17 Peculiar Facts About New Zealand

New Zealand is known for the magical Lord of the Rings landscapes and its people with their laid-back and friendly approach. NZ attracts millions of tourists every year who come to enjoy the amazing country. Wherever you go in the world, you will always come across something that is different from your home country, and some things can be unbelievable when you hear them for the first time. In this list, we have gathered quirky but interesting facts about wonderful New Zealand.

1. May the Force Be With You

Two storm troopers with yellow and red colours.

During the 2001 census in New Zealand, it was revealed that over 53,000 people stated their religion as “Jedi” or “Jediism”. 

For those who haven’t heard the term before, it is related to the Star Wars movies. 

Surprisingly, during that year, there were fewer Buddhists than “Jedis” in New Zealand.

However, to the dismay of the Rebellion, the number had decreased by 2006, and by then there were only 20,000 “Jedis” left, which is the approximate estimated number today.

2. Human Population Percent

Picture of hundreds of sheeps on New Zealand

New Zealand has a very small percentage of people compared to the wildlife on the island. In fact, only 5% of the island’s population is human, while the rest is animals. 

It is said that for every person, there are five sheep, making it the highest sheep-to-human ratio in the world!

3. Two of the Biggest Movie Directors live in NZ

It’s understandable that New Zealand’s magical landscapes inspire many, especially people with a penchant for fantasy. Peter Jackson, the famous director of “The Lord of the Rings,” has a large house on the island with hobbit houses and tunnels in the garden. 

James Cameron (director of “Titanic,” “Avatar,” and many more) also lives on the island and has a house at Lake Ferry where he has stated he gets the most inspiration for his work.

Hobbit houses on NZ

4. The Long Name With 85 Letters

Have you ever visited Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotam-ateaturipukakapikimaungahoronuku-pokaiwhenuakitanatahu? This 85-letter-long name is a Māori name and is one of the world’s longest place names.

This has brought more attention to the hill’s name than the actual location itself.

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotam-ateaturipukakapikimaungahoronuku-pokaiwhenuakitanatahu roughly translates to “The place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed, and swallowed mountains, known as ‘Land Eater,’ played his flute to his loved one.”

Sign with a long name.

5. Impressive Amount of Islands

As most people know, New Zealand is primarily divided into two main islands, the North Island and the South Island. But something that many people may not know is the incredible number of islands that New Zealand has scattered throughout the country.

NZ has over 600 islands of various sizes, but only a few of them are inhabited.

6. Cheesus Christ!

New Zealand is known for its insane production of cheese and dairy products. 

A dairy farmer produces approximately 100 kg of butter and 65 kg of cheese per person in the country each year. In 2022, New Zealand produced approximately 375 thousand metric tons of cheese, and as you can guess, cheese is one of the country’s largest export commodities.

Big chunks of cheese.

7. Possums are Generally Despised by People Here 

Unlike in Australia, where possums are a protected species, this cute little creature is considered a pest in NZ as it causes a lot of damage. A well-known local “joke” is that if you see a possum on the road, you should speed up and run it over instead of stopping.

It is also recommended to “support” the possum issue by buying clothing made from possum fur or helping organizations set up traps. It’s worth mentioning that there are also people who fight for the survival of these small animals and strive to create a sustainable possum environment.

Possums eat eggs from endangered birds and also compete for the available food on the island. They can also be carriers of bovine tuberculosis, which can be transmitted to cows and other animals.

A picture of a Possum at night time.

8. The Official Wizard of New Zealand

Are wizards real? In New Zealand, the answer is yes. Ian Brackenbury Channell was officially recognized as a wizard by the prime minister in 1990. In 2021, Ian’s contract as the country’s wizard came to an end, and his annual salary of $16,000 was withdrawn. 

Ian earned an impressive amount of $368,000 by performing rain dances and magically keeping the city of Christchurch safe.

9. Kea bird, the Car Destroyer

This endangered alpine parrot is one of the world’s smartest birds, and there are only a few thousand left. These birds seem to have developed a taste for the elastic rubber used as seals along windows and car joints, which has caused problems for car owners. 

It is not uncommon for these intelligent birds to work in groups and completely destroy a targeted car.

A picture of a Kea bird in the snowy mountains.

10. The are Zero Snakes in New Zealand

If you don’t like slithering reptiles, then New Zealand is a perfect destination for you. 

NZ doesn’t have any snakes at all and is also free from all poisonous insects and animals, unlike its neighbor Australia. 

It may sound strange to have a country free of snakes, but this is actually more common than you think, and countries like Iceland, Greenland, and Ireland are also countries free of snakes.

11. Shipwrecked? No Problem

Between 1867 and 1927, the New Zealand government built small houses filled with food and necessities on remote islands around the country as a safety measure for boats in case they ran aground. The boat route back then was challenging, and there were hidden icebergs beneath the water’s surface that could damage the boats and cause accidents.

These houses no longer exist, but on some islands, hotels have opened that follow the theme of the traditional Castaway depots that once provided security for captains and crews.

Two shipwrecks on a beach.

12. Kiwifruit is not originally from New Zealand

New Zealanders are known as “Kiwis”. Even the popular bird, the Kiwi, is native to New Zealand, and with a high export of Kiwifruit, it’s not surprising that people believe the fruit originates from here. 

The truth is that Kiwifruit originally comes from China and was first introduced by a school principal who brought some back to New Zealand after a trip to China. It wasn’t until 1910 that Kiwifruit production took off in the country.

slices of kiwi fruits.

13. Hobbit-related design on the currency

No country in the world probably suffers from this rule, but New Zealand is the only country in the world that has the right to use Hobbit-related designs on its coins and banknotes. Coins with Hobbit designs have been released, and although technically they can be used in transactions, they are rarely used as they have become rare collectibles.

14. A Lot of Cars

New Zealand’s population of 5.1 million people is relatively low, but the number of registered cars, at around 3.8 million, is incredibly high in proportion to the population. Therefore, the country has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world.

15. One of The Three official languages is Sign Language

New Zealand has three official languages. One of them, and the most popular English, the second is the traditional Māori language. 

In 2006, the third official language, sign language, was recognized. 

Today, over 25,000 people use sign language on a daily basis, and the language was included to ensure that individuals with hearing impairments can live as normal and communicative lives as everyone else.

Arm with a "Thumbs up".

16. Last Country To Be Inhabited by Humans

Many have heard of the indigenous Māori people who were the first inhabitants of New Zealand.

What many people do not know is that the Māori people first discovered the island about 800 years ago. 

This makes New Zealand one of the last countries to be inhabited by humans.

Maori wooden sculptures of two faces.

17. Crystal Clear Water

In Nelson Lakes National Park, you will find Blue Lake. 

This lake is known for its crystal-clear water and has an incredible visual clarity of up to 80 meters. This phenomenon is created as the water is filtered through the ground, removing almost all particles.

Picture of thw clear water of Blue Lake in NZ.

Scroll to Top