Facts about New Zealand

climate

New Zealand is an independent state located in the South Pacific, and is a part of the Commonwealth. It is a popular destination for travellers, holidaymakers, and new immigrants owing to the friendly population, unique culture, and diverse opportunities for work and living.

New Zealand is famous for its athletic prowess, boasting three-time Rugby World Champions the All Blacks, and many great Olympians in sports like rowing, kayaking, triathlon and cycling. 

Location

New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere, which means its weather and seasons are the opposite of the Northern hemisphere. Auckland, the largest city, is a 3 hour flight from Melbourne, 12 hours from Hong Kong, 14 hours from Los Angeles and around a day from London. The capital city is Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island. Christchurch is located on the east coast of the South Island and is the South Island’s largest city.

New Zealand has 7 international airports with many airlines, including our national carrier Air New Zealand, flying direct to and from many major foreign airports. Airport size and facilities are usually dictated by the local population and tourist numbers. Auckland and Christchurch airports are the largest in the country.

New Zealand’s international airports are located in:

  • Christchurch
  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Queenstown
  • Dunedin
  • Rotorua
  • Hamilton

New Zealand geography and geology

North Island

The North Island is known for its great beaches and is home to many of the country’s major cities, including:

  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Hamilton
  • Palmerston North

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and is also the world’s largest Polynesian city.

In the centre of the North Island is Mount Ruapehu, which hosts two ski fields: Turoa and Whakapapa. There are many great rivers and lakes in the North Island used for fishing, swimming, boating, and kayaking.

South Island

The largest city in the South Island is Christchurch, followed by the university city of Dunedin. The South Island is famous for its farmland and alpine ski fields. There are many famous walking tracks in the South Island, and it’s known for its adventurous outdoor pursuits such as snow-skiing, bungee jumping, and jetboating.

Canterbury

Situated between the foothills of the Southern Alps and the east coast of the South Island, you will find beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains, cities, and farmland throughout Canterbury. This diverse landscape brings a range of recreational and working opportunities.

New Zealand weather and climate

New Zealand has a varied climate, and is famous for having “four seasons in one day”. The far north gets subtropical weather during the summer, and can experience highs in the 30s. Whilst the mountainous and alpine areas of the South Island can get as cold as -10°C (14°F) in winter. Due to the large coastline you don’t have to travel far to get to a beach, this also contributes to the mild temperatures.

Summer

Summer is from December – February, with January and February being the warmest months. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC (70-90°F).

Autumn

From March – May is autumn (fall) where you’ll experience cooler evening temperatures than the summer time, but overall the climate will be quite mild.

River and trees at Christchurch, New Zealand

Avon River and trees in Christchurch, New Zealand

Winter

July is the coldest month of the year, and winters in New Zealand will vary greatly depending on where in the country you are located. There’s generally a lot of rain, no matter where you are, but only the inland alpine areas of the South Island and central part of the North Island will regularly get snow.

Spring

Spring is a beautiful time in New Zealand, with a lot of bright trees and flowers coming out, and many lambs and calves being born. It’s common for the sun to be shining bright but the temperatures can be crisp.

The climate in Christchurch, Canterbury

Canterbury has a dry, temperate climate with hot summers and cool winters. The average daily summer temperature for Christchurch is above 22°C. In winter it is colder with an average high of 12°C and it’s common for temperatures to drop to a low of 1°C overnight.

Mobile and Broadband Internet

Mobile

In New Zealand many people choose to be on prepay mobile plans, especially teenagers, as they offer capped text, call and data plans. As it is a prepaid service, there is no risk of you accidentally spending too much on your phone as the service cuts out when your account balance is used up.

Monthly post-pay plans are common for businesses and the older demographic. These plans often include a large amount of mobile data, great for smartphone internet browsing, and often require you to sign up to a 12 month or 24 month plan. Post-pay plans are usually more expensive than prepay plans, but will get you better quality of network services and sometimes a free phone is offered when you sign up for a new contract.

There are several mobile service providers in New Zealand, including:

  • Spark
  • Vodafone
  • 2 Degrees
  • Slingshot
  • Skinny

Internet

The Government is currently building an Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network throughout New Zealand. This has been rolled out in many of the major cities, with smaller towns and regions to be delivered the service by 2020. You can see where it has and will be rolled out here.

There are 4 main types of broadband in New Zealand:

  • ADSL1 (Copper network – very slow, only good for reading emails)
  • ADSL2+ (Copper network – reasonable internet speeds, good for shopping online)
  • VDSL2 (Copper network – very fast and good for video streaming)
  • GPON (Fibre – the fastest speed internet available)

Most homes currently have access to ADSL2+ or VDSL2 broadband internet in New Zealand.

Driving in New Zealand

Rules

In New Zealand we drive on the left hand side of the road. When it comes to parking, there can be different rules for different cities. Parks are usually well sign posted, and sometimes there’s a fee to park, particularly in cities. As a general rule, you must not park, stop your vehicle, set down or pick up passengers:

  • On broken yellow lines
  • In a bus or transit lane
  • On a marked bus stop or taxi stand

Licences

To drive a car in New Zealand you need a driver’s licence. There are three types of car driver’s licences:

  • Learner’s
  • Restricted
  • Full

There are different tests for each of these permits, and when first applying for a driver’s licence you must sit your Learner Driver’s written test. In some instances you may use a foreign driver’s licence in New Zealand, like an Australian driver’s licence, but only for a small period of time. If you hold a licence from another country, you may be able to convert it to a New Zealand licence without sitting a test. You can find out more information about this option here.

If you want to drive a truck or heavy vehicle then you need a different licence. You can read more about that here on the NZTA website.

Money and currency

New Zealand’s unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD). Coins have values of 10, 20 and 50 cents, $1 and $2; notes have values of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that can be taken in or out of New Zealand. However, every person who carries more than NZ$10,000 in cash, in or out of New Zealand, is required to complete a Border Cash Report.

Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, some hotels and Bureau de Change kiosks, which are found at international airports and in most city centres. All major credit cards can be used in New Zealand.

Visas, passports & citizenship

If you intend to work in New Zealand, you’ll need to organise a Work Visa. You could be eligible for a work visa if you:

  • have a job offer from an NZ employer
  • your partner is here and you want to join them and work

A Special Visitor Visa is also available if you are coming here for:

  • business negotiations
  • short term sales trip 

For a full list of visa options and eligibility requirements please see the NZ Government Website here.

Education in New Zealand

New Zealand has a very good education system, from early childhood education (preschool/kindergarten) through to university. There are over 4,000 childcare and preschool facilities; over 1900 primary schools; more than 360 high schools; and 8 universities throughout New Zealand. There are also alternative education providers, private schools, and polytechnic centres for continued education.

New Zealand politics and government

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. New Zealand recognises Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of State, whilst the New Zealand Parliament holds legislative power and is in charge of lawmaking and policy development. New Zealand has a Prime Minister leading Parliament, who is elected under a General Election once every 3 years. To vote in a New Zealand general election you must be a New Zealand citizen and over 18 years of age.

New Zealand people and culture

Known for its rich and diverse cultural heritage and spectacular scenery, New Zealand is mostly populated by people of European descent, although Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is also the largest Polynesian city in the world.

New Zealand currently has a population of just over 4.6 million people. The population is made up of approximately 15% indigenous Maori, 12% Asian and 7% Pacific Islanders.

History of Aotearoa New Zealand

The indigenous Maori settled in New Zealand in the 13th century having travelled from East Polynesia. The first European, Captain James Cook, didn’t land on New Zealand shores until 1769.

Prior to 1840, European settlers were mostly whalers, sealers, and missionaries. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and local Maori, to attempt to reconcile the conflicts and disputes over land ownership during the 19th Century.

Despite its colonial roots, New Zealand is very much its own country, with its own unique, blended culture. Since the 1980s New Zealand has been a nuclear free zone, and its armed forces are largely involved in peacekeeping operations across the Pacific.

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