ABOUT Lying in the south-west Pacific, New Zealand consists of two main islands - the North Island and the South Island. Stewart Island and many smaller islands lie offshore. Spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forest, volcanic plateau, miles of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches - it’s all there. With a patchwork history of Maori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures, New Zealand has become a melting-pot population. Today, of the 4.4 million New Zealanders (informally known as Kiwis), approximately 69% are of European descent, 14.6% are indigenous Maori, 9.2% Asian and 6.9% non-Maori Pacific Islanders. Geographically, over three-quarters of the population live in the North Island, with one-third of the total population living in Auckland. The other main cities of Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton are where the majority of the remaining Kiwis dwell. New Zealand is a great country for driving. Traffic is generally light, roads are well-maintained and the passing scenery makes every kilometre worthwhile. Bus and coach transport is ideal if you prefer to make your way around New Zealand without the hassle of self-driving. Sit back, relax and enjoy the views! A cost-effective alternative to driving is with daily scheduled passenger services available throughout the country. There’s also a multitude of coach companies serving the main tourist routes. Domestic airports make every part of the country accessible, from Kaitaia Airport in the far north to Ryan’s Creek Aerodrome on Stewart Island. Airport facilities vary according to the size of the local population. New Zealand's Maori culture is an integral part of Kiwi life and adds a unique, dynamic experience for visitors. Maori are the tangata whenua, the indigenous people, of New Zealand. They came here more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Today Maori make up 14% of our population and their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity.
CLIMATE As New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, it has opposite seasons to those living in the northern half of the world. Winter is June July August. Spring is September October November. Summer is December January February. Autumn is March April May.
BEWARE Street crimes occur in major urban areas. Reports of thefts from unattended vehicles, especially hire cars/camper vans in major tourist areas (e.g. the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Queenstown) have increased. There has also been an increase in the number of thefts from hotel rooms in some tourist areas. Do not leave possessions in unattended vehicles even if out of sight in a locked boot. Do not leave valuables in hotel rooms, but use safe boxes when available. Keep passports, travellers' cheques, credit cards, etc separate. Accident victims do not have a legal right to sue a third party in the event of an accident in New Zealand. Instead the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) helps pay for your care if you are injured as the result of an accident. However, the ACC only covers the cost of treatment in New Zealand and delayed travel or loss of income in a third country is not covered. Travel and Accident Insurance is again recommended. New Zealand has very strict bio-security regulations. It is illegal to import most foodstuffs (meat and meat products, honey, fruit, dairy produce etc) and strict penalties are handed out to those breaking these rules. You may also need to take care when importing wood products, golf clubs, footwear (which may have soil and dirt attached), tents (for the same reason), fishing equipment and items made from animal skin (e.g. crocodile handbags). The immigration arrivals card has full details. If in doubt, declare possibly illegal possessions to a Ministry of Agriculture official or dump them in one of the bins available at the airport. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a heavy fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment. As a result of these quarantine procedures, you should expect some delay on arrival.