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New Zealand: An Overview

Area and Population

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy situated in the South Pacific Ocean, 6,500 kilometres (4,000 miles) south-southwest of Hawaii and 1,900 kilometres (1,200 miles) to the east of Australia. With a land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,000 square miles), it is similar in size to Japan or Britain. It is comprised of two main adjacent islands, the North Island and South Island, and a number of small outlying islands. Because these islands are widely dispersed, New Zealand has a relatively large exclusive maritime economic zone of 3.1 million nautical square kilometres.

Over half of New Zealand's total land area is pasture and arable land and more than a quarter is under forest cover, including 1.7 million hectares of planted production forest. It is predominantly mountainous and hilly, with 13% of the total area consisting of alpine terrain, including many peaks exceeding 3,000 metres (9,800 feet). Lakes and rivers cover 1% of the land. Most of the rivers are swift and seldom navigable, but many are valuable sources of hydro-electric power. The climate is temperate and relatively mild.

New Zealand's resident population at 30 June 2011 was estimated at 4,405,300. With an estimated population of 1,486,000 people, the Greater Auckland Region is home to 33 out of every 100 New Zealanders and is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, the others being Tasman and Nelson.

New Zealand has a highly urbanised population with around 72% of the resident population living in urban entities with 30,000 or more people. As at June 2010, over half of all New Zealanders (53%) lived in the four main urban areas of Auckland (1,354,900), Hamilton (203, 400), Wellington (389,700) and Christchurch (390,300).

The population is heavily concentrated in the northern half of the North Island (52%), with the remaining population fairly evenly spread between the southern half of the North Island (24%) and the South Island (24%).

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