10 Facts: New Zealand

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New Zealand is one of South Africa’s biggest rugby rivals, but there’s much more to this tiny island nation that’s located at the edge of the Pacific ocean. It’s definitely one of the countries that I want to visit one day despite the fact that it will take me more than 22 hours by airplane to get there from South Africa.

Here are 10 facts about New Zealand you might not have known:

  • The first Europeans known to have reached New Zealand were Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman and his crew in 1642. Tasman named this place ‘Nieuw Zeeland’ (after the Netherlands province of Zeeland). No Europeans returned here until British explorer James Cook’s voyage of 1768–71. It was the last major landmass to be populated (with the exception of the polar regions).
  • The country has a strong hold on the international trade in sheep meat. There are presently around 9 sheep to every 1 human in New Zealand. Today an estimated 4.3 million people live in the country.
  • The whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. The director of the films, Peter Jackson, was born in New Zealand.
  • It’s a fact that at 41.2 degrees South, Wellington (the capital city of New Zealand with a population of under 400,000) is the most Southernly capital city on the planet. Auckland is the largest city in the country with a population of 1.3 million.
  • The country was the first major nation to have universal suffrage. In 1893 it became legal for all male and female citizens of the country to vote.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is officially Queen of New Zealand. She is represented in the country by a Governor General, who ratifies all laws put before him or her by the elected parliament of New Zealand.
  • It’s one of only three countries that have two official (and of equal standing) national Anthems. The first is God Save the Queen (the English National Anthem) and the other is God Defend New Zealand. The other two countries with two anthems are Denmark and Canada which both have a Royal Anthem and a State anthem.
  • It was the first country to have its three top positions of power held simultaneously by women: The Prime Minister (Helen Clark), the Governor General (Dame Silvia Cartwright), and the Chief Justice (Sian Elias).
  • It’s a fairly liberal nation with homosexual marriage (Civil Union) being legal and prostitution, soliciting, and brothel keeping being legal. The driving age is 15, the consensual sex age is 16, and the drinking age is 18 (though minors accompanied by adults are allowed alcohol in restaurants).
  • Sir Edmund Hillary (the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest in the Himalayas) was born in Auckland, New Zealand and his face is on the country’s $5 bill.

I’m sure that there’s something I’ve left out. If you have anything to add, please comment on this post.

Watch this space for regular updates in the Facts category as well as updates in the Movies and Music categories.

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