The Northland Region is the northernmost of New Zealand's 16local government regions. New Zealanders often call it the Far North, or, because of its mild climate, the Winterless North. The main population centre is the city of Whangarei and the largest town is Kerikeri.
The Northland Region occupies the northern 80% (265 kilometres) of the 330 kilometre-long Northland Peninsula, the southernmost part of which is in the Auckland Region. Stretching from a line where the peninsula narrows to a width of just 15 kilometres a little north of the town ofWellsford, Northland Region extends north to the tip of the Northland Peninsula, covering an area of 13,940 km2, a little over five per cent of the country's total area. It is bounded to the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the east by the Pacific Ocean. The land is predominantly rolling hill country. Farming and forestry occupy over half of the land, and are two of the region's main industries.
Although many of the region's kauri forests were felled during the 19th century, some areas still exist where this rare giant grows tall. New Zealand's largest tree, Tane Mahuta, stands in the Waipoua Forest south of the Hokianga Harbour.
The western coast is dominated by several long straight beaches, the most famous of which is the inaccurately named 88 kilometre-long stretch ofNinety Mile Beach in the region's far north. The slightly longer Ripiro Beachlies further south. Two large inlets are also located on this coast, the massive Kaipara Harbour in the south, which Northland shares with the Auckland Region, and the convoluted inlets of the Hokianga Harbour.
The east coast is more rugged, and is dotted with bays and peninsulas. Several large natural harbours are found on this coast, from Parengarengaclose to the region's northern tip, past the famous Bay of Islands down to Whangarei Harbour, on the shores of which is situated the largest population centre. Numerous islands dot this coast, notably the Cavalli Islands, the Hen and Chickens Islands, Aorangaia Island and the Poor Knights Islands.
The northernmost points of the North Island mainland lie at the top of Northland. These include several points often confused in the public mind as being the country's northernmost points: Cape Maria van Diemen, Spirits Bay, Cape Reinga, and North Cape. The northernmost point of the North Island is actually the Surville Cliffs, close to North Cape, although the northernmost point of the country is further north in the Kermadec chain of islands. Cape Reinga and Spirits Bay do, however, have a symbolic part to play as the end of the country. In Māori mythology, it is from here that the souls of the dead depart on their journey to the afterlife.
Northland is New Zealand's least urbanised region, with 50% of the population of 166,100 living in urban areas. Whangarei is the largest urban area, with a population of 54,400 (June 2014 estimates). The region's population is largely concentrated along the east coast. During the five year period up to 2006, Northland recorded a population growth of 6.0 percent, slightly below the national average. Northland includes one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand, Mangawhai, which is expanding rapidly due to residential and subsequent commercial development.
According to Māori legend, the North Island of New Zealand was an enormous fish, caught by the adventurer Māui. For this reason, Northland sometimes goes by the nickname of "The tail of the fish", Te Hiku o Te Ika.
Northland iwi claim that Kupe made landfall at the Hokianga (although others claim this was at Taipa) in the northwest of Northland, and thus the region claims that it was the birthplace of New Zealand. Some of the oldest traces of Māori kainga(fishing villages) can be found here.
If the Māori regard the region as the legendary birthplace of the country, there can be no doubt that it was the European starting-point for the modern nation of New Zealand. Traders,whalers and sealers were among the first arrivals, and the gumand timber of the mighty kauri trees brought more colonisers.
Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands can lay claim to being the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, and contains many historic buildings, including the Stone Store, New Zealand's oldest extant building.
The nearby settlement of Waitangi was of even more significance, as the signing place of New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori tribes and the British Crown, on 6 February 1840.
The sub-national GDP of the Northland region was estimated at US$3.243 billion in 2003, 2% of New Zealand's national GDP.
The region's economy is based on agriculture (notably beef cattle), fishing, forestry, and horticulture. Citrus fruit makes up the majority of the latter industry, with lemons, oranges, and tamarillos all being produced. Avocados are also widely grown, as well as kumara (especially in Ruawai part of the Kaipara district). Olives are also being grown on the Aupouri Peninsula.
Extensive forests are a feature of the Northland landscape. For this reason wood and paper manufacturing industries also make a large contribution to the region's economy. The railway system, which once ran as far north as Donnellys Crossing, has been historically important for the transport of timber via Dargaville to Auckland.
Northland is a favourite tourist destination, especially to the Bay of Islands and the historic town of Kerikeri. Diving and fishing are also popular visitor activities, especially around the Bay of Islands and the Poor Knights Islands.
Northland is home to New Zealand's only oil refinery, at Marsden Point, close to Whangarei. New Zealand's natural fuel resources in Taranaki account for a little under half of the refinery's intake, with the rest coming predominantly from the Middle East. The nearby Marsden A thermal power station originally utilised heavy oil from the refinery for electricity production, but no longer does so.