Interesting Facts About New Zealand

A Useful Education?

Children in New Zealand’s secondary schools spend more time than the OECD average learning mathematics, science, technology and physical education. They spend less time learning foreign languages, arts and religion than children in other countries.

Too Few Facts?

Not enough facts yet? Read 10 WEIRD NZ facts.

Top Value Qualifications

The graduates from New Zealand’s universities who tend to earn the highest salaries are those qualified in sciences, engineering and management & commerce. Creative arts, food, hospitality and personal services graduates tended to have lower salaries.

Another Rainy Day?

The highest rainfall in a year in New Zealand was a drenching 18.4 metres (60 feet) in 1997-1998 at Cropp River on the west of the South Island. By contrast, the lowest rainfall was a miserly 167 mm (6.6 inches) in 1963-1964 at Alexandra, Central Otago.

Head of State
Queen Elizabeth?

New Zealand’s Head of State is Queen Elizabeth. ‘God Save The Queen’ and ‘God Defend New Zealand’ are New Zealand’s two official national anthems. Although they have equal status, ‘God Defend New Zealand’ is sung at 100% of sporting occasions.

Part of the ceremony at which immigrants become New Zealand citizens involves singing ‘God Defend New Zealand’. Everyone at the ceremony sings it together, so you don’t have to sing on your own.

A Sporting Nation
New Zealand Golfing

According to the most recent numbers from SPARC and the NZRU, the most popular sports in New Zealand, measured by club memberships, are as follows:

• Rugby Union: 136,059
• Golf: 132,063
• Netball: 123,069
• Soccer: 105,000
• Cricket 102,759

New Zealand Tourism

18% of New Zealand’s export earnings and 9% of New Zealand’s economy, as measured by GDP, are dependent on tourism. Tourism supports more than 10% of New Zealand jobs.

Fatty Foods

For each person who lives here, New Zealand produces 100 kg of butter and 65 kg of cheese each year.

Summer Christmas
Pohutukawa - New Zealand's Christmas Tree

Christmas in New Zealand follows soon after midsummer’s day. Many northern hemisphere traditions prevail in NZ, including tinsel-covered pine trees and christmas cards portraying snow & reindeer. The pohutukawa tree comes into peak-bloom in late December and is known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.

Largest Lake
Lake Taupo

New Zealand’s largest lake is Lake Taupo, extending to 616 square kilometres (or 238 sq miles). This makes it almost identical in size to the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia and slightly smaller than Singapore. Lake Taupo formed in the crater left behind after a supervolcano erupted 26,500 years ago.

Happy Families?

• 24% of New Zealand families have only one parent.
• Over 40% of Maori children live in one-parent families.
• 17% of NZ European children live in one-parent families.
• 26% of children in both the US and UK live in one-parent families.
• 14% of children in Germany live in one-parent families.

In The Real Deep South

It’s a fact: at 41.2o South, Wellington is the most southerly capital city on the planet. Cities on similar latitudes in the Northern hemisphere are Barcelona, Istanbul and Chicago.

City Of Firsts

The City of Dunedin is home to:
• New Zealand’s oldest university.
• New Zealand’s first newspaper.
• New Zealand’s first botanic gardens.

Bad For Your Health

• Since 1990, total tobacco consumption in NZ has fallen by over one-third.
• One in five deaths in New Zealand is caused by tobacco smoking. According to the 2006 census:
• 18% of New Zealand’s adult population classed themselves as regular smokers.

Older surveys had found that:
• 50% of Maori, 30% of Pacific Islander and 20% of European people smoke.

Dangerous Drivers?

Latest annual road deaths for every 100,000 of population show that New Zealand’s roads are getting safer.
Road Deaths Per Year:

• Great Britain: 3.0 per 100,000 people (2010)
• Germany: 4.4 (2010)
• Australia: 5.7 (2011)
• NZ: 6.4 (2011)
• Canada: 7.0 (2011)
• United States: 10.6 (2010)

The major reason for more deaths in NZ compared to the UK is fewer multi-lane highways in NZ.

Disease Free

One fact about New Zealand that is a relief to all Kiwis is that New Zealand’s sheep are free of scrapie. Scrapie is a brain disease similar to BSE that is present in sheep in many other countries. It’s thought BSE was caused by scrapie jumping the “species barrier” from sheep to cows. Cattle in NZ are free of BSE.

As a precaution against the spread of vCJD (Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) people from the UK are not permitted to donate blood in New Zealand.

Highest Mountain
Mount Cook

New Zealand’s (and Australasia’s) highest mountain is Aoraki Mount Cook. It is 3,754 metres (12,316 ft) high. The mountain formerly appeared on maps as Mount Cook. In 1998, the mountain was officially renamed Aoraki Mount Cook to incorporate its Maori name. The renaming was part of a settlement in which the Crown also returned ownership of the mountain to the Ngai Tahu tribe, who then gifted it back to the New Zealand nation. Aoraki translates from the Ngai Tahu language as “cloud piercer”.


• 94% of those in jail in NZ are males.
• 50% are Maori.
• 36% are European.
• 12% are Pacific People.

The Shaky Isles

Until the earthquake in Christchurch in February 2011, the last fatal earthquake in New Zealand had been on the West Coast of the South Island in May 1968. Three deaths resulted at that time. 181 people were killed in Christchurch, 115 of them in the collapse of the Canterbury Television building.

A Nation of Drinkers?

Compared with some other countries, New Zealanders are not heavy drinkers. The average New Zealander drinks:
• 5% less alcohol than the average Australian.
• 12% less alcohol than the average Briton.
• 30% less alcohol than the average German.
• 40% less alcohol than the average Irish.

Big Spenders

The biggest contributors to New Zealand’s Tourism earnings, accounting for 59% of all money spent, are:

• Australians 29%
• British 10%
• Americans 8%
• Chinese 8%
• Japanese 4%

In 2011 – 2012 international tourists spent over NZ$5 billion in New Zealand.

The median expenditure per person, per trip was $1,500.


“New Zealanders who go to Australia raise the IQ of both countries.”
Former NZ Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, who made this superbly cutting comment, did not provide any numbers to back it up. Unfortunately, therefore, we cannot claim it as a true New Zealand fact.


The top dozen countries New Zealand imports from (2012 – 2013) are:
1. China
2. Australia
3. United States
4. Japan
5. South Korea
6. Malaysia
7. Germany
8. Singapore
9. Thailand
10. Oman
11. United Kingdom
12. United Arab Emirates


New Zealand’s top twelve export markets in 2012 – 2013 are:
1. Australia
2. China
3. United States
4. Japan
5. South Korea
6. United Kingdom
7. Malaysia
8. Hong Kong
9. Singapore
10. Indonesia
11. Taiwan
12. India

Free Trade

New Zealand currently (2013) has free trade agreements with:
Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Negotiations are in progress with: Belarus, Gulf States (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE), India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Peru, Russia and USA.

Renewable Energy
Geothermal Power Plant

Currently New Zealand generates about 10% of its electricity geothermally from volcanic heat. Another 55% of the country’s electricity is generated by water flowing through hydroelectic dams. Wind-power accounts for less than 5% of electricity needs, although this is planned to increase significantly in the years ahead. By 2025, the plan is that 90% of New Zealand’s electricity will come from renewable sources.

Seeing The Wood

30% of New Zealand’s land is forested. Forestry accounts for 12% of New Zealand’s exports. This is expected to increase as more plantations mature.

Car Crazy

• With 2.5 million cars for four million people, including children, New Zealand’s car ownership rate is one of the world’s highest.
• New Zealanders make only about 2% of their journeys by bus and fewer than 1% by rail.

Where Have All The Sheep Gone?

From the early 1980s, when NZ was home to over 70 million sheep, the population has declined to around 31 million (2013 data). This means the oft-quoted statistic, that NZ has 20 sheep for each human, is wrong! Nowadays it’s only about 7 to 1. This decline hasn’t stopped NZ from cornering 50% of all international trade in sheepmeat.

Unlike the human population, the majority of New Zealand’s sheep are based on the South Island, where there are more than 20 sheep for every human! The decline in the number of sheep has been caused by increasing dairy cattle numbers.

Old Cars
Auckland Traffic

NZ roads don’t need to be salted so cars rust very slowly.
• Around a fifth of cars are less than seven years old.
• Around two thirds of cars are between seven and 16 years old.
• Around a sixth of cars are more than 16 years old.

Born Overseas

Little known amongst facts about New Zealand is that 22% of its residents were born overseas. This compares with 24% in Australia, 20% in Canada, 12% in the USA and 8% in the UK.

A Creamy Country
NZ Traffic Jam

New Zealand is one of the top five dairy exporters in the world. The top five countries supply around 90 percent of dairy products on the international market. 2013 figures show there are just over ten million beef and dairy cattle in NZ.

God Save The Queen

To become a New Zealand citizen, you must take an oath of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth.

Happy Schools

New Zealand’s school students reported better relations with their teachers than the average for students in the OECD. New Zealand’s students also reported more pressure to achieve good results is applied by their teachers than the OECD average.

More Happy Families
Family Sport

For New Zealand families who have children;
41% have one child
36% have two children
23% have more than two children.

Continental Climate

Due to the moderating effect of the ocean, summer and winter temperatures in most NZ locations differ by less than 10 °C.

The most continental climate is found in Central Otago, inland from Dunedin on the South Island. Here the temperature reaches 24 °C on an average day in summer while in winter it falls to -2 °C on an average night. Rainfall is a semi-arid 350 mm a year.

In comparison, annual rainfall in other New Zealand locations is:

• Christchurch 635 mm.
• Wellington 1250 mm.
• Auckland 1200 mm.

Many of New Zealand’s stone fruit crops, such as peaches and apricots are grown in Central Otago.

Not Enough Yet?

There are more NZ facts on our 10 Weird Facts page.

Our FAQ has more info for people interested in living here.

Thanks to Statistics New Zealand who provided us with many of the figures used on this page.

Last update 12 June 2013.

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