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North Island
Te Ika-a-Māui  (Māori)
NewZealand.A2002296.2220.250m North Island crop.jpg
North Island is located in Oceania
North Island
North Island
Location in Oceania
Location Oceania
Coordinates 38°24′S 175°43′E / 38.400°S 175.717°E / -38.400; 175.717
Archipelago New Zealand
Area 113,729 km2 (43,911 sq mi)
Area rank 14th
Highest elevation 2,797 m (9,177 ft)
Highest point Mount Ruapehu
New Zealand
ISO 3166-2:NZ NZ-N
Regions 9
Territorial authorities 43
Largest settlement Auckland (pop. 1,478,800)
Population 3,997,300 (June 2023)
Pop. density 35.1 /km2 (90.9 /sq mi)

The North Island, also officially named Te Ika-a-Māui, is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, separated from the larger but much less populous South Island by the Cook Strait. The island's area is 113,729 square kilometres (43,911 sq mi), making it the world's 14th-largest island. It has a population of 3,997,300 (June 2023), accounting for approximately 77% of the total residents of New Zealand.

Twelve main urban areas (half of them officially cities) are in the North Island. From north to south, they are Whangārei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Hastings, Whanganui, Palmerston North, and New Zealand's capital city Wellington, which is located at the south-west tip of the island.

Naming and usage

Although the island has been known as the North Island for many years, in 2009 the New Zealand Geographic Board found that, along with the South Island, the North Island had no official name. After a public consultation, the board officially named the island North Island or Te Ika-a-Maui in October 2013.

In prose, the two main islands of New Zealand are called the North Island and the South Island, with the definite articles. It is normal to use the preposition in rather than on, for example "Hamilton is in the North Island", "my mother lives in the North Island". Maps, headings, tables and adjectival expressions use North Island without the.

Māori mythology

According to Māori mythology, the North and South Islands of New Zealand arose through the actions of the demigod Māui. Māui and his brothers were fishing from their canoe (the South Island) when he caught a great fish and pulled it from the sea. While he was not looking his brothers fought over the fish and chopped it up. This great fish became the North Island and thus a Māori name for the North Island is Te Ika-a-Māui (The Fish of Māui). The mountains and valleys are believed to have been formed as a result of Māui's brothers' hacking at the fish. Until the early 20th Century, an alternative Māori name for the North Island was Aotearoa. In present usage, Aotearoa is a collective name for New Zealand as a whole.


The North Island is divided into two ecoregions within the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests Biome, the northern part being the Northland temperate kauri forest, and the southern part being the North Island temperate forests. The island has an extensive flora and bird population, with numerous National Parks and other protected areas.


NZ Territorial Authorities North Island
Territorial authorities of the North Island

Nine local government regions cover the North Island and all its adjacent islands and territorial waters.

Cities and towns

The North Island has a larger population than the South Island with both the country's largest city, Auckland as well as the capital, Wellington at either ends of the island.

Map of the North Island showing some of its cities
Urban areas of the North Island by population
Urban area Region Population (June 2018) Urban area Region Population (June 2018)
1 Auckland Auckland &&&&&&&&01570100.&&&&&01,570,100   11 Wanganui Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&040900.&&&&&040,900
2 Wellington Wellington &&&&&&&&&0418500.&&&&&0418,500   13 Gisborne Gisborne &&&&&&&&&&037200.&&&&&037,200
3 Hamilton Waikato &&&&&&&&&0241200.&&&&&0241,200   13 Pukekohe Auckland &&&&&&&&&&031400.&&&&&031,400
4 Tauranga Bay of Plenty &&&&&&&&&0141600.&&&&&0141,600   14 Taupo Waikato &&&&&&&&&&024700.&&&&&024,700
5 Napier-Hastings Hawke's Bay &&&&&&&&&0134500.&&&&&0134,500   15 Masterton Wellington &&&&&&&&&&022200.&&&&&022,200
6 Palmerston North Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&086600.&&&&&086,600   16 Levin Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&021200.&&&&&021,200
7 Rotorua Bay of Plenty &&&&&&&&&&059500.&&&&&059,500   17 Whakatāne Bay of Plenty &&&&&&&&&&019750.&&&&&019,750
8 New Plymouth Taranaki &&&&&&&&&&058300.&&&&&058,300   18 Feilding Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&016850.&&&&&016,850
9 Whangarei Northland &&&&&&&&&&058700.&&&&&058,700   19 Tokoroa Waikato &&&&&&&&&&014050.&&&&&014,050
10 Kapiti Wellington &&&&&&&&&&042700.&&&&&042,700   20 Hawera Taranaki &&&&&&&&&&012150.&&&&&012,150

Major geographic features

New Zealand North Island
The North Island, in relation to the South Island

Bays and coastal features

Lakes and rivers

Capes and peninsulas

Forests and national parks




The sub-national GDP of the North Island was estimated at US$102.863 billion in 2003, 79% of New Zealand's national GDP.


The North Island has an estimated population of 3,997,300 as of June 2023.

Ever since the conclusion of the Otago Goldrush in the 1860s, New Zealand's European population growth has experienced a steady 'Northern drift' as population centres in the North Island have grown faster than those of New Zealand's South Island. This population trend has continued into the twenty-first century, but at a much slower rate. While the North Island population continues to grows faster than the South Island, this is solely due to the North Island having higher natural increase (i.e. births minus deaths) and international migration; since the late 1980s, the internal migration flow has been from the North Island to the South Island. In the year to June 2020, the North Island gained 21,950 people from natural increase and 62,710 people from international migration, while losing 3,570 people from internal migration.

Culture and identity

At the 2018 New Zealand census, 65.7% of North Islanders identified as of European ethnicity, 18.5% as Māori, 17.0% as Asian, 9.7% as Pacific Islanders, 1.6% as Middle Eastern/Latin American/African, and 1.2% as another ethnicity (mainly 'New Zealander'). Totals add to more than 100% since people may identify with multiple ethnicities.

The proportion of North Islanders born overseas is 29.3%. The most common foreign countries of birth are England (15.4% of overseas-born residents), Mainland China (11.3%), India (10.1%), South Africa (5.9%), Australia (5.5%) and Samoa (5.3%).

Cities and towns

Map of the North Island showing some of its cities

The North Island has a larger population than the South Island, with the country's largest city, Auckland, and the capital, Wellington, accounting for nearly half of it.

There are 28 urban areas in the North Island with a population of 10,000 or more:

Name Population
(June 2023)
 % of island
Auckland 1,478,800 37.0%
Wellington 215,200 5.4%
Hamilton 185,300 4.6%
Tauranga 161,800 4.0%
Lower Hutt 113,000 2.8%
Palmerston North 82,500 2.1%
Napier 67,500 1.7%
Porirua 60,900 1.5%
New Plymouth 59,600 1.5%
Rotorua 58,900 1.5%
Whangārei 56,900 1.4%
Hibiscus Coast 63,400 1.6%
Hastings 51,500 1.3%
Upper Hutt 45,400 1.1%
Whanganui 42,800 1.1%
Gisborne 38,200 1.0%
Paraparaumu 30,800 0.8%
Pukekohe 27,400 0.7%
Taupō 26,500 0.7%
Masterton 22,600 0.6%
Cambridge 21,800 0.5%
Levin 19,800 0.5%
Feilding 17,750 0.4%
Whakatāne 16,850 0.4%
Havelock North 15,200 0.4%
Tokoroa 14,500 0.4%
Te Awamutu 14,000 0.4%
Waikanae 13,150 0.3%

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Isla Norte para niños

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