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New Zealand Natural Environment

New Zealand's awesome landscapes, lush forests, amazing wildlife and pleasant climate make it a haven for many outdoor activities, and a great place to unwind.

Geography

New Zealand is situated in the South Pacific ocean, between latitude 34'S and 47'S. The country runs roughly north to south with mountain ranges down much of its length.

New Zealand's two main islands cover 266,200 square kilometres (103,735 square miles), about the size of Japan or California and slightly larger than Great Britain.

Natural Environment

New Zealand fauna

New Zealand's separation from other land masses for more than 100 million years has allowed many ancient plants and animals to survive and evolve in isolation.

Complementing our unique flora and fauna is a landscape that contains an unrivalled variety of landforms. In a couple of days' drive it is possible to see everything from mountain ranges to sandy beaches, lush rainforests, glaciers and fiords and active volcanoes.

Flora

In spite of around 1000 years of native bush clearance by humans, about a quarter of New Zealand still remains forested--mostly in high-country areas. Most of these remaining areas are protected from exploitation in national and forest parks, where they can be enjoyed by all.

The characteristic New Zealand forest is a temperate, evergreen rain forest with giant tree ferns, vines and epiphytes--looking a bit like the popular image of a jungle. The giant kauri, among the largest trees in the world, is now restricted to relatively small forest pockets in Northland and on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Fauna

New Zealand is a land of unique birds. The best known is the kiwi, New Zealand's unofficial national symbol. Also flightless are the weka and the endangered kakapo, the world's largest parrot which, at a pinch, is just able to scramble up into shrubs and small trees.

Another unique bird, one capable of flight, is the inquisitive kea, which is renowned for its fearlessness of humans and its cheeky personality.

New Zealand's Natural Heritage

What makes New Zealand's natural heritage so special?

Underlying New Zealand's physical attractions--its dramatic mountains, unpolluted beaches and green countryside--is an epic survival story of unique plants and animals.

Cast adrift from the ancient super-continent of Gondwanaland, these ancient species evolved in isolation and struggled to survive in what renowned naturalist David Bellamy has called "Moa's Ark" (named after New Zealand's native, but now extinct, giant flightless bird, the Moa).

Sadly, after only 1000 years of human settlement New Zealand has lost many native species.

However impressive gains have been made in recent times to protect and enhance those species remaining in New Zealand.

Efforts include removing introduced pests from island wildlife sanctuaries, the establishment of 13 national parks, three maritime parks, two world heritage areas, hundreds of nature reserves and ecological areas, a network of marine reserves and wetlands, and protection for special rivers and lakes. In total, around 30 percent of New Zealand's land area is protected conservation land.

In addition, research and management programmes have been introduced to aid the recovery of rare and endangered species like kakapo, kokako, kiwi and tuatara.

You can learn more about these programmes on the Department of Conservation Web site.

New Zealand welcomes everyone to experience and discover its unique and precious natural heritage. We only ask that you make as little impact as possible, so future generations may also enjoy it all.