10 Things You Didn’t Know About New Zealand

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. These are the 10 things you didn’t know about New Zealand.

10: Land Mammals

Throughout the vast majority of its history, New Zealand as a landmass had no native land mammals, with only birds, insects and reptiles. There was a very brief period, tens of millions of years ago, when there were possibly a few land mammals. But all went extinct within that time frame, and have not been present in New Zealand for millions of years. There are of course bat species and many marine mammals off the coast of New Zealand, but they don’t really count.

How this came to be is an interesting story. You see, a very long time ago over 200 million years ago, in fact, New Zealand had not existed. It was part of the supercontinent of Gondwana. The continental drift forced separation from the continent, eventually leading to geographical isolation. This also led to the unique status of flora and fauna in New Zealand. As plants and animals had untold millions of years to develop in isolation.

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9: Other Animals in New Zealand

There might be no native mammals in New Zealand but humans who were extreme latecomers. Sure they did their best to bring animals with them that weren’t native to the islands. This is caused havoc to the New Zealand ecosystem. There are foreign mammals, insects, birds, fish and even plants. Brushtail possums, for example, are imports from Australia. Along with even more far-ranging imports such as ferrets, rabbits, rats, mice and many others. Not to mention cats and dogs.

Foreign insects are the German wasp, as well as the common wasp and Asian paper wasps. Many of these animals such as the stoat, which is a type of ferret, were imported in the 19th century for the purposes of pest control. They turned out to have devastating consequences for the environment in New Zealand and actually helped little. Today the New Zealand government spends huge amounts of time and money and an effort to preserve the native wildlife and exterminate these pests.

8: Confusing English of New Zealand

Many people not familiar with the intimate details of kiwi English tend to confuse it with Australian English. Kiwi English is, in fact, distinct and sounds remarkably different in many ways. The first way to tell the difference is in vowel quality. Also, there are so-called vowel mergers, which means some vowels have fused together. The words pin and pen in New Zealand English tend to sound the same. And are thus homophones in this variety of English or words that sound the same. New Zealanders also pronounced the plural of woman namely women in a way that makes it sound the same as the singular. Many of these features give kiwi English that unique flavor and feel that is known for but can also serve to confuse outsiders.

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7: Maori People

Maori People

The Maori people are the semi-indigenous people of New Zealand. We say semi because as mentioned before, there was literally no mammalian land life in New Zealand for millions of years. Rather, the Maori people arrived in New Zealand sometime around the year 1250 CE. The Maori are in fact indigenous to Polynesia in the South Pacific. Over the centuries they have developed their own unique set of customs, language, culture and traditions. They’re famous for their warrior traditions. Many Maori are employed as bodyguards and bouncers. Interestingly enough, they also tend to make up a disproportionate number of the country’s prison population. Many of the most violent gangs in New Zealand are also ethnically Maori. No one really knows the reasons for this, but it’s probably related to their warrior culture. Additionally, many Maoris seek redress for historical wrongs directed towards them by Europeans.

6: Drug Problems in New Zealand

Unfortunately for New Zealand, the South Island has been plagued by drug problems in recent years, particularly crystal methamphetamine. The reasons for this are many but include lack of employment opportunities, depression and just sheer boredom. New Zealand might be a remote place but somehow, some way drugs always manage to make their way into the islands to cause chaos and destruction.

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5: Moa Bird

Moa Bird

The moa was a group of gigantic flightless bird’s native to New Zealand. There were several sub species, but all were very large. For more than 80 million years, New Zealand had been completely isolated from other parts of the world. It was in this isolation, but the moa bird evolved. It’s only natural predator was the Haast’s eagle, the largest eagle to have ever lived. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Maori was also the death knell for the giant bird. The approximate population of moa birds was around 58,000 when the Maori first arrived. But a recent study suggests that within less than 100 years, the moa bird was hunted to extinction by the new Maori population.

The Maori had exploited the moa as a food source until it was gone. Some have suggested that when the moa bird went extinct, the Maori people even had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Because they had grown too accustomed to the huge bird as a food source. The moa bird has been gone for many centuries. But recent genetic technology has revived the hope of possibly cloning the bird. How successful this will be, only time will tell.

4: Maori Wars

The New Zealand Wars took place between 1845 and 1879. These were a series of armed conflicts between the New Zealand government and the Maori people. Until 1960, there were even referred to as the Maori wars. But that turned out to be politically incorrect, hence the name change. Regardless of what you may call them, these wars were caused by land ownership disputes. To put an end to the social upheaval caused by these land disputes between natives and the colonizers, the British colonial authorities raised regiments and organized militias to combat the indigenous Maori forces.

What makes this conflict even more interesting, is that there were even loyalist Maori who fought for the British crown in a group called the Forest Rangers. The perception was that the Maori would never recognize the British crown. Which led the British to believe they were facing a unified Maori front. However, opposing them were just 4000 Maori warriors, who rather remarkably held out for years through guerrilla tactics and knowledge of the land. Eventually, however, the British were just too strong, and they were overwhelmed. The land was confiscated, and many Maori were imprisoned. The New Zealand wars are still a touchy topic to this day. Many people of all stripes and colors feel that a great injustice was visited upon the Maori people.

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3: New Zealand Venison

New Zealand Venison

Speaking of foreign mammalian imports, New Zealand is famous for its delicious, savory and nutritious venison. New Zealand deer farming is a highly regulated industry. The deer are confined to a very specific albeit open area. Deer are not native to New Zealand, so special care must be taken to prevent any escapes. However. the deer are treated well until the moment they are harvested for their delicious meat. New Zealand venison is particularly tender and tends to be less gamy than wild venison. It can be used for a countless number of recipes, making for a truly delicious meal.

2: Relationship with Kangaroos

Kangaroos and Kiwis have an odd relationship at times, but ultimately, they generally get along well. This isn’t embodied in the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. Which is an arrangement between the countries of Australia and New Zealand? This arrangement allows their citizens to live, work and travel in both countries without any heavy restrictions. This came into effect in 1973. However, over the ensuing decades, the policy is tightened, and more restrictions have been introduced. Much of this has to do with Australian policies on immigration. Which are well known for being some of the harshest in the world? As well as the Australian economy is fundamentally stronger than the New Zealand one.

Since, the introduction of Australia’s universal visa requirement, Kiwi’s now receive a so-called Special Category Visa. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement also worries many Australians who are afraid that New Zealanders might be taking too many of their jobs. Bob Birrell, an Australian academic has expressed the following concerns. “The changes have not deterred New Zealand citizens, including those from third world countries from moving to Australia. Their numbers continue to increase. New Zealand citizens are adding about a net 27000 to the number of Australian residents each year more than any other country. The reason is that the gap in GDP per capita in Australia and New Zealand is growing and is currently over 20%. New Zealanders will keep on coming while this gap persists”. Perhaps, one day this agreement will be completely dissolved but no one knows for sure.

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1: Rugby Team of New Zealand

Rugby Team of New Zealand

New Zealand has the privilege of being the number one ranked national rugby team in the world on a consistent basis, including in 2016. Their players are the toughest, most agile and dedicated around. And many people who are not even Kiwis end up rooting for them. There are many theories as to why this is the case? The most common one is that unlike many places, where soccer is the number one sport. But Kiwis are born and bred on rugby as the number one national sport. Thus, all the athletic emphasis is on rugby rather than on other sports.

So, that’s the end of our list of 10 things you didn’t know about New Zealand. What are other facts do you know about New Zealand? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.

Written by Jack Sparrow

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