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New Zealand lies in the southern Pacific Ocean, 1 600 kilometres east of Australia. It is made up of the North and South Islands and a number of smaller islands, with a total land area of 270 500 square kilometres. The main North and South Islands are separated by Cook Strait.

New Zealand is a unique country. With vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes, gorgeous beaches, often spectacular geothermal and volcanic activity, a temperate climate and fascinating animal and plant life, and it is no surprise that New Zealand's pure natural environment is so attractive to visitors from other countries. And the great advantage of New Zealand is there are many different landscapes, environments, and ecosystems so close to each other.

New Zealand is a multi-cultural society with a population of about 4 million (2003). About 75% live in the North Island, and about 1.5 million people live in the Auckland urban area - the biggest New Zealand city. Wellington with the population of about 420 000 is a capital of New Zealand

The first New Zealanders, the Maori, first landed in Aotearoa (New Zealand - literally 'Land of the Long White Cloud) on waka hourua (voyaging canoes) from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki probably over 1,000 years ago. They settled throughout the land, surviving by farming and hunting. By 1800 there were believed to be over 100,000 Maori in New Zealand. Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand, but it was after Captain James Cook began his circumnavigation of the country in 1769 that European migration began. The first European migrants were whalers and missionaries.

English is the common and everyday language of New Zealand. New Zealand is a multi-cultural society and you may hear many other languages spoken, including Maori, which is also an official language of New Zealand. New Zealand's unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZ$).

The north of New Zealand is subtropical and the south temperate. The warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest June, July and August. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30oC and in winter between 10-15oC.

New Zealand is one of the first places in the world to see the new day, 12 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

Electricity is supplied throughout New Zealand at 230/240 volts, 50 hertz. For all European equipment, an adapter/converter is necessary, unless the item has a multi-voltage option. Please note that power outlets only accept flat 3 or 2-pin plugs, depending on whether an earth connection is fitted.

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