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Where in the World
New Zealand in located in what is called Oceanian, islands in the South Pacific Ocean. New Zealand's closest neighbour is Australia which is aproximately 1,600 kms to the west.

Size / Landscape/ Geology
New Zealand consists of 2 main islands, which were very imaginatively named the North Island and the South Island. There are a number of smaller islands that make up New Zealand, with Stewart island being the largest.

It is approximately 1600 km from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island; similar in size to Japan, Great Britian or the US state of Colorado. The total area size is around 268,680 sq km including all the offshore islands. It has about 15,134 km of coastline.

The landscape is prodominately mountainous with large sections of flat plains. The mountains of the South Island are the result of two tectonic plates (Indian-Australian and Pacific Plate) grinding against each other causing the uplifting and buckling of the mountainous spine called the Southern Alps. The Southern Alps stretch from the bottom of the island to the top and are home to Mt Cook, New Zealand's largest mountain at 3,754 m. The North Island has a different landscape, the mountains are the result of volcanic activity. The highest mountains in the North Island are located in the center of the island, called the volcanic plateau.

New Zealand is a relatively young country geologically speaking and volcanic activity still occurs. There are a number of active volcanoes in the North Island these include White Island in the Bay of Plenty and Ruapehu, which is the most active and last erupted in 1997. Lake Taupo in the central North Island was formed as the result of a massive eruption and is believed to have been the worlds largest eruption. it happened in about 183 AD, a long time before man came to New Zealand.

As New Zealand is right in the middle of two tectonic plates earthquakes are also common, I personally have experienced at least a dozen, usually about one every 2 years. Like Los Angeles, a big one is predicted for Wellington.

Lakes and rivers are perhaps the most striking feature of the New Zealand landscape. It seems like every where you look there is a river or lake. This is a result of the high rainfall that New Zealand experiences, particually in the west coast of the South Island.

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