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The South Island (Māori: Te Wai Pounamu) is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealandmarker, the other being the more populous North Islandmarker. It is bordered to the north by Cook Straitmarker, to the west by the Tasman Seamarker, to the south and east by the Pacific Oceanmarker. The territory of the South Island covers and is influenced by a temperate climate.

The South Island is often called "The Mainland". Today this expression is used humorously, although still with pride by "Mainlanders", since while it is a somewhat larger landmass than the North Islandmarker, only about a quarter of New Zealand's four million inhabitants live in the South Island. However, in the early stages of European (Pākehā) settlement of the country, the South Island was pre-eminent, with the majority of the European population and wealth focused there due to gold rushes. It was not until the early 20th century that the North Island population overtook the South, with 56% of the population living in the North in 1911.


Early inhabitants of the South Island were the Waitaha. They were largely absorbed via marriage and conquest by the Kāti Mamoe in the 1500s.

Ngāti Mamoe were in turn largely absorbed via marriage and conquest by the Ngāi Tahu who migrated south in the seventeenth century. While today there is no distinct Ngati Mamoe organisation, many Ngai Tahu have Ngati 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 Islandsmarker), 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.

The first Europeans known to reach the South Island were the crew of Dutchmarker explorer Abel Tasman who arrived in his ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen. Tasman anchored in Golden Baymarker, at the northern end of the island, (he named it Murderers Bay) in December 1642 and sailed northward to Tongamarker following a clash with local 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 Zeelandmarker. 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 the early 18th century, Ngāi Tahu a Māori tribe who originated on the east coast of the North Islandmarker began migrating to the northern part of the South Island. There they and Kāti Mamoe fought Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne in the Wairau Valleymarker. Ngāti Māmoe then ceded the east coast regions north of the Clarence Rivermarker to Ngāi Tahu. Ngāi Tahu continued to push south, conquering Kaikouramarker. By the 1730s, Ngāi Tahu had settled in Canterburymarker, including Banks Peninsulamarker. From there they spread further south and into the West Coastmarker.

In 1827-1828 Ngāti Toa under the leadership of Te Rauparaha successfully attacked Ngāi Tahu at Kaikoura. Ngāti Toa then visited Kaiapoimarker, ostensibly to trade. When they attacked their hosts, the well-prepared Ngāi Tahu killed all the leading Ngāti Toa chiefs except Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha returned to his Kapiti Islandmarker stronghold. In November 1830 Te Rauparaha persuaded Captain John Stewart of the brig Elizabeth to carry him and his warriors in secret to Akaroamarker, where by subterfuge they captured the leading Ngāi 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 1831–1832 Te Rauparaha attacked the Kaiapoi (fortified village). After a three-month siege, a fire in the pā allowed Ngāti Toa to overcome it. They then attacked Ngāi Tahu on Banks Peninsulamarker and took the pā at Onawemarker. In 1832-33 Ngāi Tahu retaliated under the leadership of Tuhawaiki and others, attacking Ngāti Toa at Lake Grassmeremarker. Ngāi Tahu prevailed, and killed many Ngāti Toa, although Te Rauparaha again escaped. Fighting continued for a year or so, with Ngāi Tahu maintaining the upper hand. Ngāti Toa never again made a major incursion into Ngāi Tahu territory.

By 1839 Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa established peace and Te Rauparaha released the Ngāi Tahu captives he held. Formal marriages between the leading families in the two tribes sealed the peace.

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.

In the 1870s and 1880s, several thousand Chinese men, mostly from the Guangdongmarker 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.

Naming and usage

Although the island has been known as the South Island for many years, the New Zealand Geographic Board has found that, along with the North Island, it has no official name. The board intends to make South 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 Wai Pounamu as the most likely choice. This Māori name for the South Island, meaning "The Water(s) of Greenstone", possibly evolved from Te Wāhi Pounamu which means "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 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/Rakiuramarker. 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".

The South Island takes the definite article when used as a noun whereas maps, headings or tables and adjectival expressions use South Island. This pattern can be found in a number of other names, such as the United Kingdom, the Vatican and the Internet.

  • My mother lives in the South Island
  • The North Island is smaller in area than the South Island
  • I'm visiting the South Island
  • The major South Island peaks are all in the Southern Alps

Note also that places are said to be in the South Island rather than on the South Island.

Government & Politics

The South Island has no separately represented subnational entity and is guaranteed 16 of the 69 electorates in the New Zealand House of Representatives. A two-tier structure constituted under the Local Government Act 2002 gives the South Island seven regional councils for the administration of regional environmental and transport matters and 25 territorial authorities that administer roads, sewerage, building consents, and other local matters. Four of the territorial councils (one city and three districts) also perform the functions of a regional council and are known as unitary authorities.

When New Zealandmarker was separated from the colony of New South Walesmarker in 1841 and established as a Crown colony in its own right, the Royal Charter effecting this provided that "the principal Islands, heretofore known as, or commonly called, the 'Northern Island', the 'Middle Island', and 'Stewart's Island', shall henceforward be designated and known respectively as 'New Ulster', 'New Munster', and 'New Leinster'". These divisions were at first of geographical significance only, not used as a basis for the government of the colony, which was centralised in Aucklandmarker. New Munster consisted of the South Island and the southern portion of the North Islandmarker, up to the mouth of the Patea Rivermarker. The name New Munster was given by the Governor of New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, in honour of Munster, the Irish province in which he was born.

The situation was altered in 1846 when the New Zealand Constitution Act 1846 divided the colony into two provinces: New Ulster (the North Island), and New Munster (the South Island and Stewart Island). Each province had a Governor and Legislative and Executive Council, in addition to the Governor-in-Chief and Legislative and Executive Council for the whole colony. However, the 1846 Constitution Act was later suspended, and only the Provincial government provisions were implemented. Early in 1848 Edward John Eyre was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Munster. In 1851 the Provincial Legislative Councils were permitted to be partially elective.

The Provincial Council of New Munster had only one legislative session, in 1849, before it succumbed to the virulent attacks of settlers from Wellingtonmarker. Governor Sir George Grey, sensible to the pressures, inspired an ordinance of the General Legislative Council under which new Legislative Councils would be established in each province with two-thirds of their members elected on a generous franchise. Grey implemented the ordinance with such deliberation that neither Council met before advice was received that the United Kingdom Parliament had passed the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852.

This act dissolved these provinces in 1853, after only seven years' existence, and New Munster was divided into the provinces of Canterbury, Nelson, and Otago. Each province had its own legislature known as a Provincial Council that elected its own Speaker and Superintendent.

Secession movements have surfaced several times in the South Island. A Premier of New Zealand, Sir Julius Vogel, was amongst the first people to make this call, which was voted on by the Parliament of New Zealand as early as 1865. The desire for South Island Independence was one of the main factors in moving the capital of New Zealand from Aucklandmarker to Wellingtonmarker that year.

The South Island Party with a pro-South agenda, fielded candidates in the 1999 General Election and a new South Island Party was formed before the 2008 General Election. Today, several internet based groups advocate their support for greater self determination.

Administrative Divisions

Local government regions

There are seven local government regions covering the South Island and all its adjacent islands and territorial waters. Four are governed by an elected regional council, while three are governed by territorial authorities (the second tier of local government) which also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are known as unitary authorities. There is one exception to this, Nelson City, is governed by an individual Territorial authority to its region (Tasman Region). The Chatham Islands Council is often counted by many as a unitary authority, but it is officially recognised as a part of the region of Canterbury.

Territorial authorities

There are 25 territorial authorities within the South Island: 4 city councils, 20 district councils and the Chatham Islandsmarker Council. Four territorial authorities (Nelson City Councilmarker, Tasmanmarker and Marlboroughmarker District Councils and the Chatham Islands Council) also perform the functions of a regional council and thus are known as unitary authorities.

Political parties

This is a list of Political parties, past and present, who have their headquarters in the South Island.

Law Enforcement


Dunedin Central Police station

The New Zealand Police is the primary law enforcement agency of New Zealand including the South Island. Three decentralised Police Districts cover the entire South Island with each being commanded by a Superintendent and having a central station from which subsidiary and suburban stations are managed. The Christchurch Police Communications Centre handles all emergency and general calls within the South Island.

The Tasman Police District covers 70,000 kilometres of territory, encompassing the northern and most of the western portion of the South Island. The West Coast alone spans the distance between Wellingtonmarker and Aucklandmarker. There are 22 police stations in the Tasman District, with 6 being sole-charge - or one-person - stations. The Tasman Police District has a total of 302 sworn police officers and 57 civilian or nonsworn staff. Organisationally, the district has its headquarters in Nelsonmarker and has three distinct Areas each headed by an Inspector as its commander. The areas are Nelson Baysmarker, West Coastmarker and Marlboroughmarker.

The Canterbury Police District is based in Christchurchmarker the largest city in the South Island and covers an area extending from the Conway Rivermarker, (just south of Kaikouramarker), to the Waitaki Rivermarker, south of Timarumarker.

The Southern Police District with its headquarters in Dunedinmarker spans from Oamarumarker in the North through to Stewart Islandmarker in the far South covers the largest geographical area of any of the 12 police districts in New Zealand.

Correctional Facilities

Correctional facilities in the South Island are operated by the Department of Corrections as part of the South Island Prison Region.

  • Christchurch Prison, also known as Paparua, is located in Templetonmarker a satellite town of Christchurchmarker. It accommodates up to 780 minimum, medium and high security male prisoners. It was built in 1925, and also includes a youth unit, a self-care unit and the Paparua Remand Centre (PRC), built in 1999 to replace the old Addington Prison.
  • Christchurch Women's Prison, also located in Templetonmarker, is a facility for women of all security classifications. It has the only maximum/medium security accommodation for women prisoners in New Zealand. It can accommodate up to 98 prisoners.
  • Invercargill Prison, in Invercargillmarker, accommodates up to 172 minimum to low-medium security prisoners.
  • Otago Corrections Facility is located near Miltonmarker and houses up to 335 minimum to high-medium security male prisoners.
  • Rolleston prison is located in Rolleston, another satellite town of Christchurchmarker. It accommodates around 320 male prisoners of minimum to low-medium security classifications and includes Kia Marama a sixty-bed unit that provides an intensive 9 month treatment programme for male child sex offenders.

Customs Service

The New Zealand Customs Service whose role is to provide border control and protect the community from potential risks arising from international trade and travel, as well as collecting duties and taxes on imports to the country has offices at Christchurch International Airportmarker, Dunedinmarker, Invercargillmarker, Lyttelton and Nelsonmarker.



Compared to the more populated and multi-ethnic North Island, the South Island has a smaller, more homogeneous resident population of 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 .


The Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter near Bluff

The South Island economy is strongly focused on tourism and primary industries like agriculture. The other main industry groups are manufacturing, mining, construction, energy supply, education, health and community services.

Substantial electricity generation (both existing and remaining potential) is located on the South Island, while the main demand (which is continuing to grow) is in the northern North Island, particularly the Auckland Regionmarker. The South Island has three large hydroelectric schemes: Waitakimarker, Cluthamarker, and Manapourimarker. The Waitaki River is the largest hydroelectric scheme, consisting of nine powerhouses commissioned between 1936 and 1985, and generating approximately 7600 GWh annually, around 18% of New Zealand's electricity generation and more than 30% of all its hydroelectricity.The Clutha River has two major stations generating electricity: Clyde Dammarker (432 MW, commissioned 1992) and Roxburgh Dammarker (360 MW, commissioned 1962). Manapouri Power Station is an isolated station located in Southland, generating 730 MW of electricity and producing 4800 GWh annually - the largest single hydroelectric power station in the country.

The HVDC Inter-Island (HVDC) system links the North and South Island electricity grids together. The line connects to the South Island 220 kV grid at Benmore Dammarker in Southern Canterburymarker, and travels via pylons for to Fighting Bay in Marlboroughmarker. From here, it crosses the Cook Straitmarker via undersea cables for 40 km to Oteranga Bay, west of Wellingtonmarker. At Oteranga Bay, the HVDC line converts back to pylons to cover the last 35 km, with the line terminating and connecting to the North Island's 220 kV grid at Haywards in Lower Huttmarker. The main reason for a HVDC connection between the two islands is due to New Zealand's geography and demographics. The South Island generates 45% of New Zealand's electricity supply, however 75% of New Zealand's population lives in the North Island. HVDC was chosen to allow reactive power to travel between the two islands, northwards to supply the North Island's high electricity demands, and southwards to supply the South Island during years of low hydro levels.

The estimated sub-national GDP of the South Island was US$27.8 billion (as of 2003).

Stock exchanges

Due to the Gold Rush of the 1870s, the South Island had regional stock exchanges in Christchurchmarker, Dunedinmarker and Invercargillmarker – all of which were affiliated in the Stock Exchange Association of New Zealand. However, in 1974 these regional exchanges were amalgamated to form one national stock exchange, the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZSE). On 30 May, 2003, New Zealand Stock Exchange Limited formally changed its name to New Zealand Exchange Limited, trading as NZXmarker.

Today, the Deloitte South Island Index is compiled quarterly from publicly available information provided by NZX, Unlisted and Bloomberg. It is a summary of the movements in market capitalisation of each South Island based listed company. A company is included in the Index where either its registered office and/or a substantial portion of its operations are focused on the South Island.

Trade unions

There are several South Island based trade union organisations. They are:


Tourism is a huge export earner for the South Island. Popular tourist activities in include sightseeing, adventure tourism, tramping (hiking) and camping. Numerous walking and hiking paths, some of which, like the Milford Track, have huge international recognition.

An increase in direct international flights to Christchurchmarker, Dunedinmarker and Queenstownmarker has boosted the number of overseas tourists.

Fiordland National Parkmarker, Abel Tasman National Parkmarker, Westland National Parkmarker, Mount Cook National Parkmarker, Queenstownmarker, Kaikouramarker and the Marlborough Soundsmarker are regarded as the main tourism destinations in the South Island and amongst the Top 10 destinations in New Zealandmarker.

Ski areas and resorts

This is a list of ski areas and resorts in the South Island.

Name Location Notes
Broken Rivermarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Cardrona Alpine Resortmarker Otago
Coronet Peakmarker Otago
Craigieburn Valleymarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Fox Peakmarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Hanmer Springs Ski Areamarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Invincible Snowfieldsmarker Otago Helicopter access only
Mount Cheesemanmarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Mount Dobsonmarker Canterburymarker
Mount Huttmarker Canterburymarker
Mount Olympusmarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Mount Potts Canterburymarker Heliskiing and snowcatting only
Mount Robertmarker Tasmanmarker Club Skifield
Ohaumarker Canterburymarker
Porter Heightsmarker Canterburymarker
Rainbowmarker Tasmanmarker
The Remarkablesmarker Otago
Round Hillmarker Canterburymarker
Snow Farmmarker Otago cross-country skiing
Snow Parkmarker Otago
Tasman Glaciermarker Canterburymarker Heliskiing
Temple Basinmarker Canterburymarker Club Skifield
Treble Conemarker Otago


Map showing the route of [State Highway 6 (New Zealand)

Road transport

The South Island has a State Highway network of 4,921 km.

Rail transport

South Island Rail Network Map
See also: List of New Zealand railway lines, 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 Rollestonmarker and passes through the Southern Alpsmarker via the Otira Tunnelmarker to the West Coast and its terminus in Greymouthmarker. In Stillwatermarker, 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 dairying factory (Hokitika Branch). The first 64 km of the Otago Central Railway remain in operation for tourist trains run by the Taieri Gorge Railway (TGR). 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 and Mosgielmarker, 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 Stationmarker has been used solely by the TGR's tourist trains, the Taieri Gorge Limited along the Otago Central Railway and the Seasider to Palmerstonmarker. 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.

Water transport

The South Island is separated from the North Island by Cook Strait, 24 km wide at its narrowest point, but requiring a 70 km ferry trip to cross.

Ports and harbours

Air transport


Alexandramarker NZLX ALR Alexandra Aerodromemarker
Ashburtonmarker NZAS ASG Ashburton Aerodromemarker
Balcluthamarker NZBA Balclutha Aerodromemarker
Blenheimmarker NZWB BHE Blenheim Airport marker
Chatham Islandsmarker NZCI CHT Chatham Islands / Tuuta Airportmarker
Christchurchmarker NZCH CHC Christchurch International Airportmarker (long-distance)
Cromwellmarker NZCS Cromwell Racecourse Aerodromemarker
Dunedinmarker NZDN DUD Dunedin International Airportmarker (limited)
Goremarker NZGC Gore Aerodromemarker
Greymouthmarker NZGM GMN Greymouth Airportmarker
Haastmarker NZHT Haast Aerodromemarker
Hokitikamarker NZHK HKK Hokitika Airportmarker
Invercargillmarker NZNV IVC Invercargill Airportmarker
Kaikouramarker NZKI KBZ Kaikoura Aerodromemarker
Lake Pukakimarker NZGT GTN Glentanner Aerodromemarker
Milford Soundmarker NZMF MFN Milford Sound Airportmarker
Mount Cookmarker NZMC MON Mount Cook Aerodrome
Motuekamarker NZMK MZP Motueka Aerodrome
Nelsonmarker NZNS NSN Nelson Airportmarker
Oamarumarker NZOU OAM Oamaru Aerodromemarker
Pictonmarker NZPN PCN Picton Aerodrome
Queenstownmarker NZQN ZQN Queenstown Airportmarker (limited)
Rangioramarker NZFF Forest Field Aerodromemarker
Stewart Island/Rakiuramarker NZRC SZS Ryans Creek Aerodromemarker
Takakamarker NZTK KTF Takaka Aerodrome
Te Anaumarker / Manapourimarker NZMO TEU Manapouri Aerodrome
Timarumarker NZTU TIU Richard Pearse Airportmarker
Twizelmarker NZUK TWZ Pukaki Aerodrome
Wanakamarker NZWF WKA Wanaka Airportmarker
Westportmarker NZWS WSZ Westport Airportmarker
Wigrammarker NZWG Wigram Aerodromemarker



The South Island, with an area of 151,215 km² (58,093 square miles), 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 Alpsmarker, the highest peak of which is Aoraki/Mount Cookmarker at 3754 metres (12,316 ft). 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 Coastmarker is famous for its rough coastlines, very high proportion of native bush, and Foxmarker and Franz Josef Glaciersmarker. 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 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.


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 Rangioramarker, Canterburymarker and −21.6 °C (−6.9 °F) in Ophirmarker, Otago.

Conditions vary sharply across the regions from extremely wet on the West Coastmarker to semi-arid in the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterburymarker. 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. Christchurchmarker is the driest city receiving about 640 mm (25 in) of rain per year. The southern and south-western parts of South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1400–1600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas and receive approximately 2400–2500 hours.

Protected Areas of the South Island

Forest Parks

There are six Forest Parks in the South Island which are on public land administered by the Department of Conservation.
Catlins Forest Park
Situated in the Southlandmarker region.
Craigieburn Forest Park
Situated in the Canterburymarker region, its boundaries lie in part alongside State Highway 73 and is adjacent to the eastern flanks of the Southern Alpsmarker. The Broken River Ski Areamarker and the Craigieburn Valley Ski Areamarker lie within its borders. The New Zealand Forest Service had used the area as an experimental forestry area and there is now an environmental issue with the spread of wilding conifers.
Hanmer Forest Park
Situated in the Canterburymarker region.
Lake Sumner Forest Park
Situated in the Canterburymarker region.
Mount Richmond Forest Park
Situated in the Marlboroughmarker region.
Victoria Forest Park
Situated in the West Coastmarker region.

National Parks

The famous "Pancake Rocks" at Paparoa National Park
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:
Kahurangi National Parkmarker
(4,520 km², established 1996) Situated in the north-west of the South Island, Kahurangi comprises spectacular and remote country and includes the Heaphy Track. It has ancient landforms and unique flora and fauna. It is New Zealand's second largest national park.
Abel Tasman National Parkmarker
(225 km², established 1942) Has numerous tidal inlets and beaches of golden sand along the shores of Tasman Baymarker. It is New Zealand's smallest national park.
Nelson Lakes National Parkmarker
(1,018 km², established 1956) A rugged, mountainous area in Nelson Region. It extends southwards from the forested shores of Lake Rotoitimarker and Rotoroamarker to the Lewis Pass National Reserve.
Paparoa National Parkmarker
(306 km², established 1987) On the West Coast of the South Island between Westportmarker and Greymouthmarker. It includes the celebrated Pancake Rocks at Punakaikimarker.
Arthur's Pass National Parkmarker
(1,144 km², established 1929) A rugged and mountainous area straddling the main divide of the Southern Alpsmarker.
Westland Tai Poutini National Parkmarker
(1,175 km², established 1960) Extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps to a wild remote coastline. Included in the park are glaciers, scenic lakes and dense rainforest, plus remains of old gold mining towns along the coast.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Parkmarker
(707 km², established 1953) An [[Wiktionary
Mount Aspiring National Parkmarker
(3,555 km², established 1964) A complex of impressively glaciated mountain scenery centred on Mount Aspiring/Tititeamarker (3,036 m), New Zealand's highest peak outside of the main divide.
Fiordland National Parkmarker
(12,519 km², established 1952) The largest national park in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world. The grandeur of its scenery, with its deep fiords, its lakes of glacial origin, its mountains and waterfalls, has earned it international recognition as a world heritage area.
Rakiura National Parkmarker
(1,500 km², established 2002) On Stewart Island/Rakiuramarker.

Other Native Reserves and Parks


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, Fiordland Crested Penguin, Yellow-eyed Penguin, Shore Plover, South Island Saddleback, King Shag, Stewart Island Shag, Takahe, Black-fronted Tern, New Zealand Robin, Rock Wren, Wrybill, Yellowhead

Unfortunately many South Island bird species are now extinct, mainly due to predation by cats and rats introduced by humans. Extinct species include the South Island Goose, South Island Giant Moa and South Island Piopio.

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 Fiordlandmarker. The spelling 'fiord' is used in New Zealand, although all the maritime fjords use the word Sound in their name instead.

A number of lakes in the Fiordland and Otago regions also fill glacial valleys. Lake Te Anaumarker has three western arms which are fjords (and are named so). Lake McKerrowmarker to the north of Milford Soundmarker is a fjord with a silted-up mouth. Lake Wakatipumarker fills a large glacial valley, as do lakes Hakapoua, Poteriterimarker, Monowaimarker and Haurokomarker in the far south of Fiordland. Lake Manapourimarker has fjords as its West, North and South arms.

The Marlborough Soundsmarker, are a series of deep indentations in the coastline at the northern tip of the South Island, are in fact rias, drowned river valleys.


In 1966 there were an estimated 360 glaciers within the Southern Alpsmarker of the South Island. An inventory taken in the 1980s by Trevor Chinn listed over 3,100 glaciers larger than a hectare (2.5 acres). The difference in the number of glaciers was not that they had greatly increased – but simply that they had never before been systematically counted.

Glaciers occur in the South Island between 43° and 45 South latitude, from Fiordland to Nelson. The headwaters of the Rakaiamarker and Rangitātāmarker rivers have hundreds, including Lyellmarker and Ramsey glaciers, and the Bracken, Garden of Eden and Garden of Allah snowfields. Only a few dozen are found north of Arthurs Passmarker, mostly in the Spenser Mountainsmarker and Saint Arnaud Rangemarker.

Glaciers in the Aoraki/Mt Cookmarker area include the 29-kilometre-long Tasmanmarker, the Murchisonmarker (18 kilometres), the Muellermarker, Hookermarker and Godley east of the main divide, and the Foxmarker (13 kilometres) and Franz Josefmarker (12 kilometres) west of the divide.

Further south of Aoraki/Mt Cook, major glaciers include the Bonar and Voltamarker are centred around Mount Aspiring/Tititeamarker. Many others, including the Olivine Ice Plateau, lie in the upper catchments of the Arawatamarker, Matukitukimarker , Dart and Hollyfordmarker rivers. They are scattered throughout Fiordlandmarker, but most are concentrated around Mount Tūtokomarker in the Darran Mountains. The southernmost ice glacier is on Caroline Peak above Lake Haurokomarker.


There are some 3,820 lakes in New Zealandmarker 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 Waitakimarker and Cluthamarker rivers are controlled for electricity generation. Hydroelectric reservoirs are common in South Canterburymarker and Central Otago, the largest of which is Lake Benmoremarker, on the Waitaki Rivermarker.

The South Island has 8 of New Zealand's 10 biggest lakes. They were formed by glaciers and include Lake Wakatipumarker, Lake Tekapomarker and Lake Manapourimarker. The deepest (462 metres) is Lake Haurokomarker, in western Southlandmarker. 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 of which are located on the east coast.

Banks Peninsulamarker 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 approximately 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 Akaroamarker Harbours. The Canterbury Plains formed from the erosion of the Southern Alpsmarker (an extensive and high mountain range caused by the meeting of the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plate) 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 Hillsmarker.

The Otago Harbourmarker was formed from the drowned remnants of a giant shield volcano, centred close to what is now the town of Port Chalmersmarker. 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 Cargillmarker.

Timarumarker 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

Te Wāhipounamu (Māori for "the place of greenstone") is a World Heritage site in the south west corner of the South Island.

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990 it covers 26,000 km² and incorporates the Aoraki/Mount Cookmarker, the Fiordlandmarker, the Mount Aspiringmarker and the Westlandmarker National Parks.

It is thought to contain some of the best modern representations of the original flora and fauna present in Gondwanaland,one of the reasons for listing as a World Heritage site.





The South Island has several tertiary level institutions:


Healthcare in the South Island is provided by six District Health Boards . Organized around geographical areas of varying population sizes, they are not coterminous with the Local Government Regions.

Name Area covered Population
Canterbury District Health Board Ashburton Districtmarker, Christchurch Citymarker, Hurunui Districtmarker, Kaikoura Districtmarker, Selwyn District, Waimakariri District 491,000
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board Marlborough Districtmarker, Nelson City, Tasman Districtmarker, 135,000
Otago District Health Board Central Otago District, Clutha District, Dunedin City, Queenstown Lakes Districtmarker, Waitaki District 185,000
South Canterbury District Health Board Mackenzie District, Timaru Districtmarker, Waimate Districtmarker 55,000
Southland District Health Board Gore District, Invercargill Citymarker, Southland Districtmarker 110,000
West Coast District Health Board Buller District, Grey District, Westland District 32,000

Emergency Medical Services

There are several air ambulance and rescue helicopter services operating throughout the South Island.



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 Canterburymarker School of Fine Arts was founded in 1950.

South Island Art Galleries include:


Parts of the South Island principally Southlandmarker and Otago 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 Allied Press Building, Dunedin

The South Island has 11 daily newspapers and an increasing number of weekly community newspapers. Newspapers are still an important form of communication for many people particularly those living in isolated rural communities.

Newspaper   Frequency   Owner   Founded   Headquarters   Circulation  
Ashburton's The Courier Weekly Allied Press 1985 Ashburtonmarker 12,500
Ashburton Guardian Daily Bruce Bell 1879 Ashburtonmarker 5,554
The Courier Weekly Allied Press Timarumarker 24,500
Courier Country Allied Press Timarumarker 13,000
The Ensign Twice Weekly Allied Press 1878 Goremarker 11,500
The Greymouth Star Daily Allied Press 1866 Greymouthmarker
Hurunui News Bi-Weekly Allied Press Amberleymarker
The Marlborough Express Daily Fairfax Media Blenheimmarker
Motueka Golden Bay News Weekly Nelsonmarker 20,000
Nelson City Leader Weekly Nelsonmarker 49,000
The Nelson Mail Daily Fairfax Media 1866 Nelsonmarker
The News Weekly Allied Press 1948 Alexandramarker 17,600
Oamaru Mail Daily APN News & Media 1876 Oamarumarker 10,000
Otago Daily Times Daily Allied Press 1861 Dunedinmarker 43,000
The Press Daily Fairfax Media 1861 Christchurchmarker 90,000
Queenstown Times Daily Allied Press Queenstownmarker
Richmond Waimea Leader Weekly Nelsonmarker 49,000
Southern Rural Life Fortnightly Allied Press Dunedinmarker 20,000
Southland Express Weekly Allied Press Invercargillmarker
Southland Times Daily Fairfax Media 1862 Invercargillmarker 29,384
The Star Weekly Allied Press 1979 Dunedinmarker 43,500
The Timaru Herald Daily Fairfax Media 1864 Invercargillmarker 14,500
The West Coast Messenger Weekly Allied Press 2003 Greymouthmarker
West Coast Times Daily Allied Press 1865 Hokitikamarker


The South Island has 7 regional stations (either non-commercial public service or privately owned) that broadcast only in one region or city. 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.

Name Service region Availability Notes
Analogue terrestrial Sky Digital satellite Freeview satellite Freeview|HD terrestrial TelstraClear cable
Mainland Television Nelsonmarker
Shine TV Christchurchmarker Christian programming
CTV Canterbury Television Christchurchmarker
Visitor TV Christchurchmarker Tourist information
45 South TV Timarumarker / Oamarumarker
Channel 9 Dunedinmarker
CUE Southlandmarker Formerly Mercury Television and later Southland TV. Mainly distance learning, local news and sport


Nelson stations

Current stations

Previous stations

West Coast stations

Current Stations

Previous stations
  • Radio Scenicland and later Scenicland FM - Rebranded as Classic Hits Scenicland FM.

Canterbury stations

Current stations

Previous stations
  • 3ZB - Rebranded as Newstalk ZB
  • 3ZE (Ashburton) - Rebranded as Classic Hits 92.5 ZEFM
  • Channel Z - Operated local Channel Z station until 2001 when station was replaced with Auckland based network product.
  • Fox FM (Ashburton) - Rebranded as Port FM
  • 99 Life FM - Original Life FM station
  • B98 FM - Rebranded as Classic Hits B98 and later Classic Hits 97.7
  • Lite FM - Rebranded as The Breeze
  • Radio Avon and later C93FM
  • Radio Caroline (Timaru) - Rebranded as Classic Hits 99FM
  • Blush 96.1 - Christchurch NZBS "Live Sexy"

Dunedin and East Otago stations

Current stations Previous stations
  • 4XO - Rebranded as More FM
  • 4ZB and later ZBFM - Rebranded as Classic Hits 89FM
  • 93Rox
  • Radio Waitaki (Oamaru) - Rebranded as Classic Hits Radio Waitaki
  • Whitestone FM (Oamaru) - Rebranded as Port FM

Queenstown and Central Otago stations

Current Stations

Previous stations

Southland stations

Current stations

Previous stations



A comparison of North & South Island Christian demoninations

Anglicanism is strongest in Canterburymarker (the city of Christchurchmarker having been founded as an Anglican settlement).

Catholicism is still has a noticeably strong presence on the West Coastmarker, and in Kaikouramarker. 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 Dunedinmarker 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 (30.7%), and Southlandmarker (29.8%).

The first Muslims in New Zealand were Chinese golddiggers working in the Dunstan gold fields of Otago in the 1870s. Dunedin's Al-Huda mosque is reputedly the world's southernmost, and is further from Meccamarker than any mosque in the Southern Hemispheremarker.


A number of national or international sporting teams and events are based in the South Island, including:

The South Island occasionally hosts matches for North Island based teams who compete in Trans-Tasman sporting competition. Christchurch has hosted home fixtures for the Auckland-based New Zealand Breakers (basketball) and now-defunct Football Kingz FC (football), as well as fixtures for the Wellington-based Wellington Phoenix FC (football). Christchurch has also rugby league matches between the Auckland-based New Zealand Warriors and the Sydney-based Wests Tigers as the result of the Tigers relocating some of their home matches to Lancaster Parkmarker.

Christchurch also hosted the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

See also


External links

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