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New Zealand

Capital Wellington
Continent Australia/Oceania
Code +64
Currency NZ Dollar ($)
Languages English , Maori , New Zealand Sign Language , English , Maori , New Zealand Sign Language


Owing to their remoteness, the islands of New Zealand were the last large habitable landmass to be settled by humans. Between about 1280 and 1350, Polynesians began to settle in the islands and then developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight and record New Zealand. In 1840, representatives of the United Kingdom and Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which declared British sovereignty over the islands. In 1841, New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire, and in 1907 it became a dominion; it gained full statutory independence in 1947, and the British monarch remained the head of state. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 5 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with the recent broadening of culture arising from increased immigration. The official languages are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English being dominant and a de facto official language.

A developed country, New Zealand ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, education, protection of civil liberties, government transparency, and economic freedom. New Zealand underwent major economic changes during the 1980s, which transformed it from a protectionist to a liberalized free-trade economy. The service sector dominates the national economy, followed by the industrial sector, and agriculture. International tourism is also a significant source of revenue. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the prime minister, currently Jacinda Ardern. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's monarch and is represented by the governor-general. In addition, New Zealand is organized into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica. New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, OECD, ASEAN Plus Six, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Pacific Community, and the Pacific Islands Forum.


New Zealand is one of the last major landmasses settled by humans. Radiocarbon dating, evidence of deforestation, and mitochondrial DNA variability within Māori populations suggests that Eastern Polynesians first settled the New Zealand archipelago between 1250 and 1300, although newer archaeological and genetic research points to a date not earlier than about 1280, with at least the main settlement period between about 1320 and 1350, consistent with evidence-based on genealogical traditions. This represented a culmination in a long series of voyages through the Pacific islands. Over the centuries that followed, the Polynesian settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori. The population formed different iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) which would sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete, and sometimes fight against each other. At some point, a group of Māori has migrated to Rēkohu, now known as the Chatham Islands, where they developed their distinct Moriori culture. The Moriori population was all but wiped out between 1835 and 1862 in the Moriori genocide, largely because of the Taranaki Māori invasion and enslavement in the 1830s, although European diseases also contributed. In 1862, only 101 survived, and the last known full-blooded Moriori died in 1933.

In a hostile 1642 encounter between Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri and Dutch explorer Abel Tasman's crew, four of Tasman's crew members was killed, and at least one Māori was hit by canister shot. Europeans did not revisit New Zealand until 1769 when British explorer James Cook mapped almost the entire coastline. Following Cook, New Zealand was visited by numerous European and North American whaling, sealing, and trading ships. They traded European food, metal tools, weapons, and other goods for timber, Māori food, artifacts, and water. The introduction of the potato and the musket transformed Māori agriculture and warfare. Potatoes provided a reliable food surplus, which enabled longer and more sustained military campaigns. The resulting Intertribal Musket Wars encompassed over 600 battles between 1801 and 1840, killing 30,000–40,000 Māori. From the early 19th century, Christian missionaries began to settle in New Zealand, eventually converting most of the Māori population. The Māori population declined to around 40% of its pre-contact level during the 19th century; introduced diseases were the major factor.

The British Government appointed James Busby as British Resident to New Zealand in 1832 following a petition from northern Māori. His duties were to protect British commerce, mediate between the unruly Pākehā (European) settlers and Māori, and apprehend escaped convicts. In 1835, following an announcement of the impending French settlement by Charles de Thierry, the nebulous United Tribes of New Zealand sent a Declaration of Independence to King William IV of the United Kingdom asking for protection. Ongoing unrest, the proposed settlement of New Zealand by the New Zealand Company (which had already sent its first ship of surveyors to buy land from Māori) and the dubious legal standing of the Declaration of Independence prompted the Colonial Office to send Captain William Hobson to claim sovereignty for the United Kingdom and negotiate a treaty with the Māori. The Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in the Bay of Islands on 6 February 1840. In response to the New Zealand Company's attempts to establish an independent settlement in Wellington and French settlers purchasing land in Akaroa, Hobson declared British sovereignty over all of New Zealand on 21 May 1840, even though copies of the treaty were still circulating throughout the country for Māori to sign. With the signing of the treaty and declaration of sovereignty, the number of immigrants, particularly from the United Kingdom, began to increase.

New Zealand was administered as part of the Colony of New South Wales until becoming a separate Crown colony, the Colony of New Zealand on 3 May 1841. Armed conflict began between the colonial government and Māori in 1843 with the Wairau Affray over land and disagreements over sovereignty. These conflicts, mainly in the North Island, saw thousands of imperial troops and the Royal Navy come to New Zealand and became known as the New Zealand Wars. Following these armed conflicts, large amounts of Māori land were confiscated by the government to meet settler demands.

The colony gained a representative government in 1852, and the first Parliament met in 1854. In 1856 the colony effectively became self-governing, gaining responsibility for all domestic matters (except native policy, which was granted in the mid-1860s). Following concerns that the South Island might form a separate colony, premier Alfred Domett moved a resolution to transfer the capital from Auckland to a locality near Cook Strait. Wellington was chosen for its central location, with Parliament officially sitting there for the first time in 1865.

In 1891 the Liberal Party came to power as the first organized political party. The Liberal Government, led by Richard Seddon for most of its period in office, passed many important social and economic measures. In 1893 New Zealand was the first nation in the world to grant all women the right to vote and in 1894 pioneered the adoption of compulsory arbitration between employers and unions

In 1907, at the request of the New Zealand Parliament, King Edward VII proclaimed New Zealand a Dominion within the British Empire, reflecting its self-governing status. In 1947 the country adopted the Statute of Westminster, confirming that the British Parliament could no longer legislate for New Zealand without the consent of New Zealand.

Early in the 20th century, New Zealand was involved in world affairs, fighting in the First and Second World Wars and suffering through the Great Depression. The depression led to the election of the first Labor Government and the establishment of a comprehensive welfare state and a protectionist economy. New Zealand experienced increasing prosperity following the Second World War, and Māori began to leave their traditional rural life and move to the cities in search of work. A Māori protest movement developed, which criticized Eurocentrism and worked for greater recognition of Māori culture and the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1975, a Waitangi Tribunal was set up to investigate alleged breaches of the Treaty, and it was enabled to investigate historic grievances in 1985. The government has negotiated settlements of these grievances with many issues, although Māori claims to the foreshore and seabed proved controversial in 2000.


New Zealand is located near the center of the water hemisphere and is made up of two main islands and more than 700 smaller islands. The two main islands (the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu) are separated by Cook Strait, 22 kilometers (14 mi) wide at its narrowest point. Besides the North and South Islands, the five largest inhabited islands are Stewart Island (across the Foveaux Strait), Chatham Island, Great Barrier Island (in the Hauraki Gulf), D'Urville Island (in the Marlborough Sounds), and Waiheke Island (about 22 km (14 mi) from central Auckland).

New Zealand is long and narrow—over 1,600 kilometers (990 mi) along its north-north-east axis with a maximum width of 400 kilometers (250 mi) —with about 15,000 km (9,300 mi) of coastline and a total land area of 268,000 square kilometers (103,500 sq mi). Because of its far-flung outlying islands and long coastline, the country has extensive marine resources. Its exclusive economic zone is one of the largest in the world, covering more than 15 times its land area.

The South Island is the largest landmass of New Zealand. It is divided along its length by the Southern Alps. There are 18 peaks over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), the highest of which is Aoraki / Mount Cook at 3,724 meters (12,218 ft). Fiordland's steep mountains and deep fiords record the extensive ice age glaciation of this southwestern corner of the South Island. The North Island is less mountainous but is marked by volcanism. The highly active Taupō Volcanic Zone has formed a large volcanic plateau, punctuated by the North Island's highest mountain, Mount Ruapehu (2,797 meters (9,177 ft)). The plateau also hosts the country's largest lake, Lake Taupō, nestled in the caldera of one of the world's most active supervolcanoes.

The country owes its varied topography, and perhaps even its emergence above the waves, to the dynamic boundary, it straddles between the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates. New Zealand is part of Zealandia, a microcontinent nearly half the size of Australia that gradually submerged after breaking away from the Gondwanan supercontinent. About 25 million years ago, a shift in plate tectonic movements began to contort and crumple the region. This is now most evident in the Southern Alps, formed by compression of the crust beside the Alpine Fault. Elsewhere, the plate boundary involves the subduction of one plate under the other, producing the Puysegur Trench to the south, the Hikurangi Trench east of the North Island, and the Kermadec and Tonga Trenches further north.

New Zealand is part of a region known as Australasia, together with Australia. It also forms the southwestern extremity of the geographic and ethnographic region called Polynesia. The term Oceania is often used to denote the wider region encompassing the Australian continent, New Zealand, and various islands in the Pacific Ocean that are not included in the seven-continent model.


New Zealand has an advanced market economy, ranked 14th in the 2019 Human Development Index and third in the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom. It is a high-income economy with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$36,254. The currency is the New Zealand dollar, informally known as the "Kiwi dollar"; it also circulates in the Cook Islands (see Cook Islands dollar), Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands.

Historically, extractive industries have contributed strongly to New Zealand's economy, focusing at different times on sealing, whaling, flax, gold, Kauri gum, and native timber. The first shipment of refrigerated meat on the Dunedin in 1882 led to the establishment of meat and dairy exports to Britain, a trade that provided the basis for strong economic growth in New Zealand. High demand for agricultural products from the United Kingdom and the United States helped New Zealanders achieve higher living standards than both Australia and Western Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1973, New Zealand's export market was reduced when the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community and other compounding factors, such as the 1973 oil and 1979 energy crises, led to severe economic depression. Living standards in New Zealand fell behind those of Australia and Western Europe, and by 1982 New Zealand had the lowest per-capita income of all the developed nations surveyed by the World Bank. In the mid-1980s New Zealand deregulated its agricultural sector by phasing out subsidies over three years. Since 1984, successive governments engaged in major macroeconomic restructuring (known first as Rogernomics and then euthanasia), rapidly transforming New Zealand from a protectionist and highly regulated economy to a liberalized free-trade economy.

Unemployment peaked just above 10% in 1991 and 1992, following the 1987 share market crash, but eventually fell to a record low (since 1986) of 3.7% in 2007 (ranking third from twenty-seven comparable OECD nations). However, the global financial crisis that followed had a major impact in New Zealand, with the GDP shrinking for five consecutive quarters, the longest recession in over thirty years, and unemployment rising back to 7% in late 2009. Unemployment rates for different age groups follow similar trends but are consistently higher among youth. In the December 2014 quarter, the general unemployment rate was around 5.8%, while the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 21 was 15.6%. New Zealand has experienced a series of "brain drains" since the 1970s that continue today. Nearly one-quarter of highly skilled workers live overseas, mostly in Australia and Britain, which is the largest proportion from any developed nation. In recent decades, however, a "brain gain" has brought in educated professionals from Europe and less developed countries. Today New Zealand's economy benefits from a high level of innovation.


Early Māori adapted the tropically based east Polynesian culture in line with the challenges associated with a larger and more diverse environment, eventually developing their own distinctive culture. Social organization was largely communal with families (whānau), subtribes (hapū), and tribes (iwi) ruled by a chief (rangatira), whose position was subject to the community's approval. The British and Irish immigrants brought aspects of their own culture to New Zealand and also influenced Māori culture, particularly with the introduction of Christianity. However, Māori still regards their allegiance to tribal groups as a vital part of their identity, and Māori kinship roles resemble those of other Polynesian peoples. More recently, American, Australian, Asian, and other European cultures have exerted influence on New Zealand. Non-Māori Polynesian cultures are also apparent, with Pasifika, the world's largest Polynesian festival, now an annual event in Auckland.

The largely rural life in early New Zealand led to the image of New Zealanders being rugged, industrious problem solvers. Modesty was expected and enforced through the "tall poppy syndrome", where high achievers received harsh criticism. At the time, New Zealand was not known as an intellectual country. From the early 20th century until the late 1960s, Māori culture was suppressed by the attempted assimilation of Māori into British New Zealanders. In the 1960s, as tertiary education became more available, and cities expanded urban culture began to dominate. However, rural imagery and themes are common in New Zealand's art, literature and media.

New Zealand's national symbols are influenced by natural, historical, and Māori sources. The silver fern is an emblem appearing on army insignia and sporting team uniforms. Certain items of popular culture thought to be unique to New Zealand are called "Kiwiana".