The Land of the Long White Cloud
If we sail even further southeast of Australia, we can explore the two big islands that make up New Zealand. The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which means “the land of the long white cloud.” New Zealand is made up of the North Island and the South Island. The North Island is mild and warm. Since it is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, it has active volcanoes like Mount Ruapehu, which stands 9,177 feet above sea level. The South Island is divided by the Southern Alps and has a much colder climate. The highest peak on the South Island is Mount Cook at 12,320 feet. The two islands are separated by the Cook Strait. Because New Zealand is so isolated, many of its plants and animals are unique and can't be found anywhere else in the world.
LL A BOUT
All about New Zealand
Largest city: Auckland
Official languages: English, Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language
Area: 103,738 square miles
Population: 4.27 million
Sheep, Penguins, and Kiwi
Let's take a look at the landscape of New Zealand. The wet climate is ideal for raising livestock, and, like Australia, New Zealand has lots and lots of sheep — around 45 million, in fact. Not surprisingly, this country is one of the world's top exporters of wool as well as farm products such as butter and cheese. There are also many orchards, in which farmers grow fruits such as citrus, berries, apples, and many others. The farmers sell these fruits to farmers in the Northern Hemisphere when that part of the world is in the middle of winter and cannot grow fruits.
Much of New Zealand's electric power comes from something called a hydroelectric plant, which uses the fast-running water of a river to turn a wheel, called a turbine. The turbine then turns a generator that makes electricity. Clyde Dam, on the South Island, is an example of a hydroelectric plant. Because New Zealand does not have many people, its industries don't make a lot of pollution and it gets its power from rivers, so it is considered an environmentally friendly country.
The most famous symbol of New Zealand is the kiwi — a bird that cannot fly. The kiwi has a very good sense of smell, and it uses the nostrils at the end of its beak to help it find insects and worms underground. The kiwi is also nocturnal, avoiding animals that might eat it during the day. A fuzzy brown fruit, also called a kiwi, is named for the bird.
Penguins in New Zealand?
It's true — there are two kinds of penguins native to New Zealand. The yellow-eyed penguin is pretty big — about 30 inches long and about 14 pounds. It has a pale yellow head, yellow eyes, and a yellow stripe around its head. The little penguin, also known as the little blue penguin, lives in Australia and New Zealand. These weigh about two pounds and are about 16 inches tall.
New Zealand was one of the last countries on Earth to be inhabited. Settlers arrived from Polynesia around 950 c.e. across a land bridge that once existed between New Zealand and Southeast Asia. The Maori are descendants of those original settlers, and they make up 14 percent of the country's current population. The rest of the people in New Zealand are descendants of the European settlers who arrived in the 1800s. The Maori language has been adopted as an official language and Maori culture has greatly influenced New Zealand. Most of the people in present-day New Zealand live in cities, and more than half live in the four biggest cities: Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, and Christchurch.
Like Australians, New Zealanders love sports — especially hiking, mountain climbing, and rugby. New Zealand's rugby team is called the All Blacks, and they often play Australia's team, the Wallabies.