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Country Profile - New Zealand


Located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,900 km east of Australia, New Zealand is comprised of two main adjacent islands, the North Island and South Island, and a number of small outlying islands. With a total land area of 268,680 sq km New Zealand is similar in size to Britain and Japan.  Over half of the country's total land area is pasture and arable land and more than a quarter is under forest cover. It is predominantly mountainous and hilly with 13% of the total area consisting of alpine terrain including many peaks exceeding 3000 metres.



New Zealand's climate is complex and varies from warm subtropical in the far north to cool temperate climates in the far south, with severe alpine conditions in the mountainous areas. Mountain chains extending the length of New Zealand provide a barrier for the prevailing westerly winds, dividing the country into dramatically different climate regions. The West Coast of the South Island is the wettest area of New Zealand, whereas the area to the east of the mountains, just over 100 km away, is the driest. As New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, summer starts in December and winter starts in June. January and February are usually the warmest months and July the coldest. Average temperatures range from 8C in July to 23C in January. A pleasant feature of the New Zealand climate is the high proportion of sunshine during the winter months but in the warmer months the sun is very strong so caution is advised.
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Mean daily maximum temperature (degrees celsius) 
Jan July

Sunshine Hours

Mean Annual Rainfall mm

Auckland 23.3 14.7



Wellington 20.3 11.3



Christchurch 22.5 11.3



Dunedin 18.9 9.0



Source:  NIWA Climate Survey

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Population and Settlement

New Zealand's population is at 4.5 million (January 2014) with approximately 75% living in the North Island. Despite the country's continued reliance on agricultural exports, the population is mainly urbanised. The majority of New Zealanders are of British descent complemented by many other European cultures including Dutch, French, German and Scandinavian. The largest non-European group is the indigenous Maori who arrived in New Zealand about 1,000 years ago.  The first European settlements began in the early 1800s.  The rest of the population is a mixture of Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic origins.For further information, visit Statistics New Zealand at





   1.3 million





Palmerston North


New Plymouth












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English and Maori are the official languages and English is spoken by almost all New Zealanders. Maori is the first language of about 50,000 people and the second language of about 150,000.


Christianity is the faith most widely professed. The main denominations are Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic.

Political System

New Zealand is an independent state within the British Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is represented by the Governor General who summons and dissolves parliament and assents to legislation. The current government since November 2008 is a centre-right one under the leadership of National Party Prime Minister John Key. National operate a "confidence and supply" agreement with some smaller parties - ACT, United Future and the Maori Party - in order to ensure more voting successes in parliament.

Since 1996 the Parliament has been elected using the mixed member proportional (MMP) system. Parliament is comprised of 120 seats, 65 being electorate representatives and 55 members coming from party lists. Elections are held every three years and persons over 18 have the right to vote. Enrolment on the electoral roll is compulsory, voting is not. Permanent residents may vote providing they fulfill certain other requirements which also apply to New Zealand citizens, including having lived in the country continuously for at least a year at some time, having been in the country within the last three years and having lived at least one month in the electorate they are to be enrolled in. |
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Law and Justice

The justice system is based on the English model and is independent of government. The Supreme Court Act was established in 2003 which established within New Zealand a new court of final appeal (previously situated in the United Kingdom). All courts exercise both criminal and civil jurisdiction. A number of specialist courts exist and include the employment court, family courts, youth courts and the Maori land court.

Social Welfare

Unlike most overseas social security schemes, the New Zealand scheme is non-contributory. Benefits are financed from general taxation, and wage and salary earners are not required to pay regular contributions to a social security fund. The system provides a range of assistance with cash benefits paid as of right to those who meet income, residency and other eligibility criteria for each category, and other assistance available to help with specific expenses such as accommodation or those related to disability. Immigrants to New Zealand are not eligible for unemployment and sickness benefits until they have been in the country for at least two years.
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Health Care

The New Zealand health system is made up of both the public and private sectors. Whilst the level of state health care is excellent, 60% of the population chooses to supplement this with private health insurance. The health care provided by General Practitioners is partially funded by government, and funding is also extended to specialist and laboratory diagnostic services. All maternity care (from the point of positive pregnancy test) to the birth of the child is 100% paid for by the state. Specialists if required or preferred are paid for by the patient.

Hospital Benefits: If you ever need to stay in hospital for treatment, you can choose to go to a public hospital where your stay is free or a private hospital where you will have to pay all the charges. A waiting period may apply for public hospitals depending on the seriousness of your illness or injury.

Accident Compensation Scheme (ACC): ACC provides coverage to people who suffer accidental injuries in New Zealand.  All accident victims are entitled to free hospital treatment. ACC also subsidises all other types of treatment involving accident-related injuries, as long as the treatment is provided by registered health professionals. The patient usually pays a part-charge for the treatment.  If your injury stops you from working, ACC pays weekly compensation, usually based on a percentage of your weekly income before tax. It can also help with residential nursing care, home help and childcare, as well as subsidising transport and training costs while you recover. In some cases involving permanent physical impairment, compensation or lump sum financial payments are also made.

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Most New Zealand children begin their formal education before primary school at the age of two and a half years. While most also begin primary school at age five, attendance only becomes compulsory at age six, until the age of 16 years. Education is provided free (excludes foreign students) in state primary, intermediate and secondary schools between the ages of 5 and 19. There are also private or independent schools and integrated schools, formerly private schools which have decided to join the state schooling system and receive government funding.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is New Zealand's main national qualification for secondary school students and part of the New Zealand National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The NQF is benchmarked internationally which means that the NCEA will be recognised overseas.

There are eight universities and 20 Polytechnics, Institutes of Technology and Colleges of Educations which offer a broad range of courses in the professional, technical, vocational and trade areas. There are also a large number of private tertiary education providers who are registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and also provide a broad range of courses. 

The National Qualifications Framework brings together senior secondary education, industry training and tertiary education under one system. It is administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), which is also the body which assesses the equivalency of overseas qualifications for immigration purposes.

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Transport, Communication and Media

From the three main international airports (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch) New Zealand is well served by international airlines, including Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei, Qantas and Thai Airways. Air New Zealand is the main domestic airline, with the greatest number of flights and widest network, however in recent years, Jet Star have introduced more competition on the main flight routes.

Ferries transport passengers, cars, road and rail freight between the North and South Islands. New Zealand has an extensive network of well maintained roads. Cars are the most popular form of transport, especially for long distances. Most cities operate a public transport system (usually buses) and there is a national bus and limited train transport system. Mail and goods can be delivered between the main centres in 24 hours, and smaller centres are served by efficient links of postal and courier services. The main providers of telecommunications services are Telecom New Zealand and TelstraClear. Television and radio services are provided by both public and private channels. Most cities and large towns have a daily newspaper. The main regional newspapers are The New Zealand Herald - Auckland, The Dominion Post - Wellington, The Press - Christchurch, The Otago Daily Times - Dunedin. More than 2,300 magazines are regularly available, for which about 130 are published in New Zealand or are New Zealand editions.


It is illegal to drive without a driver's licence. The minimum age for driving in New Zealand is 15 when a provisional licence can be obtained. An International Drivers Permit is valid for 12 months after arrival in New Zealand. After this period a New Zealand licence must be obtained. This involves passing a theory test and a practical test. Migrants from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Switzerland or the USA can apply for an exemption from the practical part of the licence test if they can produce a current overseas drivers licence (or one that has expired within the last 12 months) which they have held for at least two years and they sign a declaration that they have not been disqualified from driving. The theory test must still be passed. New Zealanders drive on the left-hand side of the road. Seat belts are compulsory. The maximum speed on the open road is 100km|h and the maximum speed limit for urban areas is 50km|h. Most main routes are of a high standard and are sealed, however, in more rural areas there are many unsealed roads and livestock are often herded along roads.

As of 1st January 2010, it is illegal in New Zealand to drive while using a hand-held cell phone.

Further information on licences and driving is available from the Land Transport Safety Authority at

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New Zealand uses the AC 240 volts 50 cycle electrical system, although most hotel rooms have 110 volt sockets for electric razors. Equipment brought from Europe will need to be fitted with new plugs or adaptors used. In some cases it is advisable to purchase new equipment in New Zealand eg televisions and video recorders. for more information, visit

Cost of Living

What does it cost? To give you an idea of living costs in New Zealand, please visit the websites of the following supermarket chains

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Most houses are of wood construction, detached with three/four bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, separate toilet/bathroom and lounge. The standard size of a New Zealand section used to be a quarter of an acre but as property prices have risen in recent years, subdivisions have become more common and new houses are being built on much smaller sites which makes the average size of new houses just under 170 square metres.  The main sources of mortgage finance for housing are registered banks, savings institutions and finance companies.

When you first arrive in New Zealand, it is likely you'll need some rental accommodation while you're looking for a house to buy. Rental properties are generally widely available throughout the country, and the cost of rent will vary depending on the area and facilities e.g. furnished or unfurnished.  Rental housing is generally sought through real estate agencies or through the main newspapers. For most major daily newspapers, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the most popular days for listings. You can also search for rental accommodation online. A bond equivalent to one month's rent and two weeks rent in advance is usually required when you first rent a property.

For information on AVERAGE HOUSE PRICES and further information, please visit

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