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Travel Guide > Australia & Oceania > New Zealand

New Zealand Health & Safety

  
 
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Health

New Zealand has a very high level of ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer, around 40% more intense than you will find in the Mediterranean during the summer. Sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended, especially if you are of European descent.

Visiting the doctor will cost about NZ$50 and may vary between practices and localities. The New Zealand public hospital system is free of charge to Australian, British and New Zealand citizens but will charge other nationals for treatment received. An exception to this is in the case of any accident when the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) will pick up the tab. Travel insurance is highly recommended.

New Zealand has high and equitable standards of professional health care comparable with Sweden or Australia. Tap water is drinkable but precautions should be taken against Giardia when tramping.

Safety

The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111. Ambulance, Fire and Police can be contacted through this service. Full instructions are on the inside front cover of every telephone book. It often is answered in the first 30 seconds after calling.

Crime and security

While difficult to make international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is similar to many other western countries. Dishonesty offences, such as theft, are by far the most frequent type of crime. Travellers should take simple, sensible precautions such as putting valuables away out of sight or in a secure place and locking doors of vehicles, even in remote locations, as much of this crime is opportunistic in nature.

Violent crime in public places is generally associated with alcohol or illicit drug consumption. Rowdy bars or drunken crowds in city centres, or groups of youths in the suburbs, are best avoided, especially late at night and in the early morning. New Zealanders can be somewhat lacking in a sense of humour when their country or their sporting teams are mocked by loud or drinking tourists.

There are occasional disturbing high profile media reports of tourists being targeted in random violent robberies and/or sexual crimes. These crimes tend to happen in more isolated places, where the chances of the offender being observed by other people are low. The chance of falling victim to such misfortune is still low. Although crime statistics reflect an increase in violent crime, the increase is entirely explained by increased detection of family violence, a key focus area for Police. Tourists are unlikely to be affected, as such crimes usually take place in the privacy of New Zealanders own homes.

The New Zealand Police a national force, are generally polite and helpful. Police regularly conduct drink-drive blitzes, often setting up screening checkpoints all around an area, including all lanes of motorways. Being caught drinking and driving will result in being invited to accompany the officer to a police station, or a roadside Booze Bus for an evidential breath test, blood test, or both. Being found with excess breath alcohol, or refusal to undertake testing will result in an arrest, appearance in Court, with a possiblity of time in prison, as well as a hefty fine and disqualification from driving.

Fixed and mobile speed cameras as well as hand held and car speed detectors are used frequently. Police have no official discretion for speeding offences and will write tickets for all vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 km/h. In some locations, such as near schools, even exceeding the speed limit by only 5km/h will result in a ticket. Police have recently upgraded their pursuit training, following a number of deaths of both offenders and innocent third parties during vehicle pursuits.

In New Zealand, armed police are highly unusual and usually rate a mention in the media. Although all police officers are trained to handle firearms, these are normally openly carried only when the situation requires such weapons, such as an armed offender. Traditionally, New Zealand police carry only batons and offender control pepper spray. Tasers are currently being introduced in Wellington and Auckland. However, first response patrols will generally have recourse to firearms locked in their vehicle.

Natural hazards

Severe weather

Severe weather is by far the most common natural hazard encountered in New Zealand. Although New Zealand is not subject to the direct hit of tropical cyclones stormy weather systems from both the tropics and the polar regions can sweep across New Zealand at various times of the year. There is generally a seven to ten day cycle of a few days of wet or stormy weather followed by calmer and drier days as weather systems move across the country.

The phrase four seasons in one day is a good description of New Zealand weather, which has a reputation for both changeability and unpredictability. The phrase is also a popular Kiwi song. Weather forecasts are generally reliable for overall trends and severe weather warnings should be heeded when broadcast. However both the timing and intensity of any weather events should be assessed from your own location. Simply looking out the window is probably good enough to allow you yourself to predict what the weather will be like for at least the next 15 minutes or so, according to one eminent New Zealand meterologist, though knowing that Northerlies are warm, Southerlies are cold, westerlies are rainy but warm and easterlies are humid you can predict for yourself quite accurately.

You should always seek advice from the Department of Conservation when trekking in Alpine areas. There are annual fatalities of both foreign nationals and New Zealanders caught unaware by the weather.

Other natural hazards you may encounter, though far more rarely, are:

Strong Earthquakes

New Zealand, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, sits astride a tectonic plate boundary and experiences large numbers (~14,000/year) of small earthquakes every year, a few (~200/year) are noticeable and the occasional one causes damage and sometimes loss of life. However, the last big one causing serious loss of life was at Napier and Hastings in 1931. The latest quake is reported by GeoNet.

Volcanic eruptions

New Zealand has a number of volcanoes that are classified as active or dormant. Only Mount Ruapehu and White Island have been active recently. Volcanic activity is monitored by GeoNet.

  • Lahar - There is no longer an active Lahar Alert for Mount Ruapehu's crater lake breaking through a tephra dam and flooding the Whangaehu River with a lahar. (The dam of the crater lake was punctured naturally on 19 March 2007).

Venomous bites

There are almost no poisonous or substantially dangerous animals. The katipo and redback are the only two venomous spiders and bites from both species are extremely rare. Serious reactions are uncommon and unlikely to develop in less than three hours, though you should always seek help at your nearest hospital, medical centre, or doctor. The white-tailed spider can also deliver painful bites but is not considered dangerous to humans. No large mammalian predators are present and no large predatory reptiles. Certain species of Weta can deliver a painful but harmless bite.





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