Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud – is a diverse, multicultural society. Renowned for its spectacular scenery, its many lakes, mountains, glaciers, fiords, rivers and expansive coastline, all offering amazing views and vistas throughout the length and breadth of both the North & South Islands.
New Zealand’s mild climate and easily accessible countryside results in an outdoor lifestyle including all water sports, golf, tramping, mountain/rock climbing, skiing and much more. Sport is a way of life in New Zealand and is popular with all ages. The All Black rugby team is virtually an institution.
Marlborough, the Wairarapa and the Hawke’s Bay are all major grape growing areas in New Zealand. Vineyards offer tours and tastings with many also providing beautiful settings for their restaurants and cafes.
Nowhere in New Zealand is very far from the sea, with many cities and towns located on or around beautiful harbours, rivers or lakes. Numerous weekend getaway spots are an easy drive or a quick flight to all the main centres.
Eating out, including a café culture has recently evolved throughout the towns and cities of New Zealand. Restaurants, bars and cafes offer sumptuous food throughout the country with many international and ethnic styles of eating available. Prices vary and suit all budgets.
New Zealanders also enjoy the arts, live theatre, music, and ballet.
The first country to give women the vote and home to Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person in the world to climb Mt. Everest, New Zealand’s most recent claim to fame is film making. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy has put New Zealand on the world stage, promoting the country, its scenery and its people.
The New Zealand Political Environment
New Zealand is a self-governing member of the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of New Zealand and the Head of State; she is represented by a Governor-General. It is the Governor-General who, on behalf of the British Crown, assents to all legislation before it becomes law.
Government is based on Acts of Parliament, the decisions of the courts, and constitutional conventions, as New Zealand has no written constitution.
Following the English Westminster style of government, members are elected to the House of Representatives, New Zealand’s only legislative chamber. The Governor-General and the House of Representatives form New Zealand’s Parliament – the supreme law-making body.
Members of Parliament are elected to office every three years. New Zealand operates a Mixed Member Proportional voting system (MMP). This means each political party will get a percentage of the 120 seats equal to their percentage of the total vote, with the provision they have to pass the 5% minimum total vote. Members of Parliament stand at 120 seats. Those not in Government form the Opposition.
Government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects ministers of the Crown to form a Cabinet – the highest council of government. Cabinet decides on administrative and legislative proposals and policies and co-ordinates the work of ministers.
The two main political parties are the Labour Party and the National Party. There are a number of smaller parties including: the Moari Party, New Zealand First Party, ACT, Mana, United Future, and Green Party.
After the October 2008 general election, Prime Minister, John Key, formed a coalition Government with the United Future, Maori Party and ACT party. That government had Members of Parliament outside Cabinet, holding ministerial positions and portfolios. This included Members of Parliament, outside cabinet that represented political parties, other than National.
The people are known affectionately as ‘Kiwis’ after the native flightless bird(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwi). The culture and way of life are noticeably British in origin, although its expression has a distinctly New Zealand flavour and society is virtually classless. Indeed, the people are noticeably egalitarian; personal qualities rather than wealth and position are what command liking and respect. New Zealanders are generally very relaxed and informal with first names being used after a very short acquaintance. They are also very hospitable and will readily invite people to their homes for a drink or a meal.
There is a kind of sibling rivalry between Australia and New Zealand and expatriates should beware of making any unfavourable comparisons between the two countries; New Zealanders are fiercely proud of their country and can resent being bracketed with their larger neighbour.
For an overview of kiwi slang have a look at http://www.newzealandslang.com/index.php
New Zealand Legal Environment
New Zealand’s justice system is based on the English model and is independent of government. Judges are appointed by the Governor-General or the Sovereign.
There are 61 district courts throughout New Zealand where judges make decisions on all crimes against property and all but the most serious crimes against people.
The High Court hears the most serious criminal charges and major civil cases. Appeals from district courts are sometimes heard in the High Courts.
The Court of Appeal hears and decides appeals from High Court cases and cases involving jury trials in the District Court.
New Zealand’s Highest Court is now the Supreme Court of New Zealand. Prior to 2004 the Highest Court was the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
New Zealand Housing
More than half of New Zealand’s houses have been built over the last 25 years. Most people in New Zealand choose to live in privately owned detached homes.
Houses are varied in structure, being built mainly of wood or brick. They are usually built separately (stand alone) within an area of land known as a section.
Wardrobes are normally built into the house, along with the installation of stoves for cooking, which are compulsory when selling a home.
Points to note when renting a house are the amount of insulation, forms of heating, the presence of damp or mould and the orientation of the sun/prevailing wind/surrounding hills. Housing costs are well above the national average in Wellington and higher again in Auckland where the availability for rented accommodation has become particularly scarce.