10 Things You Might Not Know About: New Zealand

New Zealand is a faraway country, but it’s still a heavily visited tourist destination, which is due, among other things, to the fascinating cities (which are known worldwide with the best quality of life), the incomparably beautiful national parks, but also because the country was the stage for super productions such as “The Lord of the Rings.”

But there is so much more extraordinary to know about this beautiful outpost in the farthest corner of the world, and we’re eager to tell you our top 10 New Zealand facts!

1) “Land Of The Long White Cloud”

The Māori name for New Zealand – Aotearoa – means “land of the long white cloud.” There are various explanations for this name, most of them rooted in traditional Māori stories or legends. Still, all of them have some reference to the fact that long white clouds often hide the horizon in New Zealand. As a fun fact: when viewed from space, the country also resembles an elongated cloud (even though its just a coincidence).

2) It was the Last Place to be Inhabited by Humans

Credits: Aaron Birch

Humans – homo sapiens to be precise – developed in Africa, then spread first across Europe and Asia, then followed North America, then Australia and finally New Zealand, where they only landed about 800 years ago – tens of thousands of years later than in most regions of the world. The idea of ​​seclusion takes on a completely different meaning, don’t you think?

3) New Zealand is a Pioneer in Women’s Rights

Although New Zealand was the last place to be inhabited by humans, in some ways, it was way more progressive and honorable than many other countries: New Zealand was the first country to introduce women’s suffrage for all women back in 1893. The efforts of Kate Sheppard, who gathered 30,000 signatures for the parliament, sequentially led to the establishment of universal suffrage and ultimately made her the iconic figure in the women’s suffrage movement. Up to this day, her honorable act earned her the place on New Zealand’s $10 note.

4) Schools and Nuclear Power

The “Atomic Energy Act 1945” states that every high school in New Zealand may hold one pound of uranium and one pound of thorium to conduct nuclear experiments. But they will be fined $1,000,000 should they cause a nuclear explosion.

5) The Steepest Residential Street

Credits: Mark Oliver Dittrich

New Zealand has the steepest road in the world. Baldwin Street is north-east of downtown Dunedin and has an incline of a brutal 19.3 degrees (or 35%). That doesn’t sound like much in numbers, but seeing it on-site is an entirely different experience. Jogging up the street must be fun. Not. 

6) The Clearest Water

Nelson Lakes National Park on New Zealand’s South Island comes with deep green beech forests, rugged mountain peaks, and clean waters. But by far, the most spectacular sight is the Blue Lake (Māori: Rotomairewhenua): The water shimmers in the blue-violet colors of pure H2O. The water is so clear that underwater visibility of up to 80 meters is possible, which corresponds to the clarity of distilled, purified water and thus makes it the clearest freshwater lake in the world, according to the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). But what makes this lake so clear? The water is fed underground from the higher Lake Constance. On the way to Blue Lake, the water also passes countless layers of rock, which means that almost all of the remaining sediment particles are filtered out.

7) Three Official Languages

Credits: ChewyPineapple

There are three official languages ​​in New Zealand: English, Te Reo Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language.

While both Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are only understood or actively used by a relatively small percentage of the population, New Zealand English is the most important colloquial language, spoken by 98% of the population in 2006. The second official language, Te Reo Māori, lost its importance over time until the 1970s, and the number of Te Reo Māori speakers steadily decreased. The New Zealand Sign Language (English: New Zealand Sign Language; NZSL) has also been the official language since April 10, 2006.

8) Two Official National Anthems

New Zealand is – besides Denmark – the only country in the world that has two national anthems. In addition to “God Save the Queen,” the song “God Defend New Zealand” was elevated to the national anthem’s status.

The English text is by Thomas Bracken, a poet born in Ireland who emigrated to New Zealand. John Joseph Woods composed the melody in 1875. In 1976 the New Zealand government asked the Queen to use “God Defend New Zealand” as their national anthem, which was “approved” by the monarch by law on November 21, 1977.

9) Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

Credits: Mattgrosso

“Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu” is the name of a 305 meters (1,001 ft) high hill in Hawke’s Bay. The hill’s name (with 85 characters) has also been listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest place name. It roughly translates as “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.” 

10) The Wizard of New Zealand

The Wizard (left) and his apprentice Ari Freeman (right) in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on June 2, 2020 (CNN)

Yep, New Zealand’s got an official wizard. His name’s Ian Brackenbury Channell, and he got his title in 1990 from the country’s prime minister. Like every other proper wizard, he’s dressed in robes and wears a pointed hat – for more than 20 years already! As part of his duties, he’s required to “provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch.” Mr. Brackenbury Channel collects an annual salary of 16,000 New Zealand dollars, or USD 10,400, from the government, and he’s currently preparing to pass off his staff to a wizarding apprentice. Anyone looking for a job?