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Filled with towering peaks, icy glaciers, lush fields and dales, all balanced on two islands fringed by beautiful beaches, New Zealand -- the other Down Under --draws immigrants from near and far, looking for a new lease of life. Its cities are consistently ranked as some of the best places to live in the world, and with a population of only 4.4 million spread across the North and South Islands, there remain plenty of untouched landscapes to explore and enjoy.

What is it known for?
If you are a rugby fan, you would probably say the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team (who won the 2011 Rugby World Cup in October); if you are a movie fan, you would say orcs and elfs (the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in many of the country’s most spectacular spots); and if you are an adventure traveller, you would say bungee jumping and glaciers. All of the above is true, along with the great wines, the music scene, a robust Maori culture and all more sheep than people.

While New Zealand was originally settled by Polynesians 700 years ago, Europeans came along in serious numbers in the 19th Century. A serious recruitment effort to get Scots to emigrate to New Zealand took place in the 1850s and 1860s so Scottish place names abound, especially on the South Island. The country is 900 miles across the Tasman Sea from Australia, and like its larger neighbour to the west, it is part of the British Commonwealth.

The overwhelming draw for modern-day visitors is the country’s jaw-dropping scenery and natural wonders, from the Franz Josef Glacier to the Waitomo Caves to the Otago Peninsula. Sailing, surfing, hiking, camping, luging — name almost any outdoor activity and New Zealand has it in spades. With an increasing number of visitors arriving every year, environmentalists and the government are concerned about preserving the unspoiled nature that is the country’s richest natural resource. Sustainability is now the tourism watch-word.

Where do you want to live?
Auckland is by far the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of 1.3 million. Known as the City of Sails, it sits on a narrow stretch of land between the Waitemata and Manukau Bays. The city’s suburbs stretch for many miles up and down the coast. The most popular places to live, such as Westmere, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Ellerslie and Meadowbank, are within a roughly five kilometre radius of the Central Business District (CBD). These are the areas seeing the highest home prices in the country.

Nearby Hamilton, a smaller, inland city about an hour and a half drive from Auckland, attracts many immigrants, particularly from Great Britain. Here the most popular neighbourhoods, such as St Andrews, Flagstaff and Chartwell, are in the eastern and western parts of the city, but all are close the Waikato River.

At the southernmost tip of the North Island sits Wellington, the capital and diplomatic centre of country, built in the hills above the Cook Strait that separates the North Island from the South Island. It has the country’s best public transport, Metlink, and considers itself the coolest city in New Zealand (as well as the windiest). “The areas closest to the city are the most popular,” said Carey Smith, chief executive of Ray White New Zealand real estate. “They include Khandallah, Newtown and Hataitai.”

Christchurch in the Canterbury region is the largest city on the South Island and the second-largest in the country. It is also the country’s electrical and engineering hub. The February 2011 earthquake and the aftershocks that followed have caused people to look for properties in the northwest of the city, in areas such as Hornby, or suburbs like Lincoln and Rolleston.

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