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North Island facts for kids

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North Island
Te Ika-a-Māui
Location Oceania
Archipelago New Zealand
Area 113,729 km2 (43,911 sq mi)
Area rank 14th
Highest elevation 2,797 m (9,177 ft)
New Zealand
Population 3,596,200
Pop. density 31.6 /km2 (81.8 /sq mi)

The North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui (Māori) is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, separated from the slightly larger but much less populous South Island by 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 3,596,200 (June 2016).

Twelve main urban areas (half of them officially cities) are in the North Island. From north to south, they are Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Hastings, Whanganui, Palmerston North, and Wellington, the capital, located at the south-west extremity of the island. About 77% of New Zealand's population lives in the North 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 2016) Urban area Region Population (June 2016)
1 Auckland Auckland &&&&&&&&01495000.&&&&&01,495,000   11 Wanganui Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&039600.&&&&&039,600
2 Wellington Wellington &&&&&&&&&0405000.&&&&&0405,000   13 Gisborne Gisborne &&&&&&&&&&036100.&&&&&036,100
3 Hamilton Waikato &&&&&&&&&0230000.&&&&&0230,000   13 Pukekohe Auckland &&&&&&&&&&029800.&&&&&029,800
4 Tauranga Bay of Plenty &&&&&&&&&0134400.&&&&&0134,400   14 Taupo Waikato &&&&&&&&&&024100.&&&&&024,100
5 Napier-Hastings Hawke's Bay &&&&&&&&&0131000.&&&&&0131,000   15 Masterton Wellington &&&&&&&&&&021200.&&&&&021,200
6 Palmerston North Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&084300.&&&&&084,300   16 Levin Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&020600.&&&&&020,600
7 Rotorua Bay of Plenty &&&&&&&&&&057800.&&&&&057,800   17 Whakatāne Bay of Plenty &&&&&&&&&&019600.&&&&&019,600
8 New Plymouth Taranaki &&&&&&&&&&056800.&&&&&056,800   18 Feilding Manawatu-Wanganui &&&&&&&&&&016250.&&&&&016,250
9 Whangarei Northland &&&&&&&&&&056400.&&&&&056,400   19 Tokoroa Waikato &&&&&&&&&&013700.&&&&&013,700
10 Kapiti Wellington &&&&&&&&&&041800.&&&&&041,800   20 Hawera Taranaki &&&&&&&&&&011800.&&&&&011,800

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

  • Coromandel Peninsula
  • North Auckland Peninsula
  • Cape Palliser
  • Cape Reinga
  • East Cape

Forests and national parks

  • Tongariro National Park
  • Waipoua Kauri Forest



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