Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

New Zealand - The Country

New Zealand is situated in the South Pacific, nearly 2,000 kms east of Australia. The country is similar in size to Japan or Great Britain. 

New Zealand

The total land area is around 270,550 square kilometres, with 10,000 kilometres of coastline. Less than a quarter of the land is less than 200 metres above sea level. 

Approximately 23% of the country is forested, a considerable reduction on the original 80%. Most of the remaining forest areas are now protected. 


Agriculture is still the principal industry and New Zealand has 13 times as many sheep as people. (around 47 million sheep!) 


The capital city is Wellington, in the South of North Island, with a population of around 360,000 but Auckland, also on the North Island, with its temperate climate and surrounding sea, is the largest city, with a population of one million. The total population of the country is just under 4 million. 

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and make up about 15% of the population. 


New Zealand lies on a fault line that forms part of the Pacific's "Rim of Fire", and there have been two major volcanic eruptions in the relatively recent past. One was the huge 1887 eruption of Tarawera, and more recently, the eruption of Mount Ruapehu in 1995 and again in 1996. Small earthquakes are relatively common. 


The climate is generally dry and hot in summer, with February being the hottest month. Winters are cool (and colder in the south.) The more spectacular scenery is to be found in the South Island with the North Island being mainly made up of coastal plains and small mountain ranges. There are three main volcanic mountains in the North Island: Tongariro (1,967 metres), Ngaruahoe (2,287 metres); Mt Taranaki (or Egmont) (2.518 metres) and the largest of these, Ruapehu (2,797 metres). 

The higher Southern Alps which run the length of the South Island and form a climatic barrier between the east and west coasts. The South Island's west coast has one of the highest annual rainfalls in the world. 

There are 360 glaciers in the Southern Alps: on the east coast the largest are the Tasman, Murchison, Mueller, Godley and the Hooker glacier. On the West coast, the largest are the Fox and the Franz Josef glaciers. Mount Cook (Aoraki in Maori) is the largest mountain in New Zealand (3,754 metres). 

The largest lake is Lake Taupo. 

As a result of Great Britain joining the EC in 1973, New Zealand had to diversify into other areas including horticulture, viticulture, forestry and fishing. In 1984, its agricultural subsidies were removed and it is now one of the least regulated markets in the world.

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