New Zealand is considered one of the safest countries in the world. Although it has gangs, drug issues and a number of murders each year, not to mention natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, it is still as safe as most other developed countries. However, there is a price to pay for not being cautious in the country’s famous great outdoors.


2017 was a particularly bad year for fatalities on New Zealand’s world-famous wilderness tracks. From the 1st of July to the 30th of June that year, there were 57 fatalities on them – 31 from falling, 12 from drowning, 6 from hypothermia, 2 from avalanches, 2 from glacial ice falls and 4 from unknown causes. This goes to prove that New Zealand’s various wilderness tracks are not ‘walks in the parks’ as some overseas tourists believe. Many of the tracks are especially dangerous during the colder months. In fact, from April to December 2019, 11 people died while tramping in the various Kiwi wilderness tracks.

There are over 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles) of tramping tracks across New Zealand. Most are well maintained but can still be deadly because of the country’s unpredictable weather. The most fatalities occurred in the South Island especially in Southland, followed by Queenstown Lakes then Tasman, Westland and Aoraki/Mount Cook. The Tararua Ranges north of Wellington and the central North Island were the other area where deaths were recorded.


A recent analysis conducted by the Mountain Safety Council found the Tongariro Alpine Crossing had the most safety alerts over the past decade. In total there were 293 incidents – a combination of fatalities, search and rescues, and injuries. The next highest was the Mount Taranaki Summit Route with 52 incidents, followed by 47 on the Milford Track over the same period.


Nelson Park in Napier, is a well-known cricket ground. The area is not particularly secluded and most of it is fairly open, nonetheless, over a 2 year period, when crime was monitored, the 20 acre park in the south of the central city was where 3,100 victims were attacked, beaten and robbed at night.

 The neighbouring Hawkes Bay city of Hastings, with a population of 85,000 has more burglaries than Wellington with 213,000 people. Over the 2 years that crime figures were gathered, there were 4000 burglaries compared with 3700 in Wellington. These were mainly breaking and entering properties although some snatch and grabs were also carried out. As far as Wellington goes, assaults mostly happened on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights. The incidents took place around the CBD and involved predominantly young people who were heavily intoxicated. I lived in Wellington for 4 years. It is a very compact city and at night I often dined in restaurants around Courtney Place which is the most lively part of the central city. Apart from stepping aside to avoid the odd drunk person stumbling along the footpath, I never felt unsafe. I didn’t even think of my safety whenever I was in the central city.

Police records taken between 2014 and 2016 for the rapidly growing city of Hamilton (currently with a population of 166,000) recorded 6063 criminal incidents including burglaries, assaults and domestic violence. I lived in the centre of Hamilton for a year and I was never threatened in any way. I guess it’s a matter of seeking the right company, like any other place.


With a population of 1.7 million, Auckland is an international city with issues found in any large city. The urban sprawl is on a par with Los Angeles so there are many centres of entertainment scattered across the city. The central city is the most densely populated area in New Zealand. Over a 2-year period, 3140 criminal incidents were reported. These included assaults and robberies. Over the same period, the area to the south of the city known as Counties-Manukau recorded 5886 criminal cases. This is the most unsafe part of this city. I have lived in Auckland for 20 years and have not considered my safety while out at night (however, I have never been to the south of the city at night)


According to data posted by oceanvibe.com the centre of Christchurch is the most dangerous area in New Zealand. Over the two years when crime figures were gathered, 10,417 cases were recorded. Police statistics also show more than a third of all offences were committed by drunk offenders. Christchurch is also the scene of too many sexual attacks. These assaults mostly happened when big groups of people dispersed from clubs and pubs in the early hours of the morning.

I lived in Christchurch for a year and it is the only New Zealand city centre I didn’t feel safe wandering around at night. Before the earthquakes destroyed many areas of the central city, most of the cinemas were located in or near Cathedral Square. Whenever I came out of the cinema, I would hurry to my car as the shady looking characters lurking around the square didn’t look too friendly. There was a report I read a while back that suggested flat cities have higher crime rates than hilly ones. It has something to do with humans needing points of reference to keep their minds balanced. If this is true, it may explain a link between the flatness of Christchurch and the proportionately high crime rate the city suffers. Having said that, I have to add I used to eat out a lot when living there. However, I always chose to meet friends at suburban cafes and bars. Away from the CBD.

Having outlined some of the dangers found in New Zealand, it is still one of the safest countries in the world. Kiwis are known for their friendliness and their willingness to help strangers so if you are sensible on the wilderness passes you will be fine. If you choose to wander around the cities late at night you will need to be just as cautious – but you might be asking for trouble, just as you would in any city around the world.

Ceidrik Heward

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