New zealand – a cruising guide on the world cruising and sailing wiki

New Zealand (Aotearoa, or the "Land of the Long White Cloud") comprises two main islands, the North and South Islands, Te Ika a Maui and Te Wai Pounamu respectively in Maori, and a number of smaller islands, located near the centre of the water hemisphere. Cook Strait, 20 km wide at its narrowest point, separates the North and South Islands. The total land area of 268,680 km 2 (103,738 mi 2) is a little less than that of Italy and Japan and a little more than the United Kingdom.

The country extends more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) along its main, north-north-east axis, with approximately 15,134 km (9,404 mi) of coastline. The most significant of the smaller inhabited islands include Stewart Island/Rakiura; Waiheke Island, in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf; Great Barrier Island, east of the Hauraki Gulf; and the Chatham Islands, named Rekohu by Moriori.


The country has extensive marine resources, with the seventh-largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, covering over four million square kilometres (1.5 million sq mi), more than 15 times its land area.

Mean annual temperatures range from 10°C in the south to 16°C in the north of New Zealand. The coldest month is usually July and the warmest month is usually January or February. In New Zealand generally there are relatively small variations between summer and winter temperatures, although inland and to the east of the ranges the variation is greater (up to 14°C). Temperatures also drop about 0.7°C for every 100 m of altitude.

Sunshine hours are relatively high in areas that are sheltered from the west and most of New Zealand would have at least 2000 hours annually. The midday summer solar radiation index (UVI) is often very high in most places and can be extreme in northern New Zealand and in mountainous areas. Autumn and spring UVI values can be high in most areas.

Most snow in New Zealand falls in the mountain areas. Snow rarely falls in the coastal areas of the North Island and west of the South Island, although the east and south of the South Island may experience some snow in winter. Frosts can occur anywhere in New Zealand and usually form on cold nights with clear skies and little wind. (From NIWA New Zealand Weather)

The coastal weather zones in New Zealand have names like "Abel", "Cook", "Conway", "Grey", etc. It is quite difficult to get a description of what these weather zones are and where their borders are. A call to one of the Marine Radio operators on VHF 16 will usually be able to resolve which weather zone you are currently in, but the weather forecasts for the weather zones on VHF don’t specify the parameters of those weather zones (unlike, for example, in Australia, where the weather forecast will be preceded by a description like "Hunter Coast, between Broken Bay and Seal Rocks and 60nm seawards, points which can be found on the standard charts).

In general, these weather zones lack granularity. For example, the weather in the part of the "Conway" zone north of Kaikoura bears little resemblance to the weather in Pegasus Bay. This has the effect of reducing the accuracy of the wind and wave forecasts heard on VHF. Some forecasts will give a variation in wind strength in the northern or southern part of the weather zone but treat these as a general guide only, and don’t rely on them to have any degree of accuracy.

In general, I have found that NZ weather forecasts as issued by the NZ Met Service are highly unreliable. The level of unreliability increases the further south you go. Cruisers who are used to hearing a weather forecast in other parts of the world and making assumptions about the accuracy of the forecast wind speed or direction will need to reset their expectations on entering NZ waters. In particular the weather in many parts of NZ is highly changeable during the course of a day, and the NZ met service make no attempt to take this into account — their forecasts are usually only indicative of the approximate average wind strengths during the day, and a rough guide to which direction the wind may be coming from at some time in the day (although on 3 out of 5 occasions I have listened to recently and experienced the conditions, the forecast wind direction was not correct for any part of the day).

• Passports must be valid for at least three months beyond intended departure date. Australian citizens do not need visas nor do citizens of the European Union (except for Greece whose passports were issued BEFORE 1/1/2006), Bahrain, Brunei, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Israel, Korea (South), Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, USA, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Kuwait, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay

• List (and declare) all equipment other than fixtures – these will not be subject to duty if remaining on board and re-exported on departure (some items may be sealed by Customs). Items to be landed must be declared to customs on arrival. Goods imported into New Zealand such as radios and navigation equipment require a Temporary Import form and a deposit to cover duty and sales tax, which will be refunded on re-export. If imported permanently, they will be subject to duty

• All foreign yachts entering New Zealand on a temporary basis must fill in a "Temporary Import" form. The duty payable is assessed, and this amount is set by declaration on entry (the current rate is 19.7% – Aug’08). The yacht must leave New Zealand within 24 months of entry otherwise this duty is due on the yacht and its equipment. Extensions are not normally given beyond this limit unless a medical emergency prevents departure.

New Zealand has very strict regulations on the importation of animals, animal and plant products. It is advisable to arrive with a minimum of fresh stores. Items that must not be landed are fruit, vegetables, plant products, foodstuffs, eggs and waste from these items, pot plants, meat and animal products. All waste must be disposed of through the proper garbage disposal system including egg containers. The quarantine officer will explain this on arrival. Until such stores are consumed or destroyed the yacht will be under surveillance and restricted to berthing at a wharf where these garbage facilities are available. Organic garbage should be disposed of before entering New Zealand territorial waters. The quarantine officer may also inspect for pesticides, which must be of a formula registered in New Zealand. This can include insecticide sprays, cockroach traps and antifouling.

Generally speaking I have found that the coverage offered by Spark NZ is somewhat better than the other carriers. In addition, some Spark NZ plans come with access to a certain amount of free WiFi coverage at a range of hot-spots which are in fact re-branded telephone booths — the old telephone booths that used to be found on many street corners have not been removed in New Zealand as they have in other countries but are quickly becoming WiFi hotspots.

• SV Wiskun = We were in NZ between 2003 to 2007. As of this period, incoming overseas yachts were given 6 months Temporary Import Entry. Most cruisers who applied for extensions were given up to 1 year; however there must be a valid reason given, i.e. health, ongoing repairs on the yacht; etc. The first time we applied for an extension, we flew out of the country and sent the application for extension from overseas. We even enclosed a self addressed envelope purchased in NZ before we left. Our application was granted within 3 weeks. If ongoing repairs is the reason, they do come to the boatyard to check. Applications for further extensions may be granted based on valid reasons, but a security bond may have to be placed based on the value of the vessel. Our suggestion upon arrival is to declare as low as possible, the value of your vessel.