Following friends on new rides seems like a good plan. If you don't have any trustworthy ones then joining a club or participating in some low key events or races are good options. Ground Effect's Slush Fund is a good place to find contact details for your local club. Or contact one of the national bodies listed below.
The definitive guide books in New Zealand are Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides North and Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides South by the Kennett Brothers. It covers around 400 rides throughout the country and is an essential addition to any mountain biker's bookshelf.
Some Department of Conservation offices also have leaflets describing rides in their area. Check out Hot Rides for a complete list of stories published over the years.
There are a few magazines available locally: New Zealand Mountainbiker and Spoke in New Zealand; Australian Mountain Bike, Mountainbiking Australia and Australian Cyclist (more touring orientated) in... you guessed it, Australia.
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