New Zealand Historical Geography

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New Zealand is located in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1200 miles southeast of Sydney, Australia, across the Tasman Sea. It consists of two large, mountainous, islands; the North Island and the South Island, and some small coastal islands of varying sizes, the principle ones being Stewart Island at the southern tip of the country, and the Chatham Islands, east of Christchurch. The center of the South Island is dominated by the Southern Alps which run its full length. The tallest mountain in the range is Mt. Cook, at 3764 meters. The North Island also has several prominent mountain peaks. Due to the mountainous terrain of the islands, early settlements were located along the coasts, as are the largest cities today.

New Zealand became a British Crown Colony in 1841. In 1846 it was divided into two administrative provinces, New Ulster and New Munster, which were later abolished in favor of 10 provinces. In 1876 the provincial governments were abolished and replaced by local councils and boards on county, city, borough, and town levels.

Sources describing boundary changes are found in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:



Historical atlases contain maps depicting boundary changes, migration and settlement patterns, military actions, and ethnic and religious distribution.

See Fiji Maps for information on finding historical atlases.