New Zealand is not a dangerous a place. Period. It’s easy-going, happy and mostly free of personal violence and conflict between communities. Crime does exist, though the rates are way lower than many countries and it is recognised as one of the world’s least corrupt countries. The real danger is you may not want to leave.
General safety – theft is the most prevalent type of crime and mainly occurs in New Zealand’s cities, though less populated areas are not immune. If you have a car, don’t leave valuables in sight and be aware of pickpockets in popular tourist locations. Fighting amongst drunken youths is common in cities, though Wellington has banned the consumption of alcohol in some public places to try and minimize this. Don’t walk around late at night in unfamiliar areas, especially around large groups of these youths drinking. Common sense and being alert of your surroundings will go a long way to ensuring your personal safety. If you have any documentation stolen such as your passport, contact your Embassy and in the case of an emergency, the number to dial in New Zealand is 111.
The Landscape – be careful when exploring this country’s beautiful scenery. It is guaranteed that you will be so overwhelmed you may run the risk of encountering some trouble whilst getting up close and personal with nature. Dangerous places are not all fenced off so you can get really, really close. If venturing out to see a volcano, climb a mountain or a bushwalk, be prepared, take the right equipment and don’t rely on mobile phone coverage whilst out in the wilderness. Be responsible, tell someone where you are going, respect the untamed landscape and don’t take this privilege for granted.
Earthquakes – You may remember the most devastating quake in 2011 that completely obliterated Christchurch and 185 people were killed. Sitting on the notorious Ring of Fire, New Zealand experiences thousands of earthquakes every year, though most of them happen when you are asleep, are not even felt and cause little harm. Keep in mind though, a severe earthquake can occur at any time with devastating effects and can trigger secondary threats like landslides, avalanches, flooding, fires and tsunami’s. If you feel an earthquake the New Zealand Civil Defence recommends doing the following:
DURING AN EARTHQUAKE
- If you are inside a building – move no more than a few steps, Drop, Cover and Hold. Stay indoors till the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. In most buildings in New Zealand you are safer if you stay where you are until the shaking stops.
- If you are in an elevator – Drop, Cover and Hold. When the shaking stops, try and get out at the nearest floor if you can safely do so.
- If you are outdoors – when the shaking starts, move no more than a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold.
- If you are at the beach or near the coast – Drop, Cover and Hold then move to higher ground immediately in case a tsunami follows the quake.
- If you are driving – pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.
- If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling debris or landslides.
AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE
- Listen to your local radio stations as emergency management officials will be broadcasting the most appropriate advice for your community and situation.
- Expect to feel aftershocks.
- Check yourself for injuries and get first aid if necessary. Help others if you can.
- Be aware that electricity supply could be cut, and fire alarms and sprinkler systems can go off in buildings during an earthquake even if there is no fire. Check for, and extinguish, small fires.
- If you are in a damaged building, try to get outside and find a safe, open place. Use the stairs, not the elevators.
- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines, and stay out of damaged areas.
- Only use the phone for short essential calls to keep the lines clear for emergency calls.
- If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window, get everyone out quickly and turn off the gas if you can. If you see sparks, broken wires or evidence of electrical system damage, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box if it is safe to do so.
Animals – with Australia being New Zealand’s closest neighbour, you would think that some dangerous, venomous animals would be found here. Nope. When on land, the bee poses the most danger if you have an allergic reaction, but even they are chilled. Probably at risk most of being bitten is your car, but more on that later. So with that said, the following is a few of the ‘pests’ you may encounter, but probably won’t.
Sandflies and mosquitoes are not dangerous, though can cause bad reactions in some people when bitten. These tiny little pests like to come out at morning and night and like bodies of water. Don’t scratch if bitten, it makes the itch worse and wear a repellant to deter them.
Spiders – only really one to mention, the White Tail, which has a painful bite. Your chances of encountering one are practically zero.
Snakes – None! New Zealand has no land snakes. Lizards, but not one snake.
Kea – the only thing on land that should be afraid of a bite is a vehicle. These entertaining, parrot-like birds inhabit the higher altitudes of the South Island. They have been known to munch on the rubber around mirrors, windscreens and doors of cars, completely obliterating them.
The Water – as in Australia, New Zealand has patrolled beaches, with flags indicating the safe zones for swimming. Be aware of rip currents that are able to sweep you out to sea and also tidal currents if swimming in river estuaries. Read more on rips here. Use common sense, and try not to swim alone and NEVER in unpatrolled areas of beach. It is advised not to put your head under water in geothermal pools as they may contain amoebic meningitis.
Sharks – about 66 different types of sharks are found in the waters of New Zealand, including the Great White, but attacks are very rare. You may have been told stories of giant squid, but don’t fret, they only eat fish and baby whales and no human attacks have been recorded.
Weather – many areas of New Zealand see over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year. Most places in New Zealand receive over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, warm, dry summers and mostly mild, wet winters. Average summer temperatures range from 20 – 30 degrees Celsius, winter daytime temperatures between 1 – 16 degrees Celsius. As with Australia, the suns UV rays are a lot stronger so take care in the sun and use precautions to prevent sunburn and dehydration. It does have its share of grey days, with high rainfalls throughout the year, however this just makes the native forests even more spectacular. Snow appears in mountainous areas between June – October.
During the months of October – April, intense storms form in the tropical areas to the north of New Zealand called tropical cyclones. They usually weaken in force as they approach, though at times can bring hurricane-force winds and plummeting rain. Always check weather forecasts and alerts before heading out.