Terrain shapes and bedrock
According to Abbreviationfinder, New Zealand was originally part of the supercontinent
Gondwana, and its oldest rocks are from the upper
Precambrian. By continental displacement, a system of arches
and deep-sea tombs was formed under carbon. Many of the
sedimentary rocks that make up 3/4 of New Zealand originated
here. At the end of the oligocene (about 26 million years
ago) began a mountain range formation, which resulted in the
Southern Alps on the South Island. The different natural
landscapes in New Zealand are characterized by this tectonic
The North Island has a Y-shaped mountain range system,
which at the top Ruapehu, south of Lake Taupo, reaches 2,797
m above sea level. The east and west sides of the North
Island have nice terrain with peaks around 1,500 m above sea
level. The highlands in the middle are dominated by three
volcanic mountains, except Ruapehu also Ngauruhoe (2,291 m
above sea level) and Tongariro (1,968 m above sea level).
Another volcano in the south-west corner of the North Island
is Egmont (2,518 m above sea level). There are plenty of hot
springs, geysers, mud volcanoes and fumaroles. The
northwestern part consists of two, sand-cut peninsula, the
Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula.
The South Island, which is separated from the North
Island by the Cook Islands, is to 3/4 a highland with the
Southern Alps, where Cook forms the highest point of the
country, 3,764 m above sea level. The icing of the South
Island during the Quaternary period covered the entire
mountainous west side. The glaciers and glaciers extended
west to the sea, where they gave rise to a Norwegian coastal
Along the coasts to the north there are several fertile
plains and valleys.
New Zealand has many but short rivers, most with rapid
falls; on the North Island of Waikato and Wanganui with
outlets in the Tasman Sea and on the South Island of Rakaia,
Rangitata, Waitaki and Clutha with outlets in the Pacific
Ocean. The latter have built up large alluvial plains,
mainly the Canterbury plain within the Canterbury Bay, which
forms a strong contrast to the conditions on the steep west
coast of South Island.
New Zealand has a warm temperate, maritime climate. This
means that the temperature differences during the year will
be relatively small. January is the warmest month with an
average temperature of 14-19 °C, coolest in the south and
in the mountainous interior; July is the coldest with 5-11 °C.
The rainfall is mostly plentiful, but especially on the
west side, as New Zealand is within the western wind belt.
The Southern Alps receive 2,000–5,000 mm per year on the
western slopes, other parts 1,000–2,000 mm, except for the
area east of the Southern Alps, which lie in the rain shadow
and receive 500–1,000 mm per year.
Plant-and animal life
New Zealand's plant and animal life is largely the
endemic species due to its long-standing isolated location.
Flora consists of 80 percent of endemic species and their
genus. Kivier, rockets and spring crows are endemic bird
families. Terrestrial mammals have failed to reach New
Zealand on their own. Naturally, there are only two species
of bats, long-tailed bats (Chalinolobus tuberculatus)
and ground bats (Mystacina tuberculata). There are
no terrestrial snakes, and tail muscle frogs are the only
amphibians. A unique insect group is the large fly-able
jumping wings called wetor.
Among other things, European settlers introduced rats,
hermelin, cats and other predators, which have contributed
to the disappearance of no less than one-third of the
original bird fauna, especially species that have lost their
flying ability because no terrestrial predators were present
in the original nature. Though tuatara were formerly
widespread but has disappeared in most areas due to
predation by introduced mammals.
In addition to the main islands, New Zealand includes a
number of island groups, four of which are near Antarctica
and four are more tropical. Together with these islands, New
Zealand is one of the world's most important countries for
marine birds with millions of breeding pairs of around 80
species, one third of which are endemic.
The entire Auckland peninsula, New Zealand's hottest
part, was previously covered by temperate kauri forests with
the large conifer tree kauri, and another 600 species of
plants, many of which are endemic, grow here. Large parts of
the original forest have been felled and introduced animals
such as red deer, sickle deer and purebreds (introduced from
Australia for fur) have a negative impact on the remaining
vegetation despite pest control campaigns.
The largest contiguous Kauri forest that remains is the
Waipoua Forest, where an estimated three quarters of all
older Kauri trees grow, including the two oldest known Kauri
trees in New Zealand whose age is estimated to be over 1,500
years. Here is the Maori parrot cake (Nestor
meridionalis) and red-tailed parakeet (Cyanoramphus
novaezelandiae) and the largest known colony of brown
kivi (Apteryx australis).
There are several smaller islands around the Auckland
Peninsula. One such is Little Barrier Island. Here lives the
rare spring cuckoo kokako (Callaeas cinereus) and
one of the world's largest insects, wetan Deinacrida
heteracantha where the largest females can grow 8.5 cm
and weigh 70 g.
On the smaller islands many sea birds breed. Most common
are cookpetrell (Pterodroma cookii) and less
sootpetrell (Procellaria parkinsoni). In 2003, a
small stock of Maorist Storm Swallows (Fregetta maoriana)
was rediscovered, which was thought to have died out in the
1850s, and in 2013 the first breedings were found. Two other
islands, Hen Island and Chicken Island, harbor a strain of
pycroft petrel (Pterodroma pycrofti) and
pointed-billed spring crow (Philesturnus carunculatus).
Around the coasts, especially in Hauraki Gulf, finds many
marine mammals such as killer whales, Bryde's whale,
southern right whales, blue whales, humpback whales,
Antarctic Minke (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), common
bottlenose dolphin and dolphin. In the southernmost part of
the bay lies the Firth of Thames, one of the country's most
important tidal areas with up to 40,000 wading birds during
the summer. Most common are bog spruce and coastal snail
from distant Siberia, but the beak (Anarhynchus
frontalis) - an endemic piper nesting on the South
Island - also moves here.
To the east of the Auckland peninsula is the marine
reserve of Poor Knights Islands, according to sea researcher
Jacques Cousteau one of the world's ten best places for
diving and snorkeling. Here you will find many subtropical
species such as manta and spear roe along with more arctic
species as gate selection. The islands are the only known
breeding site in the world for gray-backed lira (Puffinus
bulleri) with an estimated population of 2.5 million
Large parts of the North Island are occupied by temperate
mixed forests with southern bees and species within the
genus Podocarpus as well as many epiphytic ferns,
orchids and fungi. Four national parks have been set aside.
The more low-lying levels are usually cultivated.
In the Tongariro National Park in the middle of the
island there are three spectacular volcanoes and a rich
plant and wildlife, including many of the country's endemic
birds. Besides cake, Kokako and brown Kivi is the heading
blåand (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos), tvåbandad
Plover (Charadrius bicinctus), New Zealand falcon (Falco
novaeseelandiae), tui (Prost Hema Neither
novaeseelandiae) and MOREPORK (Ninox
Whanganui National Park just west of Tongariro protects
the largest contiguous forest area on the North Island. No
less than 18 native fish species live in the rivers, and
both New Zealand bat species have been reported from here.
Here is also the strongest population of brown kiwi as well
as good populations of other endemic birds such as gray
gerygone (Gerygone igata), New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga
novaeseelandiae), messydake (Petroica macrocephala)
and white mohoua (Mohoua albicilla).
Further west in the inaccessible Urewera National Park
with large southern forest and lakes, nature is still
intact. Here you will find all of Nordön's forest-nesting
bird species and the country's largest population of kokako.
In New Zealand's largest lake Taupo, there is a good
population of the native crayfish Paranephrops
planifrons, which survived despite the implantation of
several fish from other parts of the world.
In Marlborough Sounds north of the north coast of South
Island, there is an archipelago that represents an important
retreat site for several endangered animals. In the islands,
programs are underway to preserve environments without
introduced predators. These islands serve as the last
settlements for acutely endangered birds such as owl parrot,
smaller spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii) and takahe (Porphyrio
hochstetteri), a large, flightless breed that was
believed to have been extinct in the late 1800s but
resurfaced. also some unique crustaceans and amphibians,
such as Hamilton's frog (Leiopelma hamiltoni), one
of the world's rarest frogs. Several marine reserves protect
the underwater world but also favor rare bird species such
as pycroft petrel (with nesting sites on Hen Island) and
warts (Phalacrocorax carunculatus) and New Zealand
fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri).
The northwestern part of the South Island along the
Nelsco Coast is one of the most intact parts of New Zealand.
The varied nature with mountains, rivers, forests and an
unspoilt coast creates space for many plants and animals.
About 95 per cent of the forests growing over 600 m above
sea level remain.
On the eastern, more rainy slopes, southern beech forests
dominate, while Podocarpus species thrive best in
the humid west slopes, where it can rain up to 5 m per year.
Earthquakes are regular and help to reshape the landscape.
At the Whanganui Inlet in the northwestern part of the
South Island, there are large tidal zones with tapeworms,
and as the water recedes, the south coast cat (Haematopus
finschi) seeks food on the water-free beaches. From
December to February, there are regular marshland and
coastal snatch from Siberia. This is also a good place to
see the banded gall (Gallirallus philippensis).
Kahurangi National Park just south is a large wilderness
area with intact forests, unregulated rivers and alpine
meadows. Over half of the country's plant species grow,
including 67 endemic species. There are also 20 species of a
unique group of carnivorous snails (Powelliphanta),
some of which can grow up to 10 cm long.
Paparoa National Park between Westport and Greymouth on
the west coast is famous above all for its so-called pancake
mountains consisting of limestone sediment. Open areas along
the forested slopes constitute the world's only nesting site
for larger soot petrel (Procellaria westlandica).
If you are lucky you can see Hector's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus
hectori), one of the world's smallest dolphins.
In the northeastern part of the South Island the
mountainous terrain is dominated by southern beech forests
and open, alpine areas with several unique plants of
subtropical origin. The Kowka Valley in the Kaikoura
Mountains, about 15 km from the coast, is the only known
nesting site in the world for hueson lira (Puffinus
huesoni); here breed 100,000 pairs of the species that
are otherwise associated with the whipped ocean.
In Nelson Lakes National Park west of the Kaikoura
Mountains, species such as New Zealand's smallest bird
climber (Acanthisitta chloris), cake and messy hook
(Petroica macrocephala) are protected by actively
trying to eradicate introduced rats and ermine, an
experiment that is most commonly associated with islands. It
is also planned to reintroduce extinct birds such as yellow
mohoua (Mohoua ochrocephala).
Along the west coast of the South Island stretches the
Southern Alps with peaks over 3,000 m that drop directly
into the Tasman Sea and huge glaciers like Fox and Franz
Josef as well as a narrow zone of temperate forests. With
precipitation amounts up to 14 m per year, a distinctive
vegetation has been developed with trees such as
Metrosideros umbellate belonging to the family of
myrtle plants. Here lives the very rare okaritokivi (Apteryx
rowi), which was described as a species as recently as
The Okaritol Lagoon is New Zealand's largest intact
wetland area with a rich bird life of ducks, waders, gulls
and terns. The lagoon houses the only nesting colony of
egrets in New Zealand. The fearless parrot kea is scattered
and in the lakes there is the same beard dipping as in
The central, high alpine parts of the South Island are
dominated by grass, but here are also many herbs, including
the world's largest ranuncle Ranunculus lyallii.
There are no natural mammals here, but besides wild ermines
there are implanted deer, gems and himalayatahr (Hemitragus
jemlahicus), which threaten the original nature. Among
the threatened species are black stilt runner (Himantopus
novaezelandiae)) the best known. The species was at the
extinction limit in 1981 when only 23 birds were left, which
is why it was decided to start breeding in captivity. By
planting captive-bred animals, fighting hermelines and
increasing the protection of nesting sites along the rivers
(especially the Mackenzie River), the tribe had grown to 130
wild birds in 2012. Other typical species of birds are rock
cliff (Xenicus gilviventris) and kale. A larger
national park has been set up around Mount Cook, New
Zealand's highest mountain.
The eastern part of the South Island, from the Southern
Alps to the Pacific coast, was originally covered by mixed
forests where several species of moa birds lived. When the
islands were colonized by Maori in the 13th century, they
quickly died out because of hunting and that the original
landscape was transformed into open grasslands. The
Europeans who arrived at the end of the 18th century
continued the destruction of nature and today there is
virtually nothing left of the original forests; it is mainly
the terraced coast that has conservation values.
Here are several species of dolphins and whales. The most
common are southern Atlantic whitewash (Lagenorhynchus
obscurus), Hector's dolphin, dolphin, humpback whale,
southern caper, blue whale, killer whale and cask lotus. At
the Otago Peninsula is the only mainland colony of king
albatross (Diomedea epomophora). Yellow-eyed
penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) and a subspecies of
dwarf penguins (Eudyptula minor albosignata) also
nest here. Hooker's sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri)
and New Zealand fur seal are found along the entire coast.
Fiordland in the southwest corner of the South Island is
one of the most famous natural areas in New Zealand. The
landscape is spectacular with deep fjords, lakes,
snow-capped mountains and steep slopes covered with southern
beech forests where the waterfalls plunge into the Tasman
Sea. The special vegetation includes 700 endemic species.
Fiordland National Park is the largest in the country, but
the natural fauna has been negatively affected by introduced
animals, especially red deer, purebreds and weasels. Thus,
the newly discovered takah was being eradicated by deer that
competed for food and had a negative impact on the
environment. Since then, campaigns to remove the deer have
had a positive effect on the tribe of takahe. The last owl
parrots in Fiordland were collected to be part of a breeding
program where the birds are eventually released on smaller
islands free of rats and predators around New Zealand. The
surrounding Tasman Sea offers fine conditions for many
marine plants and animals. Along the coast nest fjord
penguins (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) and among the
many whales are Arnoux beak whales (Berardius arnuxii).
In the southern part of the South Island there is a
lowland area located in rain shadow from the Southern Alps.
Many of the original forests have disappeared because of
man, but in the southeast there is a significant area left.
In Catlins a reserve has been set up to protect the
remaining forest and a valuable coastal section. In the
forests grow Podocarpus Species. Among the animals
are red-headed parakeets, yellow mohoua, New Zealand pigeon
and ground bats. On the coast there are three seal species:
New Zealand fur seal, Hooker's sea lion and southern sea
elephant (Mirounga leonina) together with whales
Just south of the South Island is an archipelago of
islands. The main island of Stewart Island is covered by
temperate Podocarpus forests, which make up New
Zealand's most unspoilt area and one of the world's oldest
forest ecosystems. Here, they have largely managed to avoid
bringing in animals, which is why the original fauna is
fairly intact with the New Zealand sea hook (Petroica
australis), wekarall (Gallirallus australis)
and pointed-billed spring crow. In the high alpine, open
zones nest Maori pipers (Charadrius obscurus) and
along the coast live the endemic stew (Phalacrocorax
About 100 km south of Stewart Island is Snares Islands,
one of New Zealand's most important places for seabirds. In
the archipelago of islands, one of the world's largest
colonies of gray lions nest with around 2.8 million pairs.
Each year around 400,000 of the kids are collected by
Maoris, as part of their traditional rights. In the islands,
the two endemic species live snake penguins (Eudyptes
robustus) and snaresbeckasin (Coenocorypha huegeli)
as well as nine other species of seabirds: three
albatrosses, five species of liras and one dive-pellet.
In the middle of the Pacific, about 800 km east of New
Zealand, lies the isolated island group of the Chatham
Islands, famous for its many unique birds and invertebrates.
There are eleven endemic bird species, including chatham
cormorants (Phalacrocorax onslowi),
chathamalbatross (Thalassarche eremita) and magenta
tapetrell (Pterodroma magentae), but the islands
are also an important breeding ground for other marine
living species, including northern king albatross (Diomedea)
(Diomedea) the world population resides here.
Nature conservation is well-developed and a high priority
in the country. In 2007, there were 14 national parks as
well as a large number of other types of nature-protected
areas, which together covered almost 30% of the country's