The Geography of New Zealand
By Clayton Brown
Period 7
February 25, 1996

The well-known country of New Zealand is a small, resourceful nation located 1,000 miles off Australia's south east coast. New Zealand has an impressive economy that continues to grow, a physical landscape that attracts people from around the globe, and although small, New Zealand is a respected nation for its advanced civilization and stable government. The geography of this prestigious nation can be described through five principal categories, the physical geography, the cultural geography, the citizens' standard of living, the government, and the nation's economy.
New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, with an absolute location of 37 degrees south longitude to 48 degrees south longitude and 167 degrees east latitude to 177 degrees east latitude. It is composed of two major islands named the North and South Islands, and the total land area of the nation, approximately divided equally between the two islands, is 103,470 square miles. Surprisingly, only 2 percent of the land area is arable. New Zealand has an abundance of natural resources, explaining why the country is so wealthy compared to other nations. These resources include fertile grazing land, oil and gas, iron, coal, timber, and excellent fishing waters.

New Zealand's climate is basically moderate year round because of the nearby ocean that regulates the climate. New Zealand enjoys a marine west coast climate, that on average produces sixty to eighty degree temperatures in January and forty to sixty degree temperatures in July. Because it is surrounded by the ocean, New Zealand receives immense quantities of precipitation on both islands. The average annual precipitation on the North Island is thirty to forty inches and on the South Island it is forty to fifty inches. This climate produces mixed forests, mid-latitude deciduous forests, and temperate grassland vegetation. The terrain is dominated by meadows, pastures, wood lands, and a small chain of mountains called the Southern Alps. The land is blanketed with small lakes and rivers that drain the highlands and empty into the ocean. The extraordinary diversity of the physical geography found in the United States seems to have been duplicated in this relatively small country, where the ski slopes and the beaches may be only an hour apart.
The cultural geography of New Zealand is not as diverse as its physical geography. Currently 3,547,983 people live in New Zealand, but 83.7 percent of the population live in urbanized areas. The chief cities, each containing more than one hundred thousand people, are Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Manukau, and Wellington. The average population per square mile is only 34, but it is growing due to a 0.8 percent natural growth rate. Keeping in mind that only 2 percent of the land is arable, the crop land per capita is a meager 0.125 acres per person. Large portions of New Zealand are devoted to sheep stations, for there are more sheep in New Zealand than people.
The official language of New Zealand is English, although a small percentage of the people speak Maori, the native language. Somewhat corresponding to the language groups, the religious make up is 52 percent Christian, 15 percent Roman Catholic, and 33 percent unspecified or none. The country takes pride in a 99.9 percent literacy rate by having an excellent education system. The entire nation resides in a single time zone that would report 6:00 A.M. if the time in Amarillo, Texas was noon. From the country's cultural geography, it could be predicted that the nation would enjoy a good standard of living. In 1994 the gross national product of New Zealand was a colossal 56.4 billion United State's dollars, generating a per capita income of $16,640. For every 3.2 people there is a television, and for every 2.2 people there is a telephone, meaning there are over 2,600,000 televisions and telephones in New Zealand. Fortunately, 99.8 percent of the people are able to enjoy safe drinking water, including the natives who live in rural areas.
New Zealand has a superb health care industry that serves as a paragon to the rest of the world. There are presently 11,335 physicians and 31,122 hospital beds in New Zealand, for an ample ratio of one physician per 313 people and one hospital bed per 114 people. The population of New Zealand is