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South Island

South Island
Te Waipounamu
Nickname: The Mainland
Turbid Waters Surround New Zealand - crop.jpg
Satellite view of the South Island
South IslandTe Waipounamu is located in Oceania
South IslandTe Waipounamu
South Island
Te Waipounamu
Location Oceania
Coordinates 43°59′S 170°27′E / 43.983°S 170.450°E / -43.983; 170.450Coordinates: 43°59′S 170°27′E / 43.983°S 170.450°E / -43.983; 170.450
Archipelago New Zealand
Area 150,437 km2 (58,084 sq mi)
Area rank 12th
Length 840 km (522 mi)
Coastline 5,842 km (3,630.1 mi)
Highest elevation 3,754 m (12,316 ft)
Highest point Aoraki/Mount Cook
New Zealand
ISO 3166-2:NZ NZ-S
Regions 7
Territorial authorities 23
Largest settlement Christchurch (pop. 389,700)
Demonym South Islander, Mainlander
Population 1,096,200 (June 2016)
Pop. density 7.2 /km2 (18.6 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups European, Māori
Cities and towns of the South Island by population
City/Town Region Population
(June 2016)
City/Town Region Population
(June 2016)
1 Christchurch Canterbury 389,700   11 Rolleston Canterbury 13,100
2 Dunedin Otago 118,500   12 Greymouth West Coast 9,750
3 Nelson Nelson 65,700   13 Gore Southland 9,890
4 Invercargill Southland 50,700   14 Motueka Tasman 8,180
5 Blenheim Marlborough 30,700   15 Wanaka Otago 7,850
6 Timaru Canterbury 28,800   16 Alexandra Otago 5,300
7 Ashburton Canterbury 19,850   17 Lincoln Canterbury 5,240
8 Rangiora Canterbury 17,350   18 Cromwell Otago 4,670
9 Oamaru Otago 13,850   19 Picton Marlborough 4,340
10 Queenstown Otago 14,300   20 Temuka Canterbury 4,330

The South Island or Te Waipounamu (Māori) is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, 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) and is influenced by a temperate climate.

It has a 32 percent larger landmass than the North Island so is sometimes referred to as the "mainland" of New Zealand, especially by South Island residents, but only 23 percent of New Zealand's 4.7 million inhabitants live there. In the early stages of European (Pākehā) settlement of the country, the South Island had the majority of the European population and wealth due to the 1860s gold rushes. The North Island population overtook the South in the early 20th century, with 56 percent of the population living in the North in 1911, and the drift north of people and businesses continued throughout the century.

In prose, the two main islands of New Zealand are called the North Island and the South Island, with the definite article.

Charcoal drawings can be found on limestone rock shelters in the centre of the South Island, with over 500 sites stretching from Kaikoura to North Otago. The drawings are estimated to be between 500 and 800 years old, and portray animals, people and fantastic creatures, possibly stylised reptiles. Some of the birds pictured are long extinct, including moa and Haast's eagles. They were drawn by early Māori, but by the time Europeans arrived, local Māori did not know the origins of the drawings.

Early inhabitants of the South Island were the Waitaha. They were largely absorbed via marriage and conquest by the Kāti Mamoe in the 16th century.

Kāti Mamoe were in turn largely absorbed via marriage and conquest by the Ngāi Tahu who migrated south in the 17th century. While today there is no distinct Ngati Mamoe organisation, many Ngai Tahu have Ngati Mamoe links in their whakapapa and, especially in the far south of the island.


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