New Zealand, a British colony in the South Pacific Ocean, comprises three main islands - North Island, South or Middle Island, and Stewart Island, the last being much the smallest - besides a number of islets. The North and South Islands are long and narrow, so that no place is more than 75 miles from the coast. They lie 1200 miles E. of Australia, and stretch 600 miles farther south. The main islands have a length of 1100 miles, and lie between 34° 22' and 47° 18' S. lat. and 166° 27' and 178° 34' E. long. The total area of the colony is 106,240 sq. m., or about one-eighth less than that of Great Britain and Ireland. Cook Strait, a deep and somewhat stormy passage of 13 miles, separates the North and South Islands. Foveaux Strait (15 miles) divides the South Island from Stewart Island. In its northern half the North Island is deeply indented by the sea, and contains many excellent harbours; the southern half has but one harbour, that of Wellington in the SW. corner. The coast of the South Island is little broken except in the mountainous north-east and southwest corners; but the volcanic projections of Banks and Otago peninsulas supply commodious harbours. The great ports are Auckland, Napier, and Wellington in the North Island, and Lyttelton, Dunedin (Port Chalmers), and Bluff Harbour in the South Island. New Zealand is composed of rocks of all geological ages, and the chief mountain-chains are of great antiquity. Both of the great island s are traversed by a great mountain-chain running NB. and SW., which practically divides them into an eastern and a western side, between which traffic is mainly carried on by sea. Resting on the main chain of the North Island on its west side lies a vast triangular plateau. On this stand up two extinct volcanoes - the majestic cone of Mount Egmont, near the west coast, and the massive Ruapehu (9008 feet) in the centre, with the active cone of Tongariro hard by. In this plateau the chief rivers of the North Island take their rise. The Waikato, the largest and longest, passes through the beautiful Lake Taupo, and at length flows out on the west coast. The better lands of the South Island are now mostly taken up, but in the North Island there remain vast tracts of excellent land waiting to be cleared. Much of it belongs to the natives. Two-thirds of the South Island is covered by the broad and lofty chain of the Southern Alps, and its eastern and southern offshoots. It culminates in Mount Cook (12,349 feet), mantled by glaciers of greater magnitude than any in the Alps of Europe. This elevated region is penetrated by the great valleys of the numerous rivers flowing away to the east and south. The principal rivers are the Buller, Waimakariri, Waitaki, Clutha, and Waiau. The vast Canterbury plains skirt the east coast, and the Southlands plain lies between the mountains of Otago and the south coast. The west coast consists of a narrow belt of low land clothed with impenetrable forest, save where miners and farming settlers have made clearings, and where the broad river-beds come clown to the sea. In the North Island much of the finest land is covered by forests of tropical luxuriance, which ascend the mountains to a height of 4000 feet, but the greater part of the South Island is very scantily supplied with timber, and mountains and lowlands alike are open and well grassed. The climate is one of the best and healthiest in the world. Owing to the great length of the islands it presents considerable variety, and the direction of the mountain-chains increases the difference due to latitude alone. The average temperature is remarkably equable, and the air is singularly fresh, being constantly agitated by winds (sometimes chilly and boisterous). The average daily range of temperature is 20°. The average annual temperature of the North Island is 7° higher than that of London, and of the South Island 4°. The great peninsula north of Manukau Harbour enjoys a humid semi-tropical climate, and is the home of the kauri pine. Near the western seaboard the climate is more equable and much moister than on the long eastern and northern slopes. More rain falls than in England, and the weather is generally more changeable, but there are fewer wet days. The country is everywhere well watered, and prolonged droughts are unknown. Snow seldom falls even in the south. The mildness of the winter allows cattle and horses to remain in the fields without shelter. For variety, picturesqueness, and wild grandeur, the scenery of New Zealand is unrivalled in the southern hemisphere. In the North Island is the wonderland of the volcanic belt, remarkable for its hot lakes and pools, which possess great-curative virtue for all rheumatic and skin diseases, its boiling geysers, steaming fumaroles, sulphur-basins, and pumice plains. The exquisite siliceous terraces of Rotomahana are now buried beneath the debris of Mount Tarawera, shattered by the gigantic explosion of June 1886. In the South Island the Central Alps of the Mount Cook district display to the visitor the grandest glaciers in the temperate zones, and splendid clusters of snowy mountain-peaks. Farther south are the lovely Otago lakes, embosomed in mountains 5000 to 8000 feet high. Near Milford Sound are the famous Sutherland Falls, 1904 feet high.
New Zealand is a group of true oceanic islands. Originally it contained no mammals except two species of bat. The next highest animals were a few small lizards. Among the birds are several parrots, one of which - the mountain kea - has acquired the habit of killing sheep, and several wingless kiwis or apteryxes, the puny surviving relatives of the gigantic but extinct Moas. The Maoris brought dogs with them, and doubtless the native rat also. Cook gave them pigs. The colonists introduced the common domesticated animals of Europe. Many kinds of English birds, and also black swans from Australia have been established in the country. Unfortunately rabbits also have been acclimatised, and become a serious pest, which it costs more than £100,000 a year to keep in check. Fresh-water fishes of many kinds have been introduced with great success. Nearly all the native trees and shrubs are evergreen. The most important plants are the timber-trees. The Phormium or native flax grows wild in great profusion. Ferns of many kinds greatly abound, including numerous tree-ferns. The fruit and other trees of temperate zones thrive admirably. European grasses and trefoils spread with great rapidity, and so do weeds of every kind. Considerable tracts of the Canterbury and the inland plains are shallow and arid, and require irrigation. The principal crops are wheat, oats, barley; of other agricultural produce wool, frozen meat, butter and cheese are the most important.
The chief mineral product is gold, mainly from alluvial workings. The annual produce which declined till 1890 (when it was £773,438), increased in 1903 again to £2,037,831. Silver, lead, copper, antimony, and manganese are produced in small quantities. The coal raised in 1903 was 710,096 tons. The manufactures, stimulated by high protective duties, are mainly woollen cloths, wools, hosiery, blankets, soap, candles, leather, biscuits and confectionery, boots and shoes, paper, machinery and implements, apparel, ropes and twine, beer, etc. From 1893 to 1903 the imports rose from £6,911,515 to £12,788,675 a year, and the exports from £8,985,364 to £15,010,378. The imports from Britain in these years were between £4,000,000 and £7,512,668; the exports to Britain between £7,036,515 and £11,345,075. The chief exports were in 1903, wool (£4,044,223), frozen meat (£3,197,043), gold (£2,038,075), butter and cheese (£1,513,065), kauri gum (£631,102), flax (£595,6S4), grain (£494,689), tallow, sheep, hides and leather. The imports are mainly clothing and cloth ; iron and steel goods ; sugar ; paper, books, and stationery ; spirits, wines, and beer ; tea ; tobacco and cigars ; fruit; and oils. The revenue of the colony has in 1893-1903 increased from £4,407,964 to £7,201,002, and always exceeds the expenditure. The debt in 1904 was £57,522,215. There are 2440 miles of railway ; and the islands are connected with one another, with New South Wales, and so with the rest of the world, by telegraphs. Elementary education is free, compulsory, and secular. The three university colleges at Auckland, Christ-church, and Dunedin, attended by 700 students, are affiliated to the University of New Zealand, an examining body which grants degrees.
White pop. (1851) 26,707 ; (1861) 99,022 ; (1871) 256,260; (1881) 489,933; (1901) 772,719, besides 43,143 Maoris (almost all in North Island). 516,106 were born in the colony ; 111,964 in England, 47,858 in Scotland, 43,524 in Ireland, and 1765 in Wales. Only 18,593 were of non-British descent, including 2900 Chinese. Of the total, 603,916 were Protestants. Anglicans predominate in Canterbury, Presbyterians in Otago, and there are many Wesleyans. Up to 1876 the North Island was divided into four provinces - Auckland, Hawke Bay, Taranaki, and Wellington; and the South Island into five - Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury, Westland, and Otago. These are now known as provincial districts, and subdivided into numerous counties. The colony is administered by a governor with a ministry of 8 members, a legislative council of 45 members appointed by the governor, and a legislative assembly of SO members (four being Maoris elected by natives) elected by adult suffrage, including women. Wellington is the capital (pop. 49,344). Auckland is the largest city (pop. 67,226). The other chief towns are Napier, Wanganui, and New Plymouth in the North Island ; and Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch (57,041), Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin (52,390), and Invercargill in the South Island. Stewart Island has a sparse population on the north-east coast, and several excellent harbours. The Maori natives belong to the Polynesian race, and are well-built, generous, and warlike; cannibalism was associated with their warfare. They still own large areas of land, on which they raise crops and keep great numbers of sheep, but they are not very industrious. The islands were discovered by Tasman, (and called Nova Zeelanda, in 1642, but became known really through Captain Cook. Some trade sprang up early in the 19th century, and the islands became definitely British in 1840; there were wars with the Maoris in 1843 and 1869, and self-government was granted in 1852. See books on New Zealand by Hochstetter (1867), Pennefather (1893), and Pember Reeves (1898), besides the official and other handbooks; and histories by Rusden (1895) and Frank Parsons (Phila. 1904).