New Zealand Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Claire DeSaussure

Claire has worked in behavioral programs at the Elementary Level and has an MLS with a focus on Creative Writing.

New Zealand is an island country that lies to the south east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. In this lesson, learn some interesting facts about this country's people, animals and geography.


Have you ever dreamed of being Bilbo Baggins or thought about living in a hobbit hole in Middle-earth? Did you know that if you travel to New Zealand, you can visit Bag End! The Hobbit movie was filmed close to Matamata and visitors are allowed to go there and dream of adventures! And, in 2012, New Zealand issued actual hobbit coins that are legal tender, meaning they are real money to be spent anyway you want!

A Tourist Visiting Hobbiton

Geography of New Zealand

Now that I have you dreaming about hobbits my precious…let's think about the rest of New Zealand. The country is split up into two major islands, the South Island or Te Waipounamu, and the North Island, Te Ika-a-Maui, but has over 30 smaller islands as well. The capital city of Wellington is on the North Island. New Zealand is a tall, skinny country and the two islands combine to be a little over 1000 miles long.

New Zealand is part of the Ring of Fire (enough with this ring thing already!) which means it's part of a circular area in the Pacific Ocean where volcanoes and earthquakes are common. On the South Island, there are mountains called the Southern Alps, which contain almost all of New Zealand's over 3,000 glaciers. The Southern Alps are also home to Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain.

Ring of Fire Map - New Zealand is Way Down at the Bottom Left
Ring of Fire

The People

The first people to live on New Zealand were the Maori who came there from Polynesia, a group of tiny islands to the north and east of New Zealand. In 1642, a Dutch explorer called Abel Janszoon Tasman was the first European to sight the country. However, it was British explorer Captain James Cook who landed there in 1769, and French and Spanish people came soon after.

Some Maori people were friendly to the Europeans and sold them pieces of land to live on. Others did not want the foreigners to stay and went to war against them and against other tribes. The British wanted to annex New Zealand, or make it the property of Britain, and in 1840, William Hobson signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori making the country part of Britain.

While the Queen of England is still the official head of state, with the Constitution Act of 1986, New Zealand gained full legal independence, meaning the British Parliament laws would no longer apply to New Zealand.

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