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New Zealand is a country of rare seismic beauty: glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling mud. There are also abundant forest reserves, long, deserted beaches and a variety of fauna, such as the kiwi, endemic to its shores.

Any number of vigorous outdoor activities - tramping (hiking), skiing, rafting and, of course, that perennial favourite, bungy jumping - await the adventurous. You can swim with dolphins, gambol with newborn lambs, whale-watch or fish for fattened trout in the many streams.

The people, bound in a culture that melds European with Maori ancestry, are resourceful, helpful and overwhelmingly friendly. The extraordinary place names - try Te Awamutu, Whangamomona or Paekakariki for tongue-trippers - are resonant and, with a modicum of practice, easy to pronounce.

Because it's such a compact place, travel within New Zealand - whether by plane, bus, rail, car or bicycle - is affordable and efficient. Accommodation too is cheap and varied. And the culinary promise of venison, fresh seafood, sublime ice cream and award-winning wines should more than whet the appetite.

Full country name: New Zealand
Area: 268,680 sq km
Population: 4 million
People: 75% New Zealand European (Pakeha), 10% Maori, 5% other European, 4.5% Polynesian, 5% Asian, 0.5% other
Language: Maori, English
Religion: Predominantly Christian (75%)
Government: Independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II
Head of Government: Prime Minister Helen Clark

GDP: US$85 billion
GDP per capita: US$22,360
Annual Growth: 2%
Inflation: 2.7%
Major Industries: Food processing, wood and paper products, wool, textiles, dairy products, iron and steel, machinery, tourism
Major Trading Partners: Australia, Japan, UK, China and the USA


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Richard Valentine - 1996 - 2005© - All rights reserved