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75 percent of New Zealand's surface is mountainous or hilly. The highest peaks are located in the Southern Alps, a 650-kilometer mountain chain which rises abruptly along the west coast of the South Island. The highest peak in this chain is Mt. Cook, which measures 3,684 meters (12,283 feet).

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New Zealand lies on the rim of the Pacific tectonic plate which is the same fracture in the earth's crust that passes through Japan and the west coast of the United States. This is why New Zealand has areas of intense geothermal activity and active volcanoes. The vast majority of thermal activity is contained in the North Island and centred in and around Rotorua and the Central Plateau area.

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Eighty four percent of New Zealand plants exist only in New Zealand, the reason is New Zealand's isolation from the rest of the world. The forests range from sub tropical to temperate, evergreen rainforest and beech forests. Native trees include Rimu, Totara, Matai, Kahikatea and many species of ferns including some giant tree ferns. More notiable trees include, the Cabbage Tree, the Nikau Palm which is New Zealand's only palm tree, and the Giant Kauri, some of the older Kauri trees rate as the largest trees on earth. To take a virtual tour of New Zealand visit Virtual New Zealand.

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