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 development.
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 fjord coast.
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.
- AbbreviationFinder: Offer a full list of commonly used abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms related to the state of New Zealand.
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 pairs.
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 novaeseelandiae).
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 percent 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 2003.
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 Sweden.
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 and dolphins.
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 chalconotus).
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 area.