Geography of New Zealand

New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa) is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, near the centre of the water hemisphere. It consists of a large number of islands, estimated around 700, mainly remnants of a larger land mass now beneath the sea. The land masses by size are the South Island (or Te Waipounamu) and the North Island (or Te Ika-a-Māui), separated by the Cook Strait. The third-largest is Stewart Island / Rakiura, located 30 kilometres (19 miles) off the tip of the South Island across Foveaux Strait. Other islands are significantly smaller in area. The three largest islands stretch 1,600 kilometres (990 miles) across latitudes 35° to 47° south.[2] New Zealand is the sixth-largest island country in the world, with a land size of 268,710 km2 (103,750 sq mi).[3]

Geography of New Zealand
Satellite image of New Zealand
New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean
Coordinates42°S 174°E
AreaRanked 75th
  Total268,710 km2 (103,750 sq mi)
Coastline15,134 km (9,404 mi)
Borders0 km
Highest pointAoraki / Mount Cook
3,724 m (12,218 ft)
Lowest pointTaieri Plain
−2 m
Longest riverWaikato River
425 km (264 mi)
Largest lakeLake Taupō
3,487 km2 (1,346 sq mi)
ClimateMostly temperate, with some areas being tundra and subantarctic
TerrainMostly mountainous or steep hills, volcanic peaks in the central North Island, and fiords in the far south west.
Natural resourcesNatural gas, iron ore, sand, coal, timber, hydropower, gold, limestone[1]
Natural hazardsFlooding, earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis
Exclusive economic zone4,083,744 km2 (1,576,742 sq mi)

New Zealand's landscapes range from the fiord-like sounds of the southern-west to the sandy beaches of the subtropical Far North. The South Island is dominated by the Southern Alps while a volcanic plateau covers much of the central North Island. Temperatures commonly fall below 0 °C (32 °F) and rise above 30 °C (86 °F) then conditions vary from wet and cold on the South Island's west coast to dry and continental a short distance away across the mountains and to the tundra like climate in the Deep South of Southland.

About two-thirds of the land is economically useful, with the remainder being mountainous. The North Island is the most populous island with 4 million residents, and Auckland being by far the largest metropolitan area in the country by population and urban area. The South Island is the second-most populated island, with over 1.18 million people, but is geographically larger than the North.

New Zealand is situated on the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, making it one of the most active earthquake and volcanic regions in the world. The country has experienced several devastating earthquakes throughout its history.

New Zealand is situated about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) south-east of the Australian mainland across the Tasman Sea, the closest foreign neighbour to its main islands being Norfolk Island (Australia) about 750 kilometres (470 miles) to the north west. Other island groups to the north are New Caledonia, Tonga and Fiji. It is the southernmost nation in Oceania. The relative close proximity of New Zealand to Antarctica has made the South Island a major gateway for scientific expeditions to the continent.

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