South Island facts for kids
|Sobriquet: The Mainland|
Satellite view of the South Island
|Coordinates||Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:mw' not found.|
|Area||150,437 km2 (58,084 sq mi) (12th)|
|Length||840 km (520 mi)|
|Coastline||5,842 km (3,630 mi)|
|Elevation||3,754 m (12,316 ft)|
|Highest point||Aoraki/Mount Cook|
|Largest city||Christchurch (pop. 389,700)|
|Demonym||South Islander, Mainlander|
|Population||1,096,200 (as of June 2016)|
|Density||7.2/km2 (19/sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||European, Māori|
The South Island or Te Waipounamu (Māori) is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the smaller but more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean. The South Island covers 150,437 square kilometres (58,084 sq mi) and has a temperate climate.
It has a 32 percent larger landmass than the North Island so is sometimes referred to as the "mainland" of New Zealand, especially by South Island residents, but only 23 percent of New Zealand's 4.7 million inhabitants live there. In the early stages of European (Pākehā) settlement of the country, the South Island had the majority of the European population and wealth due to the 1860s gold rushes. The North Island population overtook the South in the early 20th century, with 56 percent of the population living in the North in 1911, and the drift north of people and businesses continued throughout the century.
In prose, the two main islands of New Zealand are called the North Island and the South Island, with the definite article.
- Naming and usage
- Natural history
- Images for kids
Charcoal drawings can be found on limestone rock shelters in the centre of the South Island, with over 500 sites stretching from Kaikoura to North Otago. The drawings are estimated to be between 500 and 800 years old, and portray animals, people and fantastic creatures, possibly stylised reptiles. Some of the birds pictured are long extinct, including moa and Haast's eagles. They were drawn by early Māori, but by the time Europeans arrived, local Māori did not know the origins of the drawings.
Classical Māori period
Early inhabitants of the South Island were the Waitaha. They were largely absorbed via marriage and conquest by the Kāti Mamoe in the 16th century.
Kāti Mamoe were in turn largely absorbed via marriage and conquest by the Kāi Tahu who migrated south in the 17th century. While today there is no distinct Kāti Mamoe organisation, many Kāi Tahu have Kāti Mamoe links in their whakapapa and, especially in the far south of the island.
Around the same time a group of Māori migrated to Rekohu (the Chatham Islands), where, by adapting to the local climate and the availability of resources, they developed a culture known as Moriori — related to but distinct from Māori culture in mainland New Zealand. A notable feature of the Moriori culture, an emphasis on pacifism, proved disadvantageous when Māori warriors arrived in the 1830s aboard a chartered European ship.
In the early 18th century, Kāi Tahu, a Māori tribe who originated on the east coast of the North Island, began migrating to the northern part of the South Island. There they and Kāti Mamoe fought Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne in the Wairau Valley. Ngāti Māmoe then ceded the east coast regions north of the Clarence River to Kāi Tahu. Kāi Tahu continued to push south, conquering Kaikoura. By the 1730s, Kāi Tahu had settled in Canterbury, including Banks Peninsula. From there they spread further south and into the West Coast.
In 1827-1828 Ngāti Toa under the leadership of Te Rauparaha successfully attacked Kāi Tahu at Kaikoura. Ngāti Toa then visited Kaiapoi, ostensibly to trade. When they attacked their hosts, the well-prepared Kāi Tahu killed all the leading Ngāti Toa chiefs except Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha returned to his Kapiti Island stronghold. In November 1830 Te Rauparaha persuaded Captain John Stewart of the brig Elizabeth to carry him and his warriors in secret to Akaroa, where by subterfuge they captured the leading Kāi Tahu chief, Te Maiharanui, and his wife and daughter. After destroying Te Maiharanui's village they took their captives to Kapiti and killed them. John Stewart, though arrested and sent to trial in Sydney as an accomplice to murder, nevertheless escaped conviction.
In the summer of 1831–32 Te Rauparaha attacked the Kaiapoi pā (fortified village). Kaiapoi was engaged in a three-month siege by Te Rauparaha, during which his men successfully sapped the pā. They then attacked Kāi Tahu on Banks Peninsula and took the pā at Onawe. In 1832-33 Kāi Tahu retaliated under the leadership of Tūhawaiki and others, attacking Ngāti Toa at Lake Grassmere. Kāi Tahu prevailed, and killed many Ngāti Toa, although Te Rauparaha again escaped. Fighting continued for a year or so, with Kāi Tahu maintaining the upper hand. Ngāti Toa never again made a major incursion into Kāi Tahu territory. By 1839 Kāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa established peace and Te Rauparaha released the Kāi Tahu captives he held. Formal marriages between the leading families in the two tribes sealed the peace.
The first Europeans known to reach the South Island were the crew of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who arrived in his ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen. In December 1642, Tasman anchored at the northern end of the island in Golden Bay which he named Moordenaar's Bay (Murderers Bay) before sailing northward to Tonga following a clash with Māori. Tasman sketched sections of the two main islands' west coasts. Tasman called them Staten Landt, after the States General of the Netherlands, and that name appeared on his first maps of the country. Dutch cartographers changed the name to Nova Zeelandia in Latin, from Nieuw Zeeland, after the Dutch province of Zeeland. It was subsequently Anglicised as New Zealand by British naval captain James Cook of HM Bark Endeavour who visited the islands more than 100 years after Tasman during (1769–1770).
In January 1827, the French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville arrived in Tasman Bay on the corvette Astrolabe. A number of landmarks around Tasman Bay were named by d'Urville and his crew including d'Urville Island, French Pass and Torrent Bay.
When Britain annexed New Zealand in 1840, the South Island briefly became a part of New South Wales. This annexation was in response to France’s attempts to colonise the South Island at Akaroa and the New Zealand Company attempts to establish a separate colony in Wellington, and so Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson declared British sovereignty over all of New Zealand on 21 May 1840 (the North Island by treaty and the South by discovery).
On 17 June 1843, Māori natives and the British settlers clashed at Wairau in what became known as the Wairau Affray. Also known as the Wairau Massacre in most older texts, it was the first serious clash of arms between the two parties after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the only one to take place in the South Island. Four Māori died and three were wounded in the incident, while among the Europeans the toll was 22 dead and five wounded. Twelve of the Europeans were shot dead or clubbed to death after surrendering to Māori who were pursuing them.
The Otago Settlement, sponsored by the Free Church of Scotland, took concrete form in Otago in March 1848 with the arrival of the first two immigrant ships from Greenock (on the Firth of Clyde) — the John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing. Captain William Cargill, a veteran of the Peninsular War, served as the colony's first leader: Otago citizens subsequently elected him to the office of Superintendent of the Province of Otago.
While the North Island was convulsed by the Land Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, the South Island, with its low Māori population, was generally peaceful. In 1861 gold was discovered at Gabriel's Gully in Central Otago, sparking a gold rush. Dunedin became the wealthiest city in the country and many in the South Island resented financing the North Island’s wars. In 1865 Parliament voted on a Bill to make the South Island independent: it was defeated 17 to 31.
In the 1860s, several thousand Chinese men, mostly from the Guangdong province, migrated to New Zealand to work on the South Island goldfields. Although the first Chinese migrants had been invited by the Otago Provincial government they quickly became the target of hostility from white settlers and laws were enacted specifically to discourage them from coming to New Zealand.
An earthquake with magnitude 7.1 occurred in the South Island of New Zealand at Saturday 04:35 am local time, 4 September 2010 (16:35 UTC, 3 September 2010). The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), and there were no fatalities.
The epicentre was located 40 kilometres (25 mi) west of Christchurch; 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south-east of Darfield; 190 kilometres (120 mi) south-southeast of Westport; 295 kilometres (183 mi) south-west of Wellington; and 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-northeast of Dunedin.
Sewers were damaged, gas and water lines were broken, and power to up to 75% of the city was disrupted. Among the facilities impacted by lack of power was the Christchurch Hospital, which was forced to use emergency generators in the immediate aftermath of the quake.
A local state of emergency was declared at 10:16 am on 4 September for the city, and evacuations of parts were planned to begin later in the day. People inside the Christchurch city centre were evacuated, and the city's central business district remained closed until 5 September . A curfew from 7 pm on 4 September to 7 am on 5 September was put in place. The New Zealand Army was also deployed to assist police and enforce the curfew. All schools were closed until 8 September so they could be checked.
Christchurch International Airport was closed following the earthquake and flights in and out of it cancelled. It reopened at 1:30 pm following inspection of the main runway.
The earthquake was reported to have caused widespread damage and power outages. 63 aftershocks were also reported in the first 48 hours with three registering 5.2 magnitude. Christchurch residents reported chimneys falling in through roofs, cracked ceilings and collapsed brick walls. The total insurance costs of this event were estimated to reach up to $11 billion according to the New Zealand Treasury.
A large aftershock of magnitude 6.3 occurred on 22 February 2011 at 12:51 pm. It was centred just to the north of Lyttelton, 10 kilometres south east of Christchurch, at a depth of 5 km. Although lower on the moment magnitude scale than the quake of September 2010, the intensity and violence of the ground shaking was measured to be VIII on the MMI and among the strongest ever recorded globally in an urban area due to the shallowness and proximity of the epicentre. Early assessments indicated that about a third of the buildings in the Central Business District would have to be demolished.
In contrast to the September 2010 quake, the February 2011 earthquake struck on a busy weekday afternoon. This, along with the strength of the quakes, and the proximity to the city centre resulted in 181 deaths.
This event promptly resulted in the declaration of New Zealand's first National State of Emergency. Many buildings and landmarks were severely damaged, including the iconic 'Shag Rock' and Christchurch Cathedral.
International bodies quickly offered assistance. Contingents of Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) soon arrived. Teams were provided by Australia, United States, Singapore, Britain, Taiwan, Japan and China.
The Royal New Zealand Navy was involved immediately. The HMNZS Canterbury, which was docked at Lyttelton when the quake struck, was involved in providing local community assistance, in particular by providing hot meals.
After inspection, the runway at Christchurch Airport was found to be in good order. Due to the demand of citizens wishing to leave the city, the national airline Air New Zealand, offered a $50 Domestic Standby airfare. The Air New Zealand CEO increased the domestic airline traffic from Christchurch to Wellington and Auckland. Thousands of people took up this offer to relocate temporarily in the wake of the event.
On 1 March at 12:51, a week after the tragedy, New Zealand observed a two-minute silence.
On 13 June 2011 at about 1:00 pm New Zealand time, Christchurch was again rocked by a magnitude 5.7 quake, followed by a magnitude 6.3 quake (initially thought to be 6.0) at 2:20 pm, centred in a similar location to that of the February quake with a depth of 6.0 kilometres. Dozens of aftershocks occurred over the following days, including several over magnitude 4.
Phone lines and power were lost in some suburbs, and liquefaction surfaced mainly in the eastern areas of the city which were worst affected following the aftershocks. Many residents in and around the hillside suburb of Sumner self-evacuated.
Further damage was reported to buildings inside the cordoned central business district, with an estimate of 75 additional buildings needing demolition. Among the buildings further damaged was the Christchurch Cathedral, which lost its iconic rose window, a factor reducing the likelihood of the cathedral being restored.
There was only one death recorded following the quake; however there were many injuries.
Naming and usage
In the 19th century, some maps named the South Island as Middle Island or New Munster, and the name South Island or New Leinster was used for today's Stewart Island/Rakiura. In 1907 the Minister for Lands gave instructions to the Land and Survey Department that the name Middle Island was not to be used in future. "South Island will be adhered to in all cases".
Although the island had been known as the South Island for many years, in 2009 the New Zealand Geographic Board found that, along with the North Island, the South Island had no official name. After a public consultation, the board officially named the island South Island or Te Waipounamu in October 2013.
Said to mean "the Water(s) of Greenstone", this name possibly evolved from Te Wāhi Pounamu "the Place Of Greenstone". The island is also known as Te Waka a Māui which means "Māui's Canoe". In Māori legend, the South Island existed first, as the boat of Maui, while the North Island was the fish that he caught.
In prose, the two main islands of New Zealand are called the North Island and the South Island, with the definite article. It is normal to use the preposition in rather than on. Maps, headings, tables and adjectival expressions use South Island without "the".
Compared to the more populated and multi-ethnic North Island, the South Island has a smaller, more homogeneous resident population of 1,096,200 (June 2016). At the 2001 Census, over 91 percent of people in the South Island said they belong to the European ethnic group, compared with 80.1 percent for all of New Zealand. According to the Statistics New Zealand Subnational Population Projections: 2006–2031; the South Island's population will increase by an average of 0.6 percent a year to 1,047,100 in 2011, 1,080,900 in 2016, 1,107,900 in 2021, 1,130,900 in 2026 and 1,149,400 in 2031.
|Cities and towns of the South Island by population|
Tourism is a huge earner for the South Island. Popular tourist activities include sightseeing, adventure tourism, such as glacier climbing and Bungee jumping, tramping (hiking), kayaking, and camping. Numerous walking and hiking paths such as the Milford Track, have huge international recognition.
Fiordland National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Westland National Park, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, Queenstown, Kaikoura and the Marlborough Sounds are regarded as the main tourism destinations in the South Island and amongst the Top 10 destinations in New Zealand.
Ski areas and resorts
This is a list of ski areas and resorts in the South Island.
|Awakino ski area||Otago||Club Skifield|
|Broken River||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
|Cardrona Alpine Resort||Otago|
|Craigieburn Valley||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
|Fox Peak||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
|Hanmer Springs Ski Area||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
|Invincible Snowfields||Otago||Helicopter access only|
|Mount Cheeseman||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
|Mount Olympus||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
|Mount Potts||Canterbury||Heliskiing and snowcatting only|
|Mount Robert||Tasman||Club Skifield|
|Porter Ski Area||Canterbury|
|Snow Farm||Otago||cross-country skiing|
|Temple Basin||Canterbury||Club Skifield|
The South Island has a State Highway network of 4,921 km.
- See also: List of New Zealand railway lines and Rail transport in New Zealand
The South Island's railway network has two main lines, two secondary lines, and a few branch lines. The Main North Line from Picton to Christchurch and the Main South Line from Lyttelton to Invercargill via Dunedin together comprise the South Island Main Trunk Railway. The secondary Midland Line branches from the Main South Line in Rolleston and passes through the Southern Alps via the Otira Tunnel to the West Coast and its terminus in Greymouth. In Stillwater, it meets the other secondary route, the Stillwater - Westport Line, which now includes the Ngakawau Branch.
A number of other secondary routes are now closed, including the Otago Central Railway, the isolated Nelson Section, and the interdependent Waimea Plains Railway and Kingston Branch. An expansive network of branch lines once existed, especially in Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, but these are now almost completely closed. The branch lines that remain in operation serve ports (Bluff Branch and Port Chalmers Branch), coal mines (Ohai Branch and Rapahoe Branch), and a dairy factory (Hokitika Branch). The first 64 km of the Otago Central Railway remain in operation for tourist trains run by Dunedin Railways (formerly Taieri Gorge Railway). The most significant freight is coal from West Coast mines to the port of Lyttelton for export.
Passenger services were once extensive. Commuter trains operated multiple routes around Christchurch and Dunedin, plus a service between Invercargill and Bluff. Due to substantial losses, these were cancelled between the late 1960s and early 1980s. The final services to operate ran between Dunedin's City Centre and the suburb of Mosgiel, and they ceased in 1982. Regional passenger trains were once extensive, but are now limited to the TranzCoastal from Christchurch to Picton and the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth.
The Southerner between Christchurch and Invercargill, once the flagship of the network, was cancelled on 10 February 2002. Subsequently, the architecturally significant Dunedin Railway Station has been used solely by the TGR's tourist trains, the Taieri Gorge Limited along the Otago Central Railway and the Seasider to Palmerston. Rural passenger services on branch lines were provided by mixed trains and Vulcan/88 seater railcars but the mixeds had largely ceased to exist by the 1950s and the railcars were withdrawn in the mid-1970s.
The South Island saw the final use of steam locomotives in New Zealand. Locomotives belonging to classes long withdrawn elsewhere continued to operate on West Coast branches until the very late 1960s, when they were displaced by DJ class diesels. In comparison to most countries, where steam locomotives were last used on insubstantial rural and industrial operations, the very last services run by steam locomotives were the premier expresses between Christchurch and Invercargill: the South Island Limited until 1970 and the Friday and Sunday night services until 1971. This was due to the carriages being steam-heated. The final steam-hauled service in New Zealand, headed by a member of the JA class, ran on 26 October 1971.
The South Island is separated from the North Island by Cook Strait, which is 24 kilometres (15 miles) wide at its narrowest point, and requires a 70 kilometres (43 miles) ferry trip to cross.
Dunedin was the headquarters of the Union Steam Ship Company, once the largest shipping company in the Southern Hemisphere.
Ports and harbours
- Container ports: Lyttelton (Christchurch), Port Chalmers (Dunedin)
- Other ports: Nelson, Picton, Westport, Greymouth, Timaru, Bluff.
- Harbours: Akaroa Harbour, Otago Harbour, Halfmoon Bay (Stewart Island/Rakiura), Milford Sound.
- Freshwater: Queenstown and Kingston (Lake Wakatipu), Te Anau and Manapouri (Lake Manapouri)
|Blenheim||NZWB||BHE||Blenheim Airport (Woodbourne)|
|Christchurch||NZCH||CHC||Christchurch International Airport (long-distance)|
|Cromwell||NZCS||Cromwell Racecourse Aerodrome|
|Dunedin||NZDN||DUD||Dunedin International Airport (limited)|
|Lake Pukaki||NZGT||GTN||Glentanner Aerodrome|
|Milford Sound||NZMF||MFN||Milford Sound Airport|
|Mount Cook||NZMC||MON||Mount Cook Aerodrome|
|Queenstown||NZQN||ZQN||Queenstown Airport (limited)|
|Rangiora||NZFF||Forest Field Aerodrome|
|Te Anau / Manapouri||NZMO||TEU||Manapouri Aerodrome|
|Timaru||NZTU||TIU||Richard Pearse Airport|
The South Island, with an area of 150,437 km2 (58,084 sq mi), is the largest land mass of New Zealand; it contains about one quarter of the New Zealand population and is the world's 12th-largest island. It is divided along its length by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of which is Aoraki/Mount Cook at 3754 metres (12,316 ft), with the high Kaikoura Ranges to the northeast. There are eighteen peaks of more than 3000 metres (9800 ft) in the South Island. The east side of the island is home to the Canterbury Plains while the West Coast is famous for its rough coastlines such as Fiordland, very high proportion of native bush, and Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The dramatic landscape of the South Island has made it a popular location for the production of several films, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
On 4 September 2010, the South Island was struck by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which caused extensive damage, several power outages, and many reports of aftershocks. Five and a half months later, the 22 February Christchurch earthquake of 6.3 magnitude caused far more additional damage in Christchurch, resulting in 181 deaths. This quake struck at about lunchtime and was centred closer at Lyttelton, and shallower than the prior quake, consequently causing extensive damage.
The climate in the South Island is mostly temperate. The mean temperature for the South Island is 8 °C (46 °F). January and February are the warmest months while July is the coldest. Historical maxima and minima are 42.4 °C (108.3 °F) in Rangiora, Canterbury and −21.6 °C (−6.9 °F) in Ophir, Otago.
Conditions vary sharply across the regions from extremely wet on the West Coast to semi-arid in the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterbury. Most areas have between 600 and 1600 mm of rainfall with the most rain along the West Coast and the least rain on the East Coast, predominantly on the Canterbury Plains. Christchurch is the driest city, receiving about 640 mm (25 in) of rain per year while Invercargill is the wettest, receiving about 1,150 mm (45 in). The southern and south-western parts of South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400–1,600 hours of sunshine annually; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas and receive about 2,400–2,500 hours.
Natural geographic features
The South Island has 15 named maritime fiords which are all located in the southwest of the island in a mountainous area known as Fiordland. The spelling 'fiord' is used in New Zealand rather than 'fjord', although all the maritime fiords use the word Sound in their name instead.
A number of lakes in the Fiordland and Otago regions also fill glacial valleys. Lake Te Anau has three western arms which are fiords (and are named so). Lake McKerrow to the north of Milford Sound is a fiord with a silted-up mouth. Lake Wakatipu fills a large glacial valley, as do lakes Hakapoua, Poteriteri, Monowai and Hauroko in the far south of Fiordland. Lake Manapouri has fiords as its west, north and south arms.
The Marlborough Sounds, a series of deep indentations in the coastline at the northern tip of the South Island, are in fact rias, drowned river valleys.
An inventory of South Island glaciers during the 1980s indicated there were about 3,155 glaciers with an area of at least one hectare (2.5 acres). About a sixth of these glaciers covered more than 10 hectares. These include the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on the West Coast, and the Tasman, Hooker, Mueller and Murchison glaciers in the east.
There are some 3,820 lakes in New Zealand with a surface area larger than one hectare. Much of the higher country in the South Island was covered by ice during the glacial periods of the last two million years. Advancing glaciers eroded large steep-sided valleys, and often carried piles of moraine (rocks and soil) that acted as natural dams. When the glaciers retreated, they left basins that are now filled by lakes. The level of most glacial lakes in the upper parts of the Waitaki and Clutha rivers are controlled for electricity generation. Hydroelectric reservoirs are common in South Canterbury and Central Otago, the largest of which is Lake Benmore, on the Waitaki River.
The South Island has 8 of New Zealand's 10 biggest lakes. They were formed by glaciers and include Lake Wakatipu, Lake Tekapo and Lake Manapouri. The deepest (462 m) is Lake Hauroko, in western Southland. It is the 16th deepest lake in the world. Millions of years ago, Central Otago had a huge lake – Lake Manuherikia. It was slowly filled in with mud, and fossils of fish and crocodiles have been found there.
There are 4 extinct volcanoes in the South Island, all located on the east coast.
Banks Peninsula forms the most prominent of these volcanic features. Geologically, the peninsula comprises the eroded remnants of two large shield volcanoes (Lyttelton formed first, then Akaroa). These formed due to intraplate volcanism between about eleven and eight million years ago (Miocene) on a continental crust. The peninsula formed as offshore islands, with the volcanoes reaching to about 1,500 m above sea level. Two dominant craters formed Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours.
The Canterbury Plains formed from the erosion of the Southern Alps (an extensive and high mountain range caused by the meeting of the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates) and from the alluvial fans created by large braided rivers. These plains reach their widest point where they meet the hilly sub-region of Banks Peninsula. A layer of loess, a rather unstable fine silt deposited by the foehn winds which bluster across the plains, covers the northern and western flanks of the peninsula. The portion of crater rim lying between Lyttelton Harbour and Christchurch city forms the Port Hills.
The Otago Harbour was formed from the drowned remnants of a giant shield volcano, centred close to what is now the town of Port Chalmers. The remains of this violent origin can be seen in the basalt of the surrounding hills. The last eruptive phase ended some ten million years ago, leaving the prominent peak of Mount Cargill.
Timaru was constructed on rolling hills created from the lava flows of the extinct Mount Horrible, which last erupted many thousands of years ago.
Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage site
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990 it covers 26,000 km2 and incorporates the Aoraki/Mount Cook, the Fiordland, the Mount Aspiring and the Westland National Parks.
There are six forest parks in the South Island which are on public land administered by the Department of Conservation.
The South Island has ten national parks established under the National Parks Act 1980 and which are administered by the Department of Conservation.
From north to south, the National Parks are:
Other native reserves and parks
- Hakatere Conservation Park
There are several bird species which are endemic to the South Island. They include the kea, great spotted kiwi, Okarito brown kiwi, South Island kōkako, South Island pied oystercatcher, Malherbe's parakeet, king shag, takahe, black-fronted tern, South Island robin, rock wren, wrybill, and yellowhead.
Many South Island bird species are now extinct, mainly due to hunting by humans and predation by cats and rats introduced by humans. Extinct species include the South Island goose, South Island giant moa, harpagornis and South Island piopio.
The South Island has contributed to the Arts in New Zealand and internationally through highly regarded artists such as Nigel Brown, Frances Hodgkins, Colin McCahon, Shona McFarlane, Peter McIntyre Grahame Sydney and Geoff Williams.
The University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts was founded in 1950.
South Island Art Galleries include:
- Centre of Contemporary Art
- Christchurch Arts Centre
- Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Parts of the South Island principally Southland and the very southern most areas of Otago near the border with Southland are famous for its people speaking what is often referred to as the "Southland burr", a semi-rhotic, Scottish-influenced dialect of the English language.
The South Island has ten daily newspapers and a large number of weekly community newspapers; major daily newspapers include the Ashburton Guardian, Greymouth Star, The Marlborough Express, The Nelson Mail, Oamaru Mail, Otago Daily Times, The Press, Southland Times, The Timaru Herald, and West Coast Times. The Press and Otago Daily Times, serving mainly Christchurch and Dunedin respectively, are the South Island's major newspapers.
The South Island has seven regional stations (either non-commercial public service or privately owned) that broadcast only in one region or city: 45 South TV, Channel 9, Canterbury Television, CUE, Mainland Television, Shine TV, and Visitor TV. These stations mainly broadcast free to air on UHF frequencies, however some are carried on subscription TV. Content ranges from local news, access broadcasts, satellite sourced news, tourist information and Christian programming to music videos.
A large number of radio stations serve communities throughout the South Island; these include independent stations, but many are owned by organisations such as Radio New Zealand, The Radio Network, and MediaWorks New Zealand.
- Bluff Maritime Museum
- Cadbury World
- Canterbury Museum
- Ferrymead Heritage Park
- Nelson Provincial Museum
- Olveston House
- Otago Museum
- Otago Settlers Museum: Toitū
- Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum
- Southland Museum and Art Gallery
- World of Wearable Art
- Yaldhurst Museum
Catholicism is still has a noticeably strong presence on the West Coast, and in Kaikoura. The territorial authorities with the highest proportion of Catholics are Kaikoura (where they are 18.4% of the total population), Westland (18.3%), and Grey (17.8%).
Presbyterianism is strong in the lower South Island — the city of Dunedin was founded as a Presbyterian settlement, and many of the early settlers in the region were Scottish Presbyterians. The territorial authorities with the highest proportion of Presbyterians are Gore (where they are 30.9% of the total population), Clutha District (30.7%), and Southland (29.8%).
A number of professional sports teams are based in the South Island — with the major spectator sports of rugby union and cricket particularly well represented. The Crusaders and Highlanders represent the upper and lower South Island respectively in rugby union's Super Rugby competition; and Canterbury, Otago, Southland Stags, Tasman Makos all participate in provincial rugby's ITM Cup. At cricket, the South Island is represented by the Canterbury Wizards, Central Stags, and Otago Volts in the Plunket Shield, one day domestic series, and the HRV Twenty20 Cup.
As well as rugby union and cricket, the South Island also boasts representative teams in the domestic basketball, soccer, ice hockey, netball, and rugby league.
The North vs South match, sometimes known as the Interisland match was a longstanding rugby union fixture in New Zealand. The first game was played in 1897 and the last match was played in 1995.
Christchurch also hosted the 1974 Commonwealth Games. An unidentified group is promoting a bid for the South Island to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
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