It’s a well-known fact that New Zealand is without a doubt the most incredibly beautiful country in the world. Okay, I kind of made that up. Let’s call it an alternative fact.
But still, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about New Zealand in the past five years because the world is finally discovering the tiny beautiful island and no one can shut up about it.
If you think you’ve heard it all, you’re probably wrong. Besides birthing heroes like Sir Edmund Hillary and Peter Jackson, there are heaps more to know about this little island nation to be learned.
New Zealand is full of hidden secrets and interesting little fact bombs. Next time someone tells you there’s one person for every 9 sheep in New Zealand, hit them with these much more interesting factoids.
They’ll be totally impressed. You’re welcome.
1. Kiwi fruit is not native to New Zealand
It may seem counter-intuitive since the word Kiwi is synonymous with New Zealand. The citizens are casually referred to as Kiwis, the fruit grows in abundance throughout the country and of course, the national bird is the kiwi, a flightless nocturnal bird that is rarely seen and endangered.
Despite this country’s undeniable love for all things kiwi, the kiwi fruit is actually not native to New Zealand. It comes from China and is also known as a gooseberry. Chinese gooseberries were exported into New Zealand in 1904 and were originally marketed under the name ‘Zespri.”
When New Zealand began exporting fruit to the USA in the 1950s, the name Chinese Gooseberry was a marketing disaster waiting to happen so instead, they suggested the name kiwifruit.
2. New Zealand is home to the longest place name in the world:
If you actually tried to sound that word out, kudos to you because my brain skipped over the word after the second syllable.
Often shortened to Taumata, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu is a Māori name referring to a hill in Hawkes Bay on the North Island.
For those who didn’t count, the word has 85 characters, 40 syllables and roughly translates to “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who traveled about, played his kōauau (flute) to his loved one.”
You can learn how to pronounce the word here.
3. About 1/3 of the country is protected national park
You probably know this already but New Zealand is a pretty beautiful place and while it continues to gain popularity and be developed for human gain, a large part of the country is preserved as national park or conservation areas, many looked after by the Department of Conservation or DOC as it’s locally known.
With 13 national parks and thousands of designated conservation areas, New Zealand is doing its best to preserve the magic of wild land.
All of the National Parks are easily accessible and you can literally find conservation areas everywhere you turn so getting into nature is super easy here.
4. Bats are the only native mammal in the country.
For thousands of years, birds dominated the animal kingdom in New Zealand. Almost no land mammals existed at all here, except for a species of bats. All of these species currently are either thought to be extinct or are critically endangered.
Human settlement has a truly detrimental effect on the number of bats in New Zealand. Logging and clearing of lowland forests have destroyed their habitat and the introduction of predators (like rats and stoats) has threatened their existence.
That’s why initiatives like Predator Free 2050 are so important here. Save the bats!
5. It’s home to the steepest street in the world
The Guinness World Record recognizes Baldwin Street as the steepest street in the world. The street climbs a vertical height of 47.22m with a gradient of 35% in the steepest sections.
If you want to see the steepest street for yourself, head to Dunedin, the second largest city in the South Island and take a stroll up the hill.
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to ride down the street, especially in a wheelie bin.
6. New Zealand is the least corrupt nation in the world
Anyone who lives in New Zealand will tell you it’s a pretty easy place to call home.
Things are straight forward and the small population makes it easy for change to happen and the people who live here are simply incredibly straight up and genuine. You never really have to guess what’s really going on in New Zealand because it’s mostly all out in the open.
According to the Corruptions Perception Index, New Zealand is the least corrupt nation in the world scoring 89 points out of 100. People value the concept of being fair and understand the importance of press freedom, access to information about public spending and independent judicial systems.
New Zealand continues to top the list year after year along with other non-corrupt countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland. Hell yeah!
7. Their hottest election of the year is for a bird
In the USA, years are spent carefully crafting campaigns around the presidential election. Billions of dollars are spent during campaign season, it’s nearly impossible to watch tv or listen to the radio without hearing a political commercial.
In New Zealand, the presidential campaigns have a short build-up and are quick to finish. But there’s on campaign in New Zealand that sparks outrage and combat every year: The Bird of the Year.
Each year New Zealanders ban together and decide on which of their beloved birds should be crowned with Bird of the Year and each year, tears and outrage ensue. In fact, last year there were even reports of cheating with over 300 votes for the shag coming from the same IP address. This is the sort of corruption that stopped us from getting the full 100 points in the Corruptions Perception Index.
8. New Zealand is home to a giant carnivorous snail
As it turns out, New Zealand does care about other species other than birds. A prime example is the Powelliphanta snail, a giant carnivorous snail found in the South Island. This snail can be as large as dinner plates and feeds on earthworms, sucking them up like a piece of spaghetti.
These snails lay about 5-10 large eggs a year with each egg measuring up to 12 mm long and once hatched, the snails can live up to 20 years, however, these giant snails are at serious risk from predators like stoats and possums as well as habitat loss.
I haven’t seen one, thank god!
9. New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote
New Zealand was embracing feminism before the rest of the world granting women the right to vote in 1893. In most other democracies, women did not gain the right to vote until after WWI. The women’s vote can be largely attributed to suffrage campaigners led by Kate Sheppard, who is now featured on the $10 note.
Granting women the right to vote laid the groundwork for centuries of starving for equal rights for women.
Three out of New Zealand’s 40 Prime Ministers have been women. Sure that number looks grim but it’s a lot better than many other democratic nations (I’m looking at you, USA).
10. New Zealand is home to the first commercial bungy jump
New Zealand is often credited with inventing the idea of bungy jumping and while it’s certainly a big part of our tourism identity, New Zealand was far from the inventor of this completely insane idea.
The first modern bungy jumps were made in the late 1970s from a suspension bridge in the UK by a professional climber who was inspired by “vine jumping,” a ritual carried out by the people of Vanuatu.
Nearly a decade later, a New Zealander by the name of AJ Hackett picked up the idea and decided to turn it into a commercial tourism activity. He had made his first jump off an Auckland bridge then continued to jump off insane heights (like the Eiffel Tower) before opening the world’s first public bungy site. AJ Hackett Bungy is still operating between Wanaka and Queenstown of if nearly jumping to your death is your thing, you’re in luck.
Whatcha think? Feel more knowledgable about New Zealand now? Any other facts to add? Share!