69 Interesting Facts About New Zealand

Last updated on May 24th, 2023

New Zealand is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. Learn more about this island nation with these interesting, funny and important facts about its history, geography, culture and more.

10 facts about New Zealand for Kids

1. Santa Clause’s reindeer have a hard time delivering presents in New Zealand because it’s summertime during Christmas. A very odd thing to imagine for people living in the Northern Hemisphere.

2. The Mickey Mouse look-alike in the animal kingdom is found only in New Zealand. The Hector Dolphin, native to the southern island has two protruding ears, giving it a funny look.

3. Captain James Cook, the real-life captain Jack Sparrow, was a captain of the Royal Navy of Britain who discovered New Zealand for the West. The lack of fresh citrus fruits in his adventurous voyage led him to discover a cure for scurvy, the simple vitamin C.

4. The Great Barrier Islands in northern New Zealand, extensively used pigeon posts. During the early 20th century, it had two companies that “hired” healthy pigeons to deliver crucial information. It remains an important cultural symbol of the region.

The Great Barrier Island, NZ. - New Zealand facts
A shot of the Great Barrier Island. Image credit – Alex Schwab

5. The Auckland Volcanic Field is a hotspot for volcanic activity and geologists use the area to study global seismology. It has 50 volcanoes with a relatively young one of 650 years.

6. Children as low as 16 years can apply for a driving license. Incidentally, earlier it was even lower at 15 years. With good roads and one of the highest per capita rate of car ownership, makes New Zealand a driver-friendly country.

7. Nestled somewhere in the foothills of the tallest mountain, Mt. Everest, Nepal, is a plague to commemorate Sir Edmund Hillary’s amazing feat. He was a New Zealander, who was the first to scale to the top of the peak. A true legend and a source of inspiration for many.

Mountain kea parrot on wooden pole
Mountain kea parrot on wooden pole, New Zealand. Photo © Tomas Pavelka

8. The Kea is an interesting bird of New Zealand. Known as “the clown of the mountains”, it’s the world’s only alpine parrot. Famous for its intelligence, it often steals rubber from tourist’s backpacks and tears down car tires.

9. The Prime Minister of New Zealand appointed a National Wizard, to help formulate key policies regarding magic.

10. Niue, a dependency of New Zealand, has legal coins with images of Pikachu, a famous Pokémon of a Japanese TV series.

Flag of New Zealand

Flag of New Zealand
The National flag of New Zealand. Image credit – CIA

New Zealand’s History

11. The early native people of New Zealand arrived from Polynesia, in canoes. For a newbie, Polynesia is a group of islands in Central and Southern Pacific. For an even greater newbie, Pacific is the name of the largest ocean on earth.

12. The natives were so impressed and intrigued by Aotearoa (as they called New Zealand back then) that they forgot their ancestry and changed themselves to become the Maori people. They never even cared to contact the outer world and remained isolated for a staggering three centuries, during which they developed their own culture, language, arts, food habits, and music.

13. Then the Europeans arrived. In one incident, the captain of a European ship, Boyd, whipped the son of a Maori chieftain. Matters soon escalated quickly and the Maori people ended up eating an estimated 60 Europeans. The lesson from the Boyd massacre was well learned: Never flog a Maori chief’s son.

14. The Boyd massacre was a watershed moment between the two cultures. It was adopted in a 2010 children’s book, The Shadow of the Boyd, by Kiwi author Diana Menefy. A really odd topic for a children’s book, though.

15. Though New Zealand is far away from Europe, a number of its men fought along with the allies in both WW1 and WW2.

16. New Zealand is very passionate about its flag. There is an intriguing history of the flag debate in NZ, spread from the era of World War 2 to the present day. The saddest thing is, after all, that, the nation presently faces an awkward situation. Its flag looks exactly like the Australian one, minus a star.

17. The Head of State of New Zealand lives on an Island, but 18,695 km away, in London. The colonial idea of “The Queen reigns, but the government rules,” is taken rather seriously, even today.

18. Nancy Wake, a British Special Service Executive during world war 2, was Nazi Germany’s one of the most wanted person, as she killed an SS officer, with her bare hands.

19. A civilization is judged by how it treats its women. In this regard, New Zealand has been two steps ahead of the civilized West. In 1893, it became the first country in the world to give voting rights to its women and achieve universal suffrage before it became mainstream.

Facts about sports, volcanoes, economy, national anthem, languages and more

20. The mystery of the twin islands comes out at night. New Zealand, literally invented the word tramping, which means overnight hiking. NZ is famous for a number of unique huts, dotted along picturesque hiking routes, which are used by…you guessed it right, trampers. That’s a word too.

21. Auckland, an important city in New Zealand, has the highest per capita of boats among every city of the world. It is rightly called “The City of Sails.”

The city of Sails, Auckland.
The city of Sails, Auckland. Image credit – Keerti Siag

22. The first Rugby World Cup had an unexpected winner, New Zealand. The country shined on the world stage in 1987, beating Australia. In 2011, the two island nations clashed again at the finals and as they say- History repeats itself. The New Zealand All Blacks again crushed Australia to a humiliating defeat.

23. New Zealand is also home to an entire family tree of volcanoes. It’s filled with active ones, dormant ones, pre-historic ones, calderas and many more. These natural pressure cookers have created beautiful craters, making them an exciting spot for hiking.

24. The island nation has not been affected by the malice of industrial ones. The 2013 Global Peace Index, placed NZ at the third safest country to live in, behind Iceland and Denmark.

25. The silver fern is the symbol of unity in the Island Nation. It can be found everywhere from its currency to its unofficial flag. The uniform of the national cricket team and the army bear the same silver fern, in a black background.

26. The tallest structure in the whole Southern Hemisphere is The Sky Tower of Auckland.

27. New Zealand remains a vocal supporter of nuclear non-proliferation. In 1980, it was forced out of the ANZUS, which was an alliance between Australia, New Zealand, and the USA, for not accepting nuclear arms use. Even today, it has no nuclear power plant.

28. The most brilliant irony of it is the father of nuclear physics; Ernest Rutherford was from New Zealand. A scientist every kid knows, he has also won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his outstanding research on atomic theory.

29. Liberty is the sweetest part of New Zealand. Homosexuality, Prostitution, Brothel Keeping are all fairly legal, to a certain degree. Even the age for consensual sex is 16 years against the global average of 18.

30. The first Transsexual to be a Governor and a Member of Parliament, was Georgina Beyer, a native of New Zealand. Her background in prostitution didn’t dent her social image, as New Zealand is very tolerant.

31. The country has a wild side. Kiwis associate themselves with adventure sports like kayaking, white-water rafting, skiing, mountaineering, and rugby. It also has a world-renowned team in the gentle man’s game, cricket.

32. The funniest part of the New Zealand Air Force is its logo: A kiwi, which is a flightless bird. It was better suited for land forces.

33. New Zealand found The Black Cocks hard to swallow, no pun intended. The Black Cocks was a name innocently given to New Zealand’s national badminton team, but faced wide protests, forcing the authorities to reconsider the name.

34. New Zealand should be more careful while naming. The famous Ninety miles beach is actually ninety kilometers in length.

35. New Zealand has a strange tradition of having two national anthems. The first is, God Save the Queen while the other being, God Defend New Zealand. One point to NZ for patriotism.

36. The world’s single largest name of a place is “Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu”. It can be translated into a little story about the place, which goes something like this: “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater’, played his flute to his loved one.”

37. The Waipoua Forest of New Zealand is home to the king of trees, The Kauri trees. These are the largest and longest living trees of the plant kingdom. A healthy Kauri tree can live up to 1000 years.

38. The economy of New Zealand puts it in a surprising spot among the top 10 nations with the highest Human Development Index. A rare feat for an island nation of its size.

39. New Zealand has an active marine volcano, The Whakaari or The White Island, which attracts tourists and geologists in equal numbers.

the Whakaari or the White Island, New Zealand.
A view of the Whakaari or the White Island. Image credit – Krzysztof Belczyński

40. Who says two poles can’t meet? The food of Australia is a unique symbiosis of Maori food and European cuisine. The poles did meet but soon Maori people, who were isolated for too long, fell ill to foreign diseases like obesity, blood pressure, and heart diseases.

41. In 1896, New Zealand saw the first public screening of a motion picture. Then in 1914, it made its first feature film. Since then it evolved through various eras of cinema.

42. New Zealand has three official languages, one of them being New Zealand Sign Language. It can technically be used to give a “speech” in the Parliament or any official gathering.

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