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By John Jepson
New Zealand has a complex climate where temperatures can range from warm subtropical in the north to cool temperate in the south. July is usually the coldest month and the warmest is usually January or February. There are generally relatively small variations between summer and winter temperatures in New Zealand. Despite the moderately high rainfall, New Zealand enjoys many hours of sunshine throughout most of the country. The mountains and the sea are the two distinct geographical features that contribute to New Zealand's climate. The mountain chains that extend the length of New Zealand divide the country into contrasting climatic regions. As the mountains obstruct the prevailing westerly winds the West Coast of the South Island experiences the highest rainfall, in direct contrast to the driest part of the country on the East Coast only 100km away.
New Zealand Seasons
New Zealand does not experience extreme seasonal temperature changes, but due to tropical cyclones and cold fronts the weather can transform unexpectedly. This is why it is essential to be very well prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions if you're going to participate in outdoor activities in any season.
Spring - September, October, November
Summer - December, January, February
Autumn - March, April, May
Winter - June, July, August
New Zealand Temperatures
Mild temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and moderate rainfall are standard in New Zealand due to the majority of the country being near the coast. The average temperature will decrease the further south you travel, as New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere. The northern areas of New Zealand are subtropical and the southern areas temperate. New Zealand's warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest are June, July and August. The average maximum temperature ranges from 20 - 30ºC in the summer and from 10 - 15ºC in winter.
New Zealand Sunshine
Most areas of New Zealand can expect in excess of 2,000 hours of sunshine a year. The Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Nelson and Marlborough are the sunniest areas receiving over 2,350 hours. In the summer months daylight can last until 9.00pm due to New Zealand daylight saving.
New Zealand can also boast a high proportion of winter sunlight across most regions. Through the summer months UV rays in the New Zealand sunlight can be very strong. This is due to the low levels of air pollution. To avoid sunburn when they venture out in to the sun, visitors should take precautions by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats. The highest risk of sunburn is between 11am and 4pm.
New Zealand Rainfall
New Zealand has an average rainfall of between 640 mm and 1600mm spread over the year. The northern and central areas of New Zealand experience more rainfall in the winter, opposed to the southern regions receiving the least. As well as maintaining dramatic native forest, the high rainfall makes New Zealand an ideal place for farming.
New Zealand Summer
Those looking to enjoy New Zealand's summer should visit between the months of December through to February. New Zealand summer is a great time to come for visitors looking to enjoy bush walks and other outdoor activities. The summer makes New Zealand's beautiful beaches a very appealing option for swimming, topping up your tan, kayaking, sailing, surfing as well as enjoying a picnic stop.
New Zealand Autumn
New Zealand's autumn months are from March to May. Although it can feel a little cooler, the weather usually remains fantastic and it is not uncommon to be able to go swimming in New Zealand until April. The majority of New Zealand's summer activities can actually be enjoyed throughout the Autumn months. Due to New Zealand's introduced deciduous trees, autumn offers an array of natural colour and radiance to anyone visiting during this time.
New Zealand Winter
From June through to August the New Zealand winter transforms the mountain ranges across both the North and South islands of New Zealand in to snow-capped scenic delights. Despite the colder weather and increased rainfall in the North Island, there is a buzz in the air as Kiwis pack their thermos and ski gear and head off to enjoy the brilliant skiing or snowboarding New Zealand has to offer. If skiing isn't your thing, the winter is a great time to enjoy the alpine scenery across the South Island due to the little rainfall experienced by some areas.
New Zealand Spring
September to November is the best season to arrive if you get a thrill from excitable newborn lambs in spring. The blossoming plant life across New Zealand in spring offers a feast for the senses as the weather adjusts itself from chilly to hot. Increased water flow from snow melt through New Zealand make spring a great time to visit if you like white water rafting, and the spring festivals in both the North and South islands give everyone a reason to feel good.
The reputation of Kiwis being relaxed and friendly should give you a strong indicator of acceptable types of clothing, relaxed and informal is just fine for the majority of occasions. Smart casual is acceptable at most restaurants and bars and men are only required to wear suits and ties at formal bars and restaurants in the bigger cities. Even in the summer months the weather can become cooler as you visit higher altitudes so it is a good idea to pack a warm sweater or jacket. A rainproof jacket is also a necessity in case you experience a wet spell. If you visit during the winter months it is necessary to pack warm clothes remembering that it is a good idea to layer clothing.
Maori History - The Arrival
Maori legend tells us of Kupe, the first Maori explorer to reach New Zealand about 1000 years ago. He applied his knowledge of the stars and ocean currents to help navigate the Pacific on his waka hourua (voyaging canoe) from an unidentified location in Polynesia known as Hawaiki, the ancestral homeland. Over the next few hundred years as part of a planned migration, more waka hourua journeyed to New Zealand. Maori called their new home Aotearoa meaning 'Land of the Long White Cloud'.
The central focus of a Maori community was and still is the Marae
(meeting grounds). The most prominent feature was the Wharenui (meeting house), a striking construction at the centre of the marae that followed the basic form of the human body. The head and front of the building is called the koruru. It's arms, constructed from large boards stretching down from the head are called maihi. It's legs are represented by shorter boards called amo at the front of the Wharenui. Running along the length of the building providing strength is the spine known as tahuhu. Wharenui normally house beautiful carvings that represent the tribe's whakapapa (lineage) and the Maori tales of creation.
The Maori tribe based society thrived for hundreds of years. Mostly coastal dwellers, fishing was vitally important to them and played a big part in their mythology. Legend says, the god Maui was believed to have fished the North Island from the ocean. Fishing nets were woven from harakeke (flax), and fishing hooks were carved out of bone and stone. Today when fishing, it is still the tradition to throw back the first caught fish as a way of thanking Tangaroa, the god of the sea.
Maori hunted seals and penguins to use as food. Mutton-birds were another popular dish for the far south, and they are still enjoyed today. For preservation, they were kept in bags of bull kelp, the world's fastest growing seaweed. Native birds were also hunted. The world's largest bird, the Moa, as well as many other species, including the Tui and Kereru, were eaten. The Huia, a bird considered sacred was never eaten; however its feathers were worn in the heads of chiefs and highly prized.
Other foods enjoyed by Maori included vegetables, native as well as the introduced Polynesian kumara (sweet potato). A range of primitive tools including clubs and spades were used for planting and harvesting. Maori also ate various berries and the pulverised roots of ferns. Maori chewed resin known as gu obtained from the giant kauri trees. Food was transported in baskets and bags made from flax to be kept in a raised storehouse known as a pataka.
To cook the food, Maori had a unique method that is still practiced and enjoyed today. The hangi is an earth pit oven where food is cooked under ground using super heated stones. The stones are heated over a large pit fire; once the embers have been cleared away the stones are covered with green flax and then baskets of meat and vegetables. The food is covered with wet fabric and then earth is placed over the top to seal in the heat. The food is cooked slowly under ground, and this produces a very tender texture with a subtle smoky flavour.
Before the Europeans arrived, clashes between Maori tribes were common. Maori built a pa (fortified village) as a defense against other tribes. Carefully considered positions like hilltops were chosen for the construction of a pa. Each pa would have a series of obstacles surrounding it to protect those living within. Even when visiting New Zealand today, you can still see obvious signs or pa sites. Throughout history Maori have proved the skills of their warriors. Only the men would fight, and the favoured weapon was the taiaha. This spear-like weapon was beautifully carved with a head at one end and a blade at the other. The head reflects a great life force with the eye reflecting the spirit. Another fearful weapon was the mere, a club carved from pounamu (greenstone). The fearsome sight of a Maori warrior brandishing either one of these weapons is an unforgettable experience.
Thought to have migrated from the South Island, another tribe of Polynesians known as the Moriori lived almost 900km East of Christchurch on the Chatham Islands. Towards the end of the 18th century the numbers of Moriori living on the Chatham Islands reached around 2000. Eventually, attacks from Maori tribes and devastation from disease saw the numbers of the peaceful Moriori diminish. It is believed that 1933 saw the death of the last Moriori.
About 800 years after Maori made their migration to New Zealand from their Polynesian homeland, an influx of Europeans followed suit. The migration from Asian nations and the Pacific Islands through the 20th century also contributes to New Zealand's distinct multicultural society. The first European to find New Zealand was Abel Tasman, but it wasn't until Captain James Cook decided to take a closer look in 1769 that the real migration of whalers and missionaries from Europe began.
In 1839 there were only about 2000 Pakeha (Europeans) in New Zealand. However, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which saw New Zealand become a British colony, had an enormous effect on the New Zealand population. British migrants were offered a paid passage to New Zealand, and 40,000 arrived here between 1840 and 1860. By 1858 the Maori and Pakeha populations were nearly equal. The South Island gold rush of the 1860s saw even more migrants flood in from around the world, including English, Scots, Irish and Chinese. A labour shortage here in the late 19th century saw even more migrants from the British Isles and Europe come to New Zealand. Most came with assistance from the New Zealand Government.
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