Skip to content

Blog Details

South Island

The South Island, also officially named Te Waipounamu, is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand in surface area, 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), making it the world’s 12th-largest island. At low altitude, it has an oceanic climate.The South Island is shaped by the Southern Alps which run along it from north to south. They include New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki / Mount Cook at 3,724 metres (12,218 ft). The high Kaikoura Ranges lie to the northeast. 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, a very high proportion of native bush and national parks, and the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The main centres are Christchurch and Dunedin. The economy relies on agriculture and fishing, tourism, and general manufacturing and services.

As it is 32 percent larger than the North Island, the South Island is sometimes nicknamed the “mainland” of New Zealand.[3] It is home to 23 percent of New Zealand’s 5.1 million inhabitants. After the 1860s gold rushes in the early stages of Pākehā (European) settlement of the country, the South Island had the majority of the European population and wealth. The North Island’s population overtook the South Island’s in the early 20th century, with 56 percent of the New Zealand population living in the North Island in 1911. The drift north of people and businesses continued throughout the twentieth century.In the 19th century, some maps identified 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.[5] 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 the 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“, Te Waipounamu 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 some Māori legends, the South Island existed first, as the boat of Māui, while the North Island was the fish that he caught. Various Māori iwi sometimes use different names, with some preferring to call the South Island Te Waka o Aoraki.In prose, the two main islands of New Zealand are called the North Island and the South Island, with the definite article It is also normal to use the preposition in rather than on, for example “Christchurch is in the South Island”, “my mother lives in the South Island”.Maps, headings, tables, and adjectival expressions use South Island without “the”.