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The North Island (Māori: Te Ika-a-Māui) is one of the two main islands of New Zealandmarker, separated from the South Islandmarker by Cook Straitmarker. The island is in area, making it the world's 14th-largest island. It has a population of

Eight important cities are in the North Island, notably New Zealand's largest city, Aucklandmarker, New Plymouth, Tauranga, Gisborne, Napier, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellingtonmarker, the capital, located at the southern extremity of the island. Approximately % 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, the New Zealand Geographic Board has found that, along with the South Island, it has no official name. The board intends to make North Island the island's official name, along with an alternative Māori name. Although several Māori names have been used, Maori Language Commissioner Erima Henare sees Te Ika-a-Māui as the most likely choice.

The definite article is used with the names of the North and South islands, as the North Island and the South Island, like the North Seamarker and the Western World, but unlike Rangitoto Islandmarker or West Pointmarker. Maps, headings or tables and adjectival expressions use North Island, whereas the North Island is used after a preposition or before or after a verb, e.g. my mother lives in the North Island, the North Island is smaller than the South Island, or I'm visiting the North Island. When specifying that the island is where a place, person, or object is located, it is normal to use the word in rather than on, for example Hamilton is in the North Island.

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 said 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 Māori usage, Aotearoa is a collective name for New Zealand as a whole.


North Island has an extensive flora and bird population, with numerous National Parks and other protected areas. Hamilton Ecological District is an example of a smaller protected area within a national park unit.

Regions of the North Island

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

Cities and towns in the North Island

Smaller urban areas are found on the List of towns in New Zealand, as are components of larger metropolitan area.

Geographic features


  1. Statistics New Zealand Geography - physical features
  2. On some 19th century maps, the North Island is named New Ulster, which was also a province of New Zealand that included the North Island.
  3. Isaac Davison, North and South Islands officially nameless, New Zealand Herald, 22 April 2009. Accessed 22 April 2009.

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