New Zealand is a temperate island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. A former British colony, the majority of the population is of European descent, with a sizeable indigenous Maori minority and smaller minorities of various Polynesian and other groups. A modern but sparsely populated country, it boasts natural beauty and a wide range of outdoor and adventure activities.
It was named God's Own Country as far back as the 1880s and travellers generally agree it deserves that description. Lonely Planet named New Zealand the world's top travel destination for the second year running (2003/2004), and it was voted best long-haul travel destination in the 2004 Guardian and Observer’s People’s Choice award. It has won the award in three out of the past four years.
New Zealand was the last significant land mass to be inhabited by people, both in terms of indigenous settlement and European domination. This, combined with geological youth and geographical isolation, has led to the development of a young, vigorous nation with a well-travelled, well-educated population and some spectacular scenery, flora and fauna.
The Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in about 800 AD. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, in 1642, was the first European to discover New Zealand, and his mapped coastline appeared on Dutch maps as "Niew Zeeland" from as early as 1645. British naval Captain James Cook rediscovered, circumnavigated and mapped the islands in 1769. A few people (mostly sealers, whalers, traders and missionaries) settled during the next 80 years and the islands were administered by the British colony in New South Wales.
In 1840, with the assistance of missionaries, the Maori agreed to accept British sovereignty over the islands through the Treaty of Waitangi. More intensive settlement began that same year. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872, coupled with political maneuvering and the spread of European diseases, broke Maori resistance to land settlement, but left lasting grievances. In recent years the government has sought to address longstanding Maori grievances.
The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907. However the Constitution of Australia permits New Zealand to join as another Australian state. New Zealand has supported Britain (the United Kingdom) militarily in the Boer War of 1901, as well as both World Wars. It also participated in wars in Malaya, Korea and Viet Nam under various military alliances, most notably the ANZUS treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
New Zealand's strongly supported opposition to the testing and use of nuclear weapons and nuclear armed warship visits meant that the Parliament enacted anti-nuclear legislation in the mid-1980s. This lead to the lapsing of participation in the ANZUS defense alliance. The New Zealand military continues to take a prominent role in UN-sanctioned peacekeeping forces worldwide.
New Zealand is also known by the Maori name of Aotearoa, which is usually translated as "(Land of the) long white cloud".
New Zealand consists of two main islands and many smaller ones in the South Pacific Ocean approximately 2000km southeast of Australia. It is about the size of the United Kingdom with a population that has just reached four million, so many areas are sparsely settled.
Auckland, the largest city (about one million) is the largest city in Polynesia.
New Zealand utilises daylight saving in summer to increase the number of daylight hours. It commences at 2.00AM on the first Sunday in October and ends at 2.00AM on the third Sunday in March of the following year.
New Zealand has a temperate climate and the nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum temperatures rarely exceed 30°C and you have to be in the far south for temperatures to fall much below 0°C. Generally speaking, rainfall is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds.
Situated in the "Roaring Forties", as it is, unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the center, through Cook Strait and around Wellington. The winds seem to be more prevalent around the time of the equinox.
In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.
Predominantly mountainous with some large coastal plains.
The South Island has the Southern Alps which has the highest peak, Mount Cook (3,764 m). The Alps extend up the center of the island causing the west coast to be wet and the east coast to have a much drier climate. The Kaikoura Range is on the east coast and has some spectacular peaks which seem to rise from the sea.
The North Island mountain ranges are not as high nor as spectacular as the South Island mountains. They include the Tararua Range, the Ruahine Range and the Central Plateau which has the three major volcanic peaks: Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. On the west coast is the single volcanic cone of Mount Taranaki, also known as Mount Egmont.
New Zealand was the filming location for several movies and television series:
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) - numerous locations throughout the country
Whale Rider (2003) - the North Island's East Coast
The Last Samurai (2003) - Taranaki
The Piano (1993) - west coast of the Auckland Region
The Quiet Earth (1987) - Hamilton University , Warkworth Transmitter Station
Inter-city rail passenger services are operated by Tranz Scenic, but have become increasingly limited, and the focus is now on popular tourist trains, in particular:
The Overlander - Between Auckland and Wellington, departing each city each morning. The Northerner overnight service was discontinued in November 2004.
The Capital Connection - Commuter service from Palmerston North to Wellington in the morning, returning in the evening.
The Tranz Coastal - From Christchurch to Picton and return daily. Travels along the rugged north-east coast of the South Island. Meets the ferry between Wellington and Picton.
The Tranz Alpine - From Christchurch to Greymouth and return daily. Classed as one of the world's great train journeys, this trip crosses the South Island, passing through spectacular mountain scenery, some of which is inaccessible by road as well as the 12km Otira tunnel. Many visitors disembark at the Arthurs Pass National Park and spend four hours exploring the mountains before catching the return train.
Trains run at very low speed, sometimes dropping to 50 km/h in the summer due to the narrow gauge and lack of track maintenance following privatisation in the 1980s. Most New Zealanders will prefer to drive, or to fly, as train fares are comparatively very expensive.
Domestic flights in New Zealand are quite reasonably priced, and is often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the North and South Islands is required.
Most airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line via the internet (cheapest), or by telephone or through a travel agent (more expensive). Pay using a credit card and just turn up on the day (with the card and photographic ID to prove who you are) and fly.
Check-in times are usually 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for jet services from all the major airports, and scanning facilities are due to be installed at smaller regional airports during 2005.
Air New Zealand has the most extensive domestic network, serving most cities over 20,000 people, with jet services between main centres and smaller aircraft elsewhere. Free baggage allowance is 20kg, with 5kg carry-on.
Origin Pacific - operates a regional and main centres network using smaller commuter aircraft. Baggage allowance is only 15kg on some services.
Qantas operate on the main trunk and principal tourist routes (Auckland - Rotorua - Wellington - Christchurch - Queenstown)
Freedom Air no longer offer NZ domestic services, operating international flights to Australia and Fiji only.
Only Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Airports have timetabled public transport in the form of buses. Regional airports generally only have on demand shuttle services and taxis.
Air New Zealand has a highly discriminatory domestic fare structure where you will pay several times the lowest advertised fare if you use a foreign credit card. Quantas, on the other hand, offers their lowest fares to all comers. For clarity, this practice only applies to domestic fares between points within New Zealand.
Driving around the both the main islands by car is generally not a problem. You can reach almost anywhere you might need to in a 2 wheel drive car or even a small camper van. You don't need four-wheel drive to reach the best places. The level of traffic is normally low and there is a great deal of politeness on the roads too.
See also: Driving in New Zealand and Renting a motorhome in New Zealand.
Buses are a cheap way to get around the country. Companies like InterCity coaches and Newmans coaches offer services to most cities and towns. On the South Island there are lots of small bus companies like Atomic Shuttles with more bus connections than InterCity coaches. Do be aware that most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding, and that travelling a long distance in a bus can be quite slow and tiring.
To get your car between the North and South Islands you will need to take a ferry across Cook Strait. There are several sailings daily between Wellington and Picton. But be prepared for a delay or a change in sailings if the weather is stormy. The fast ferry doesn't sail in very rough seas - but then you probably wouldn't like the trip either.
Harbor ferries, for commuters, operate in Auckland and Wellington. A number of communities are served by boat, rather than road, while charter boats are available for expeditions in several places. There are regular sightseeing cruises in several tourist destinations, particularly in the Southern Lakes and Fiordland area.
For thrills, there is the uniquely New Zealand designed jet boat. You can even travel on the very rivers that inspired this craft.
You can bring your own bike, as well as hire a bike in some of the larger cities. Throughout New Zealand it is the law to wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you are liable to a fine. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet.
Riding bikes in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware of (tourist) buses and trucks on main highways as overtaking distances can be slim. You should also be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities.
Outdoor and adventure activities include:
4 wheel driving
Aerial sightseeing (helicopter and fixed-wing)
Base jumping (Cable-controlled) [Skytower in Auckland]
Fishing - trout (some of the finest trout-fishing in the world), salmon, marlin, broadbill, sharks and many other salt-water species
Fly by wire (invented here)
Gliding - Omarama in the South Island is one of the best places in the world for gliding
Hiking - New Zealand has a number of national parks and other wilderness and forested areas, much of which is managed by the Department of Conservation. The activity known in other countries as hiking, trekking or bushwalking is known as tramping in New Zealand and is a very popular activity for visitors and locals. External link: New Zealand Tramper.
Hunting - several species of deer, wild pig (wild boar), tahr, chamois, goat, wallabies (they're protected in Australia but a pest here), gamebirds
Mountaineering - this was the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people to climb Mt Everest
River jetboating - the Hamilton jet was invented by New Zealander William Hamilton
Sailing - New Zealand has produced many world-champion yachties and is the only country apart from the US to have won and successfully defended yachting's ultimate prize, the Americas Cup
Scuba-diving and snorkelling, especially down to the sunken Rainbow Warrior at Matauri Bay, not far from Kerikeri.
Sea kayaking [Abel Tasman Marine Reserve]
Shark cage diving [Kaikoura]
Skiing and snowboarding including heli-skiing Queenstown
Swimming with dolphins [Kaikoura, Bay of Islands]
Swimming with seals
Whale watching [Kaikoura]
White water rafting
White water sledging / dam dropping
Zorbing (invented here) [Agrodome in Rotorua]
There's more but we're exhausted just thinking about it.
English, Maori and New Zeland Sign Language are the official languages of New Zealand. English is by far the major language spoken and is written with Commonwealth ("British") spelling. New Zealand English is considered one of the major varieties of english and is different enough from other forms of English to justify it being classed as a separate dialect, this is represented by the publication of the Oxford New Zealand English dictionary. A seldom used expression for New Zealand english is Newzild. Word usage may also differ occasionally, in potentially embarrassing ways for the traveller. Several words that some other English speaking cultures may consider offensive, or have euphemisms for, are considered acceptable usage. For example: A New Zealand bathroom refers to a room containing a bath while the other facilities that an American might refer to as a bathroom or washroom are known as a toilet. The American habit of "bleeping" swear words from broadcasts is considered quaint and rarely done in local programming. The New Zealand broadcasting media is surprising tolerant of swear words when used in context.
The New Zealand accent is somewhat nasalised with flattened vowel sounds. New Zealanders consider their accent to be markedly different from the Australian one and are often mildly offended when mistaken for or confused with Australians. New Zealand terminology and slang, is also markedly different from Australian language.
Maori is actively spoken by a minority of both Maori and language learners. Maori is available as a language to study by, instead of English, at many educational institutes.
The Maori language is spoken by some, but not all, Maori and a few non-Maori. Many place names are in Maori and for the traveller some knowledge of Maori pronunciation is very useful.
New Zealand Signlanguage was given status in 2005 as an official language of the region.
Generally, New Zealand English expressions follows British English. However, New Zealand English has also borrowed from Maori and there are a number of other phrases that are not commonly encountered elsewhere or may confuse the visitor.
Bugger - Practically the National Word. Used on prime time TV ads, used by politicians, on the back of cars, used by everyone. Means "Oh Bother".
Entry by gold (or silver) coin (donation). - The admission charge to an event, exhibit, gallery or museum is by making a payment of a coin in the appropriate metal, often in the donation box at the door. The gold coins in NZ are the $1 and $2 coins, while silver are the 5c 10c 20c and 50c coins. (See also "Koha" below)
(Ladies) a plate please. - At social functions, such as meetings, attendees are expected to bring a plate carrying ready to eat food. Typically the food is home baking of the lady of each attending family or couple attending.
A Claytons ... - Describing something as a claytons means that the item lacks full functionality or is a poor imitation of the real thing. From the name of the (unsuccessful) non-alcoholic beer that was briefly marketed during the late 1970's/early 1980's under the catch phrase The drink you're having when you are not having a drink.
Glidetime - Flexible working hours (or flexitime), often worked by public servants. Under this system, workers can start and finish work at hours of their choosing between 7 AM and 6 PM, although they must work the core hours of 9:30 AM to Noon and 2 PM to 3:30 and average 37 and 35 hours per week.
Public servants - People employed by central government organisations or enterprises owned by the countries government.
Social welfare - State operated organisations responsible for child protection services, income assistance and work placement for the unemployed.
Beneficiary - A person of working age who is receiving state welfare assistance payments known as income support or a benefit.
Pensioner - Retired person, a superannuitant, or a former soldier receiving a war pension.
Superannuitants - Retired people in receipt of a state retirement pension known as New Zealand Superannuation. This payment is universally paid to all citizens over 65 years old.
Hui - A meeting or gathering to discuss and debate issues in traditional Maori fashion.
Koha - A Maori term for gifts or donations. Often an exchange of gifts takes place. (Sometimes the admission signs say, "Entry Koha", meaning Gold Coin or what you feel like donation.)
Kai - Food.
Marae - A traditional Maori meeting or gathering place. Also a community centre.
Powhiri - A Maori ceremonial welcome. Especially to a Marae, but now also may take place at the start of a conference or similar large meeting in New Zealand.
Wharenui - The meeting house (literally big house) on a Marae.
Wharekai - The dining room and/or kitchen (literally food house) on a Marae.
The New Zealand Dollar is used for purchasing goods and services in New Zealand. A few traders do accept foreign currency, particularly in tourist destinations.
New Zealanders are some of the highest users of electronic banking services in the world. ATM's (Automatic Teller Machines) are available in most towns, even if they do not have a bank. Most shops do have EFT-POS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) terminals for debit and credit cards, so most purchases can be made electronically. Credit cards are not accepted by some merchants with EFT-POS, especially smaller food retailers such as dairies, takeaways and cafes that do not serve alcohol. Also smaller retailers may often set a minimum purchase of around $10 when obtaining cash, if they agree to provide cash, especially if a credit card is used. Banks offer a wide range of telephone and internet banking services. If you are going to be in New Zealand for a while it may be convenient to open a New Zealand bank account and set up a local debit card, to avoid carrying a lot of cash around.
Because of strong advertising laws, the displayed price is normally the purchase price for most goods sold in New Zealand. The principle The price stated is the price you pay is strongly ingrained in New Zealand culture. Most retailers will not negotiate on price, though some have a formal policy of matching (or beating) the competition and will match or even discount their prices for you if you can find a better price for the exact same product elsewhere. Cars and houses are about the only exceptions to non-negotiation.
Unless it says otherwise the price includes GST (Goods and Services Tax or Sales Tax) of 12.5%. Some shops, especially in tourist destinations, will ship purchases overseas, as export goods are not subject to GST. Ask about this service before making your purchase. Goods purchased and taken with you will be subject to GST.
On public holidays, some establishments, such as cafes, may charge a holiday surcharge in the region of 10%-20%, supposedly to cover the cost of employing staff who are working on the holiday. This is a recent development because current holiday legislation requires workers who work on public holidays to be paid for the time they work and be given a paid public holiday as well. The legality of this charge is questionable and should be challenged if not advertised openly or notified at the time of placing an order.
In accommodation places, restaurants and bars the prices charged include the services provided and tips are not expected, though the practice is known of in some establishments that cater for tourists. However, do not be surprised if you receive bemused looks in some situations. Also do not be offended if your tip is initially refused or questioned, as most New Zealanders rarely encounter tipping, except from tourists.
New Zealand has a wide range of eating places, from the stylish restaurants to the fast food chains. But by far the most common type is the humble fish and chip shop. Almost all of them are owner operated and you can find one in almost any small town or block of suburban shops, probably next to the local dairy (convenience store). The menu consists of battered fish portions deep fried in oil (or fat) together with chunky cut potato chips (fries but not the McDonald Shoestrings) as well as a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bars, all wrapped in newsprint paper - today it is unprinted but traditionally it was yesterday's newspaper, until someone decided it was unhealthy. A few also serve hamburgers or Chinese style food as well. A good meal can often be had for under $5, a bad one for the same price.
New Zealand's cultural majority (ethnic British) does not have a definitive and recognisably distinct cuisine that differs markedly from the traditional British (or North American) cuisine. However there are a number of small differences
Roast Kumera - a sweet white to yellow fleshed root vegetable very similar to potato, roasted in the same manner as potatoes and often served instead of or alongside. May also be deep fried like potato chips (i.e. fries) and known as Kumera Chips - nice served with sour cream but rarely done well as Kumera cooks at a different temperature than potatoes, so it needs a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly.
The Pavlova, or Pav, A cake of whipped egg whites baked to have a crusty meringue like outside but soft in the middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit. Australians claim they created the dish but this is strongly disputed.
ANZAC biscuits - Plain hard biscuits (cookies) made primarily from oatmeal bound with golden syrup. Originally made for and by ANZAC troops during the first world war. Also found in Australia.
Kiwifruit - A plum sized green fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh, originating from China, selectively bred in New Zealand, and first known to the home gardener as the Chinese Gooseberry. Now commercially farmed, with production centred on Te Puke but in many orcharding areas. Slices often served on Pavlova.
Whitebait - The translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish species that migrate from spawning in the sea each year. After being caught in coastal river mouth set or hand nets during November/December, this highly sought after delicacy is rushed to the far ends of the country. Served in a fried pattie made from an egg based batter. May be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop.
The Maori also have a distinctive cuisine ...
The Hangi is the traditional way that Maori cook food on ceremonial occasions. Meat and vegetables are cooked (effectively steamed and smoked at the same time) in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and had a hot wood fire burn down in it.
Kaimoana (Literally: Sea food) - particularly shellfish gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches as well as inshore fish caught on a line or with nets. Species such as Paua (Black abalone) and Toheroa have been overfished and gathering restrictions are strictly enforced, while Green Mussels are commercially grown and sold live, or processed, in supermarkets.
New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer. Although there are now only two major breweries, there are many regional brands, each with their own distinctive taste and staunch supporters. Watch out for brewery owned pubs, the competition's beer is not sold there.
More recently, the wine industry has developed into a significant export industry. Many vineyards now offer winery tours, wine tasting and sales from the vineyard.
Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has recently enacted liquor ban areas that means alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even carried in some streets, such as city centers and popular beaches, at certain times of the day or night. Police can instruct you to empty bottles and arrest you if you do not comply.
Coffeehouses are a notable daytime socialisation venue in many of the larger cities and tourist destinations. The cafe culture is notable in downtown Wellington, where many office workers have their tea breaks now, following the demise of the office cafeteria during the restructuring of the public service in the 1980's and 1990's.
Short Black/espresso - a single shot (25 – 30 ml) of thick black coffee
Long Black - a long (double espresso) equal part hot water, but very strong cup of black
Flat White - very strong coffee with creamy hot milk and no foam
Latte - a large cup (double espresso) of very milky coffee with a thin layer of dense foam on top (the foam holds the coffee down)
Cappuccino - one-third espresso, one-third hot milk and one-third creamy, dense foam. An optional topping of chocolate or cinnamon can be added
Americano - a Long Black with extra hot water
Moccaccino – made with hot chocolate instead of milk
In cafes, there is often more than one milk jug which is colour coded; dark blue is normal, light blue is lite and green is super trim.
Bottled Water - both flavored and unflavored - is available in most shops. Not that there is anything really wrong with the tap water, it is just that some town supplies are drawn from river water and chlorinated or have poor or old pipework. If you want to save money you can generally bottle your own from the tap, if you don't mind the taste. Besides most of the bottled water comes from the artesian aquafers of the Canterbury plains, where Christchurch gets its tap water and that water isn't treated because it is so pure.
L and P or Lemon and Paeroa is world famous in New Zealand. It is a sweet carbonated lemonade style drink sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label because they used to sell it in brown glass ones (like beer bottles) before they switched to plastic. Generally one for the kids or parties, though the big bottle in Paeroa itself is a hit with the tourists.
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation.
International quality hotels can be found in the major cities. Motels of a variety of standards from luxury to just adequate can be found on the approaches to most towns. There is a wide range of backpackers accommodation (more information at http://www.backpack.co.nz/ ) around the country, including a network of Youth Hostels that are members of the Youth Hostel Association (62 in 2004), as well as homestays, farmstays and similar lodgings - some in the most unlikely places. Many will accept a casual traveller, though booking ahead is generally a good idea, especially in the summer, or on weekends, or when there is a big match in town, or anytime really.
There are a number of commercial camping grounds around the country, as well as camping sites within all of the national parks. One way that many tourists travel around New Zealand is in a self-contained campervan, a motorised caravan or large minibus, that can be driven by anyone who holds an ordinary car driver's license.
If you are travelling into the backcountry, the Department of Conservation has many backcountry huts that can be used under a permit system.
For many years, New Zealand schools and universities have educated foreign students from the countries of Southeast Asia and education has now become a major source of export earnings for the country. In recent years English language schools have been established for students from the region, particularly South Korea and China, but also many other countries.
Education in New Zealand is compulsory from age 6 to 16 years, though most children begin attending school at age 5 and often stay at school for 13 years, until 18 or 19 years old. Primary schooling is from years 1 to 6, intermediate schooling is years 7 and 8, while secondary schooling is from years 9 to 13. In some schools the intermediate years may be combined with either the primary or secondary years.
Primary, intermediate and secondary compulsory schooling is free for citizens and permanent residents, although some nominal fees are generally charged to cover consumable materials. Tertiary education is state assisted, with part of the tuition costs funded by the state. International students will need to pay for their education; in some cases this includes a national profit margin.
The Ministry of Education has established a Code of Practice that New Zealand educational institutions enrolling international students need to abide by. This Code of Practice includes minimum standards for the pastoral care of international students. Primary school students, or those age 10 or under, need to either live with a parent or as a boarder in a school hostel. Additionally, older students, who are under age 18, may live in homestays, temporary accommodation or with designated caregivers. Where the institution arranges accommodation for students older than age 18 the code of practice applies to their accommodation situations also.
New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and refugees can receive financial assistance, through loans and allowances, to pay the tuition fees and to attend tertiary education at Universities, Polytechnics, Whananga (Maori operated universities/polytechnics) and Private Training Providers. Overseas students will need to pay the full tuition fees and their own living costs while studying at a New Zealand institution.
Overseas students need to have a student visa in order to undertake a course of study at a New Zealand based educational institution. Visas are generally valid for the duration of the course of study and only while the student is attending the course of study. New Zealand educational institutions will inform the appropriate immigration authorities if a student ceases to attend their enrolled courses, who may then suspend or cancel that student's visa. Educational institutions often also exchange this enrollment and attendance data electronically with other government agencies responsible for providing student assistance.
To work in New Zealand you need to be a citzen or current permanent resident of either New Zealand or Australia, or else have a work permit or appropriate visa. If you are intending to work in New Zealand you should obtain a work permit along with any tourist visas you might apply for.
You will also need to have a New Zealand bank account, as most employers pay using electronic banking rather than in cash; an Inland Revenue Tax Number, as witholding tax or income tax will be deducted from your wages by your employer; and a tax declaration form, as tax will be deducted at the no declaration rate of 45% unless you have a tax code. More information about New Zealand's Tax system, including appropriate forms, can be obtained from Inland Revenue.
New Zealand operates a simplified tax system that tends to collect more tax than people need to pay because employers pay their worker's tax when they pay their workers. The obligation is then on the worker to claim overpaid tax back, rather than declaring their income and paying any extra tax. Be careful though, if you choose to work in New Zealand and you stay more than 183 days in any 12 month period, your worldwide income could be taxed. New Zealand has double taxation agreements with several countries to stop tax being paid twice.
New Zealand is currently (2005) experiencing a period of full employment. A number of employers are having difficulties finding workers, particularly short term workers.
Seasonal work such as fruit picking and other agricultural work is sometimes available for tourists such as backpackers. More information about seasonal fruit pickingwork can be found at Pick NZ.
If you are wanting to stay in New Zealand long term, you should apply well ahead of time. New Zealand operates a points system for assessing applicants.
New Zealand will accept refugees, though applications should be made beforehand as the country has a formal refugee induction programme. Those who turn up in a New Zealand airport arrival lounge without papers, claiming refugee status, may find themselves put on a return flight to their country of origin or in jail awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.
The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111. Ambulance, Fire and Police can be contacted through this service. Full instructions are on the inside front cover of every telephone book.
Crime and security
While difficult to make international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is similar to many other western countries. Dishonesty offences, such as theft, are by far the most frequent type of crime. Travellers should take simple, sensible precautions such as putting valuables away out of sight or in a secure place and locking doors or vehicles, even in remote locations, as much of this crime is opportunist in nature. Violent crime is generally associated with alcohol consumption and rowdy bars or drunken crowds in city centres are best avoided, especially late at night.
The Police, which are a national force, are generally polite and helpful but will promptly arrest anyone making trouble. Being caught drinking and driving will result in an arrest and Police regularly conduct blitzes, often setting up screening checkpoints all around an area, even doing this on motorways. Fixed and mobile speed cameras as well as hand held and car speed detectors are used at random, anywhere - anytime. Police have no discretion for speeding offences and will write tickets for all vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 km/h. Police have recently upgraded their Pursuit training, following a number of deaths of both offenders and innocent third parties during vehicle pursuits.
In New Zealand, Armed Police are a media event! Although all Police officers are trained to handle firearms, these are normally only openly worn when the situation requires such weapons, such as an armed offender. Traditionally, New Zealand Police only carry batons and offender control (pepper) spray. However, first response Police patrols will generally have recourse to weapons locked away in their vehicle.
Severe weather is by far the most common natural hazard encountered in New Zealand. Although New Zealand is not subject to tropical cyclones as such, stormy weather systems from both the tropics and the polar regions can sweep across New Zealand at various times of the year. There is generally a 7 to 10 day cycle of a few days of wet or stormy weather followed by calmer and drier days as weather systems move across the country. The phrase four seasons in one day is a good description of New Zealand weather, which has a reputation for both changeability and unpredictability. Weather forecasts in New Zealand are generally reliable for overall trends and severe weather warnings should be heeded when broadcast. However both the timing and intensity of any weather events should be assessed from your own location. Simply looking out the window is probably good enough to allow you yourself to predict what the weather will be like for at least the next 15 minutes or so, according to one eminent New Zealand meterologist.
Other natural hazards you may encounter in New Zealand, though far more rarely are:
Strong Earthquakes - New Zealand sits astride a tectonic plate boundary and experiences large numbers (~14,000/year) of small earthquakes every year, a few (~200/year) are noticeable and the occasional one causes damage and sometimes loss of life. However, the last big one causing serious loss of life was at Napier in 1931. The latest quake is reported by [GeoNet].
Volcanic eruptions - New Zealand has a number of volcanoes that are classified as active or dormant. Only Mount Ruapehu and White Island have been active recently. Volcanic activity is monitored by [GeoNet].
Lahar - There is currently an active Lahar Alert for Mount Ruapehu's crater lake breaking through a tephera dam and flooding the Whangaehu River with a lahar sometime between the beginning of 2005 and late 2006.
New Zealand has a high level of ultraviolet radiation. Sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended.
Visiting the doctor will cost about NZ$50 and may vary between practices and localities. The New Zealand public hospital system is free of charge to citizens but will charge foreign nationals for treatment received. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
Because its economy is based on agriculture, importing even small quantities of most food, as well as unprocessed animal or plant materials is tightly controlled. These restrictions are designed to limit the spread of animal and plant diseases and pests. New Zealand has some very strong biosecurity laws, which are taken seriously by enforcement officials.
At ports of entry, both the Agriculture and Customs Services will inspect passenger baggage and confiscate any prohibited items. The prohibition list includes:
Fresh fruit, meat products, honey, any kind of food.
Plants (whole or in part).
Animals / animal products or biological specimens.
Dirty sports gear, especially footwear.
Anything that may have been in contact with soil, been used on a farm or has been used with animals.
Commercially packaged food is usually allowed through customs. If you are unsure it is best to declare any questionable items as the immigration officers will be able to tell you if it needs to be cleaned or disposed of before entry. Instant fines of several hundred dollars can be issued if prohibited items are not declared. Some items may be taken for sterilisation or fumigation before being permitted.
If not declared or the quarantine section of the arrival card is not correctly completed, an instant fine of $200 or more may apply. More serious breaches may result in a fine (up to $100,000) or a prison term (up to five years).
Internet access is available in cyber cafes.
Many public libraries have public Internet access. Generally there is a charge. Hourly rates are usually in the range of $4 to $8, with a few cheaper or dearer than that.
New Zealand has a well developed and ubiquitous telephone system. However public phones are relatively rare, except in major transport facilities and other high pedestrian volume areas such as shopping centres. Most public phones accept proprietary prepaid cards, some also accept credit cards and a few accept coins.
Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have dead patches. (Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain.) Mobile telephone users (only) can call *555 to report Non-emergency Traffic Safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police.
The country code is 64. New Zealand telephone numbers can be looked up online at http://www.whitepages.co.nz/. The emergency telephone number from all telephones is 111 and a voice request for Police, Fire or Ambulance to be switched to the requested service. (Other common international emergency numbers like 112, 911 and 999 may also work.)
New Zealand has 3 nationwide free to air television networks, as well as some regional stations and several networks with sub-national coverage. Cable television is not well developed but Sky provide the equivalent using direct broadcast satellite technology. Most hotels and motels have the 3 national channels, some Sky channels and whatever else is broadcast in the local area. Most New Zealand televisions are equipped to handle Teletext which provides news, weather, sport, etc. in text format. The main page is page 100. Page 431, for example, is Auckland Airport arrivals and departures. Page 801 provides a caption text service for some TV programs which allows hearing impaired people to read subtitles.
New Zealand has a large number of radio stations, on both AM and FM, with at least one local station and a number of nationwide network stations broadcast in each major city or town.
National Radio is probably the most popular. It is the government funded, non-commercial, spoken features style national network (with some music). It broadcasts news and detailed weather forecasts, generally hourly, with detailed mountain and marine forecasts a couple of times a day on both AM and FM (around 101 MHz FM). Operated by Radio New Zealand.
There are a number of FM visitor information stations around the country.