New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins


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New Zealand's coastline is one of the longest in the world in proportion to the landmass it encompasses. 

Issue information

Our coast is noted for its varied nature. From the steep-sided fiords of the south west South Island to the surf-washed beaches of the far north of the North Island, almost every imaginable coastal landscape is represented. 

Abundant wildlife is found along the coast, and this is equally varied. This variety was reflected in this stamp issue which featured different aquatic birds and marine mammals.

Se-tenant Block of Six Stamps

The six stamps in this issue were also released in a block of six format - incorporating two selvedges, at the top right and bottom left, to 'square-off' each block. The one in the top right corner completed the white heron illustration on the $1.00 stamp. The other, bottom left, featured a Hector's dolphin.

Product Listing for Wildlife

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Yellow-Eyed Penguin' gummed stamp.

The yellow-eyed penguin (or hoiho in Māori) is perhaps the rarest penguin in the world, and one of the most interesting, with its eerie yellow eyes set in a band of yellow encircling its head. Designed mainly for diving swiftly through the water, they are very agile at crossing rough rocky beaches and climbing steep coastal slopes. Probably fewer than 5,000 of these solitary birds inhabit the coastal waters of southern New Zealand and outlying sub-antarctic islands. Their traditional nesting site is in dense native bush and efforts have been made to set up reserves for this purpose, especially on Otago Peninsula.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Royal Albatross' gummed stamp.

These magnificent, graceful birds with a giant wing span of over three metres, are true monarchs of the sub-antarctic oceans. Their elegant sailing flights are legendary - they can sail in the air for an hour at a time without the slightest movement. With a distinctive white head and neck, the royal albatross spend their lives mostly at sea - often for years at a time - although they come ashore to breed.

The breeding season is long - almost a year. Taiaroa Head, on Otago Harbour, has the distinction of being the world's only breeding colony near to a city, and is a major tourist attraction.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'White Heron' gummed stamp.

A most elegant snow-white plumed bird which has been described as proverbially rare in this country, and is regarded as something very special. There are perhaps no more than two hundred in total in New Zealand. A sighting is therefore uncommon, mostly occurring in lagoons and along the banks of tidal streams. The sole New Zealand breeding colony is in a remote river in South Westland, where the birds have good protection, nesting in the trees and ferns of the kahikatea swamp. They eat fish and their long legs are ideal for wading in shallow water. Stunning white plumage, yellow bill and black legs give the white heron a romantic appeal which is enhanced by their rarity. They were fittingly adopted by the Wildlife Service as a symbol for wildlife conservation.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Sperm Whale' gummed stamp.

The largest toothed whale in the world, the male can reach a massive twenty metres in length. With its huge box-like head, underslung jaw and up to sixty teeth, it presents an impressive sight. These whales can be seen daily as close as eight hundred metres from the coast of Kaikōura - which allows whale watchers to view them with great ease.

Purplish brown to dark grey in colour, they travel either in schools of up to fifty, or singly (older males), and are known sometimes to become stranded on our beaches.

They are regarded as the ultimate diving mammal, reaching depths of over 1,000 metres, and staying under for more than 75 minutes, feeding mainly on squid, octopus and other fish.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Fur Seal' gummed stamp.

Indigenous to this country, this dark grey brown seal - which grows to about two metres long - is now protected and is a common sight around the coastline. They are easily observed and reasonably tolerant of visitors, especially at favourite viewing spots such as Kaikōura, Otago Peninsula and Cape Foulwind.

The only species of seal to breed on the main islands of New Zealand, their population is estimated to be growing by about 5% per year.

Killed originally by the Māori for food and clothing, and later commercially exploited by the early European colonists, they led directly to the first wave of settlers to New Zealand. They were hunted solely for their skin, as the waters around the shores were too warm for any build-up of blubber.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Bottlenose Dolphin' gummed stamp.

Among the largest of the dolphins, up to four metres long, the bottlenose has a short thick beak, hooked dorsal fin and a mouthline which curves up in a permanent "grin". Probably the most friendly sea mammal to humans, and immortalised by "Opo" in Hokianga Harbour during the summer of 1955-56, this variety enjoys playing with boats and swimmers. Dark, light grey or brown in colour, these mammals have remarkable intelligence and a strong social sense, feeding co-operatively and exploring as a team. Their vocal behaviour is also very complex, with whistles, squeaks and clicks used to communicate with each other.

They are found in the sheltered bays, harbours and fiords of New Zealand, such as the Bay of Islands and the Marlborough Sounds.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $6.95
Set of Maximum Cards Set of six pre-paid postcards featuring a stamp on the front and artwork from the stamp issue. $7.95
Presentation Pack Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information on the theme of the stamps. $8.50

Technical information

Date of issue: 1 May 1996
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Sea Sky Design, Paraparumu, New Zealand
Number of stamps: Six sheet stamps plus se-tenant block
Denominations and designs: 40c yellow-eyed penguin; 80c royal albatross; $1.00 white heron; $1.20 sperm whale; $1.50 fur seal; $1.80 bottlenose dolphin
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand by lithography
Stamp size: 30mm x 40mm; Block of six stamps: 129mm x 69mm; Miniature Sheet Size: 140mm x 90mm
Number of stamps per sheet: 100 stamps per sheet; Blocks of six stamps; Miniature Sheet of two stamps
Perforation gauge: 14
Paper type: Stamps: Harrison and Sons; Miniature Sheets: Coated Papers, red phosphor coated, unwatermarked
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 1 May 1997.