Capital | Wellington
Population | 4,290,347 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 268,680 SQ KM
Official Language | English, Maori
Holidays | Waitangi Day (Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty over New Zealand), 6 February (1840); ANZAC Day (commemorated as the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey), 25 April (1915)
Currency | Dollar (NZD)
Time Zone | UTC +12
Best Time to Visit | November to April, when the weather is warmest.
Connecting with the Culture | Traversing the South Island on the TranzAlpine train. Throwing yourself off something high- bungee jumping is as compulsory here as seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Enjoying a gourmet feast of fresh fish and chips on a deserted Northland beach. Seeing the marine life off the coast of Kaikoura. Spending a culture-filled weekend in one of the cities- the Polynesian bustle of Auckland, creative current of Wellington or European feel of Christchurch.
Read | Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider- a moving insight into the spiritually, tradition, and culture of the Maori people.
Listen | to Salmonella Dub’s Killer Vision, which displays influences quintessential to the new wave of New Zealand music.
Watch | Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy- the stunning landscape dominates the films.
Eat | whitebait- a seasonal delicacy; hu huh grubs- slug-like and not for the faint-hearted, but delicious off the grill.
Drink | a ‘boutique beer’- independent breweries are providing delicious variations of the traditional varieties.
In a Word | Sweet as, bro
Characteristics | Sheep; Maori; the All Blacks; clean and green; nuclear-free; extreme sports; the end of the earth; Middle Earth; Neil Finn; Janet Frame; pohutukawa blossoms.
Surprises | Not everyone plays rugby; there’s a thriving food and wine culture; much more than just two islands.
NEWS ABOUT NEW ZEALAND:
Marijuana vending machine seized by New Zealand police
(HN, 3/22/12) - A marijuana-selling vending machine in New Zealand was seized by local police on Thursday, along with NZ $27,000 in cash, 700g of cannabis, bongs & pipes, while 4 people were taken into custody. The machine, found in the New Lynn Daktory in Auckland, was selling the drug at the inflated price of NZ $20 for a 1-gram bag. The Daktory, which campaigns for legalisation of the drug, was attempting to replicate the legal cannabis cafés in Amsterdam. Despite the illegality of cannabis possession in New Zealand, it is the 3rd most widely-consumed drug in the country after alcohol & tobacco, & the country ranks 9th in the world in terms of the percentage of users. (Read more at Digital Spy)