister Ardern who regularly lengthens her e's when speaking. Additionally, the i's can become u's (fush and chups).

Some notable New Zealand English words include:
- bach, a holiday home near the beach
- hokey pokey - exclusively New Zealand ice cream
- jandals - flip flops (Japanese sandals)
- kia ora - hi, hello, welcome, cheers, thanks
- kumara - sweet potato
- pāua - sea shells used for jewelry
- spud - small potato (originally from New Zealand)
- sweet as! - expression, means awesome or cool
- tramping - vigorous hiking
- whānau - extended family or community (e.g. the Muslim whānau)


A tramping track in the Southern Alps. Source

When it comes to food, New Zealand is dominated by three different cuisines: the British, the Māori and the East and South Asian cuisine. I'm not getting into further detail with the British cuisine as it largely coincides with the foods from the United Kingdom. Let's focus on the Māori cuisine instead. The Polynesians brought a number of plants, such as the kumara to New Zealand, and cooked meals in earth ovens with heating stones, in places like Rotorua even in the hot geyser water. This method of cooking food is known as hāngi and is especially popular with large groups of Māori or tourists. The Māori cuisine got even richer with the arrival of Europeans.
Asian cuisines such as Indian, Japanese, or Korean have skyrocketed ever since the number of Asian immigrants augmented, and is very popular with New Zealanders. Sushi or butter chicken can be found in any medium-sized city. Additionally, New Zealand has a lot of fast-food restaurants, most of which are coming from America. There is, however, one big New Zealand burger restaurant which is called 'Burgerfuel'. I had them a few times and they have huge burgers. Popular foods and meals in New Zealand include:
- Fish n' Chips (or Fush n' Chups)
- Roast lamb
- Pavlova Cake
- Hokey Pokey ice cream
- Lemon and Paeroa, lemonade
- Feijoa, popular garden tree fruit


Pavlova Cake and Feijoas. Source 1. Source 2

The national sport of New Zealand is rugby (union, that is), with 150,000 registered players. It is popular with every generation, and many schools have their own rugby pitch. Rugby is similar to American Football, but players wear less protective gear. It is considered a gentlemen's sport as fairness is very highly valued. The national rugby team is called the 'All Blacks' and is considered one of the best (if not the best) rugby teams of all time. The All Blacks have an impressive 77% winning rate in test matches. The team is most famed for its haka, which the teammates perform before every game. They have won three World Rugby Championships, only tied to South Africa.
The most decorated Rugby league is 'Super Rugby', a competition involving teams from every Rugby-loving country in the Southern Hemisphere. The league has 15 teams, five of which are from New Zealand. Again, New Zealand smashes the competition, having won 17 of 24 editions. The most successful team are the Christchurch Crusaders with 11 titles. The biggest competition in New Zealand itself is the Mitre 10 Cup, with 14 Kiwi teams.
In summer, New Zealand plays a lot of Cricket, and regularly participates in international test matches. However, New Zealand cricketers aren't as successful as their Rugby colleagues. New Zealand has participated in two Cricket World Cup finals, and lost both of them. Other popular sports in New Zealand include football (soccer), basketball, netball (like basketball, but played exclusively by girls), athletics, and skiing (in either the Southern Alps or on Mount Ruapehu in the North Island).
Although not practiced by a majority of Kiwis, New Zealand is very good at sailing. Auckland is known as the 'City of Sails' with countless sailboats. New Zealand is the most successful America's Cup contestant of the 21st century, having won four editions and being the reigning champion. Auckland has hosted the America's Cup three times, most recently in 2021.


The All Blacks performing the haka. Source

8. Trivia and Other Fun Facts

Table 5 ~ To finish: Twenty fun facts about New Zealand
Trivia / Fun Fact
1Bungee jumping (or bungy jumping) was invented in New Zealand.
The first commercial jumps were conducted at a bridge near Queenstown
2There are no snakes living in New Zealand's wilderness
3Baldwin Street in Dunedin is the steepest street in the entire world. It has a slope of 35% or 19°
Dunedin
Source
4New Zealand has been awarded for being the country with the least amount of corruption
5New Zealand has its own little micronation.
The town of Whangamōmona declared itself a republic back in 1989 and holds regular elections
6When it comes to holidays, New Zealand has a system called Mondayisation. This means whenever a holiday (Christmas, Waitangi Day etc.) falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is a day off
7English is only a de facto official language, in contrast to Te Reo Māori or NZ Sign Language.
It is not recognized the way the others are and therefore not a de iure official language
8The city of Auckland's exact antipode lies in Southern Andalusia, near Gibraltar
9Dunedin's Beverly Clock is running since 1864 without having been wound since
10The Māori word for France is Wīwī. They chose that name because French speakers often say oui, oui
11New Zealand loves super-sized things. Paeroa has a giant bottle,
Te Puke (speak: teh-pook-eh) has a giant kiwifruit, and Taihape a giant boot for whatever reason
Paeroa Te Puke Taihape
The must-sees in Paeroa, Te Puke, and Taihape - 1, 2, 3
12Auckland's Sky Tower, which stands at 328m tall, is the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere
13New Zealand has one of the longest place name in the entire world. The hill of Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu has 85 letters
14There are 53 volcanoes within the city of Auckland
15New Zealand is a nuclear-free zone
16There are more people living in Auckland than in the South Island
17Blue Lake (or Rotomairewhenua) has the clearest natural freshwater in the world
18Of New Zealand’s entire living population, only 5% are human
19New Zealand has only one castle - Larnach Castle near Dunedin
20In 2016, New Zealanders voted on getting a new flag. While the current one got confirmed by large amount of vote, Kiwis missed a huge opportunity in making this flag official:
Laser
the (in)famous Laser Kiwi flag - Source

9. thank you very much // whakawhetai ki a koutou katoa

Finally, I thank you very much for reading this long blog. I hope you enjoyed. Don't worry if you got bombarded by information, I expected this blog to be shorter too. I hope it might be helpful for research or simply browsing.
You may ask why I do so many New Zealand-related quizzes and blogs. I've been to the country for a few months in 2019 and absolutely loved it! It's my all-time favourite country and I can't wait to go there again when COVID is over. The people, the nature, the culture, everything was awesome!

Thank you again

+6
Level 50
Apr 2, 2021
Another great Gassu blog!
+4
Level 51
Apr 2, 2021
cool! wish the laser kiwi flag got approved
+1
Level 28
Apr 2, 2021
Maybe the most modern flag... lol
+5
Level 28
Apr 2, 2021
Gassu, you sincerely should do more. I’m really jealous of your GORGEOUS work. You’re being the master of formatting. Congrats!
+1
Level 72
Apr 3, 2021
thank you, MG17!
+1
Level 28
Apr 3, 2021
🙃
+3
Level 62
Apr 2, 2021
What a great pair of blogs, Gassu. Thanks for this, from a born-and-bred Dunedinite. I've wondered occasionally if you were from New Zealand, but you gave yourself away by saying 'pavlova cake'; we would never say that: just 'pavlova'. No hard feelings! :-) I'm glad you've had such positive experiences in NZ, and hope you're able to get back for another stay!
+1
Level 72
Apr 3, 2021
Amazing! I was hoping for some feedback from New Zealanders, thank you very much!

Yeah, I'm (sadly?) not a New Zealander and I didn't know about pavlova. Well, now I know :)

Can't wait to travel to your magnificent country again.

+3
Level 57
Apr 3, 2021
Realizes why kiwirage's account is kiwirage...faints.
+3
Level 62
Apr 3, 2021
Haha :-) Yes, and the 'rage' part came from often being asked what part of Australia I was from. Hence the 'kiwi rage' was activated.
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Level 30
Apr 3, 2021
Another great blog :)
+1
Level 57
Apr 3, 2021
Very Good Blog, Gassu!
+1
Level 35
Apr 3, 2021
Wow, thanks to you, I'd love to travel to New Zealand! Thank you so much!
+1
Level 56
Apr 3, 2021
Technically New Zealand did not "lose" their second cricket world Cup final. They tied the match but lost the trophy.
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Level 53
Apr 3, 2021
Lets hope they lose the WTC final.
+1
Level 56
Apr 3, 2021
New Zealand is very high on my list of future travel destinations! Thanks so much for these blogs, Gassu! I loved them!
+2
Level 57
Apr 3, 2021
Amazing facts :)!
+1
Level 67
Apr 3, 2021
Dude Kiwi's are so cute
+1
Level 57
Apr 4, 2021
CUWIS!
+1
Level 67
Apr 4, 2021
I really enjoyed the blogs, congratulations on them making the front page!
+2
Level 74
Apr 4, 2021
A great read, again! Just one point - you say Te Reo Māori doesn't know plurals, but actually it does, but not in the way English does. Pluralisation come from pluralising not the noun itself, but the preceding definite article. So, for example, Te Puke means The Hill, and Nga Puke means The Hills.
+2
Level 28
Apr 4, 2021
Congrats on your featured blogs Gassu!
+1
Level 64
Apr 4, 2021
I finished reading both of them, glad this got spotlighted :D
+1
Level 50
Apr 6, 2021
Are you planning to clog up the R.U.B. with these blogs? If you are, I'm excited 😃