About (y)our Place
Northland is known as “the birthplace of the nation”. It is also known for its national icons, such as ancient kauri forest and its scenic and accessible coastline (a national treasure), sheltered harbours, many offshore islands and ecosystems of important conservation value.
Northland is a long, narrow peninsula with a subtropical climate stretching from Mangawhai in the south to the country’s northernmost tip, Cape Reinga. It has a land area of 13,286km2.
The region is 85 kilometres across at its widest point and 7.5 kilometres at its narrowest. The typical inland landscape is mainly rolling hill country with the main upland areas being the Maungataniwha, Tutamoe and Waima ranges, peaking at around 780 metres above sea level. There are spectacular remnants of old volcanoes at several locations, including Whangarei Heads and around Whangaroa Harbour.
The region is growing in popularity as a holiday destination due to its outstanding natural environment, warm climate, low population density and proximity to Auckland. It is a diverse region in both socio-economic patterns and environmental characteristics.
Our population has continued to grow and is estimated to be 159,000 at June 2011 (148,000 in the national 2006 census). The largest ethnic group is New Zealand European, however, Northland has a growing Māori population, predicted to increase from 31% to 36% by 2016. The largest age group in Northland is 10-14 year olds. We also have a significant number of older people too – 16.3% of people in Northland are aged 65 years and over, compared with 13.2% of the total New Zealand population.
Cultural tourism is an integral part of the experience that Northland offers. Art and heritage trails guide visitors throughout the region along the Twin Coast Discovery Highway. Northland’s waters are one of the favourite recreational playgrounds for lovers of anything aquatic. There are few places in the world that can match what Northland has to offer. Beneath the waters lie many attractions too with some of the world’s top and most easily accessible dive and snorkelling sites. The warm waters of Northland make this New Zealand’s natural playground. Northland Inc in its capacity as the Regional Tourism Organisation maintains the region’s official visitor website.
Northland has a rich history as the first area settled by a large Māori population and the centre of early European exploration and settlement. There is an extensive range of traditional and archaeological sites, historic buildings and structures. Traditional sites are important because of their historical, cultural and spiritual significance to Māori. This includes everyday sites such as pā sites and traditional food gathering areas, and wāhi tapu (sacred sites) such as urupā (burial grounds), war sites or tauranga waka (sites where ancestral canoes landed).
Archaeological sites relate to the more recent European occupation during the timber milling and gum digging eras and include camps, dams and coastal shipwrecks. The heritage of Northland is also reflected in the early colonial buildings and structures such as the stone store at Kerikeri, the missionary houses at Waimate, Kerikeri and Russell and the Waitangi Treaty House and National Reserve.
Northland has the most diverse economy of New Zealand’s 16 regions. Manufacturing (including the Refining NZ oil refinery at Marsden Point) is the largest industry, accounting for around 17% of Northland’s GDP. The primary sector (agriculture, forestry and fishing) contributes about 14% followed by business and property services (11%). In the five years prior to the 2008-2011 recession Northland’s economy had been growing in line with the national economy. This had been an improvement on past years.
However, Northland’s economy has struggled to recover from the recession. Economic output in the year to December 2011 is estimated to have increased by 1.5% in real terms, following on from a nil growth in 2010 and a 2% decrease in 2009. The national economy grew by 1.4% in 2011 after increasing by 1.2% in 2010.
About 70,000 employees work for over 20,000 businesses and Northland’s gross (regional) domestic product of $5.3 billion annually represents about 2.6% of the national total. Auckland, New Zealand’s commercial centre and largest population base, is right on our doorstep providing access to complimentary international-standard infrastructure and both domestic and international pathways to market for our region’s goods and services.
The number of people unemployed in Northland has remained relatively static over the past three years at about 6700, equivalent to almost 9% of the labour force. The current level and rate of unemployment in Northland is similar to those that existed in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Since early 2008, the biggest decreases in employment have occurred in the construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and retail/wholesale trade sectors.
The number of house sales in 2011 was 54% lower than in 2007, with a 5% decrease in the median house price. The fall in prices in Northland was among the steepest in the country. Residential consents have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade. Prospects for non-residential construction are better, with the value of consents being close to the 10-year average.
With its proximity to the sea and almost subtropical location, Northland has a mild, rather windy oceanic climate. Due to its latitude and low elevation, the region has the country’s highest average annual temperature however as with other parts of New Zealand, climate conditions are variable. Summers tend to be warm and humid; temperatures ranging from 22°C to 26°C, occasionally rising above 30°C. Winters are usually mild; temperatures vary between 14°C and 20°C. The hottest months are typically January and February.
The prevailing wind for most parts of the region is from the south-west, however, in summer tropical cyclones give rise to north-easterly winds and heavy rainfall. Ground frosts are rare due to the region being encircled by the moderating Pacific and Tasman waters. The region experiences an average of 2,000 sunshine hours annually.
The mean annual rainfall ranges from about 1000-1300mm in low-lying coastal areas, to over 2500mm on some of the higher country, with approximately one-third of the yearly rainfall total falling in the winter months of June, July and August. High-intensity rains can cause severe flooding. Droughts are also common in Northland during the summer months with records showing that parts of the region, on average, have a drought of economic significance every three years.
Northland’s subtropical weather and wide range of environments means we have many different plants and animals, many of them found nowhere else in the country. Our ecosystems of importance include rivers, lakes and wetlands, forest and shrub lands and our coastal environment.
Many of Northland’s rivers are relatively short with small catchments. The Wairoa River is Northland’s largest river draining a catchment area of 3650 km² (29% of Northland’s land area). Most of the major rivers flow into harbours, rather than discharging to the open coast, which has significant implications for coastal water quality. The region has a large number of small and generally shallow lakes but we also have Lake Taharoa of the Kai Iwi group which is one of the largest and deepest dune lakes in the country – it covers an area of 237 hectares and is 37 metres deep. Our groundwater is a valuable resource as it is used by many towns and rural settlements for domestic water supply, irrigation and stock drinking water.
Northland also has one geothermal field around Ngawha Springs, to the east of Kaikohe.
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