New Zealand comprises two main narrow and mountainous islands, the North Island and the South Island, separated by Cook Strait, and a number of smaller outlying islands. The total land area is approximately 268,000 square kilometres (about the combined area of Victoria and Tasmania). Its maritime EEZ is roughly 430 million hectares, the fifth largest in the world. The capital, Wellington, is situated on the south-west tip of the North Island and is about the same latitude as Launceston. The Southern Alps, containing glacial systems, which have retreated and formed wide glacial valleys and inland lakes, extend the length of the South Island. The Southern Alps include New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook (3754 m). The highest mountain in the North Island is Mount Ruapehu (2797m), an active volcano which erupts occasionally, most recently in 2007. Not far from the mountain is Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. New Zealand has a cool temperate climate, strongly influenced by oceanographic factors.
New Zealand has a population of around 4.4 million. New Zealand's rate of natural increase is about 1.0 per cent per year. Australia is a major destination for New Zealand migrants and tourists. Traditionally, most inward migration has been from the United Kingdom, Australia and Northern Europe. In more recent times, a growing number of migrants have come from the Pacific island countries, particularly Samoa, Cook Islands and Niue, and from Asia.