New Zealand is a country located in the Southwest Pacific. Its most commonly used Maori language name is Aotearoa, usually translated Land of the Long White Cloud. Originally Aotearoa applied only to the North Island and its literal translation is Long White Cloud (ao = cloud, tea = white, roa = long). An earlier Maori name for New Zealand was Niu Tireni, a transliteration of New Zealand.

New Zealand is somewhat isolated in the ocean and consists of two main islands (prosaically known as the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands. The continent of Australia is almost 2000 km to the northwest of the main islands. To the south is Antarctica and to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.

New Zealand
(In Detail)
National motto: None. Formerly "Onward"
Official languages English, Māori
Capital Wellington
Queen Elizabeth II
Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright
Prime Minister Helen Clark
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 73rd
268,680 km
 - Total (April 2003)
 - Density
Ranked 120th
 - Date
From the UK
September 26, 1907
Currency New Zealand dollar (NZD)
Time zoneUTC +12
National anthemsGod Defend New Zealand
God Save The Queen
Calling Code+64

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Judiciary
4 Provinces and Regions
5 Geography
6 Economy
7 Demographics
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External links


Main article: History of New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most recently settled major land masses. Polynesian settlers arrived probably some time between 500 and 1300 AD, and established the indigenous Maori culture.

The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were led by Abel Janszoon Tasman, who sailed up the west coast of the South and North islands in 1642. The Dutch thought it was a single land which they named Staaten Landt . It was later named "Nieuw Zeeland" after the area in Batavia where they had been based, which in turn was named after their province of Zeeland. In 1769 Captain James Cook began extensive surveys of the islands. This led to European whaling expeditions and eventually significant European colonisation. The Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840 between the British government and the Maori established British sovereignty over New Zealand.

New Zealand became an independent dominion on September 26, 1907 by royal proclamation. Full independence was granted by the United Kingdom Parliament with the Statute of Westminster in 1931; it was taken up upon the Statute's adoption by the New Zealand Parliament in 1947, since when New Zealand has been a sovereign constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations.


Main article: Politics of New Zealand

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Under the New Zealand Royal Titles Act 1953 Queen Elizabeth II, is Queen of New Zealand, and is represented as head of state by the Governor General, Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Parliament, consists of the 120-member unicameral House of Representatives from which an executive Cabinet of about 20 ministers is appointed. There is no written constitution.

The Cabinet is led by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark of the centre-left Labour party, which governs in coalition with the further-left Progressive Coalition party, and with support from the centre-right United Future.

General elections are held every three years; the most recent were held in July 2002. The Leader of the Opposition is Don Brash who became leader of the National party on 28 October 2003. Currently seven parties are represented in the House of Representatives, which since 1996 has been elected by a form of proportional representation called Mixed Member Proportional.

A true-colour image of the North Island. The scene was acquired by NASA's Terra satellite, on October 23, 2002.

A true-colour image of the South Island. The scene was acquired by NASA's Terra satellite, on October 23, 2002.

''A true-colour image of the region around Auckland on the North Island. Auckland is the brownish patch just left of centre. The scene was acquired by NASA's Terra satellite, on October 23, 2002.

New Zealand is a party to the ANZUS security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In 1985 New Zealand refused to allow US nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships to enter its ports, causing the US to abrogate its ANZUS responsibilities to New Zealand in 1986. New Zealand has not formally withdrawn from the treaty.


New Zealand has a High Court (formerly known as the Supreme Court) and a Court of Appeal (formerly part of the Supreme Court), as well as subordinate courts. Appeal from decisions of the Court of Appeal can be appealed to Her Majesty in Council, who refers the case to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

In 2003 the Supreme Court Act was passed, abolishing appeals to the Privy Council, with effect from 2004 and setting up a Supreme Court of New Zealand in Wellington.

Provinces and Regions

Main article: Regions of New Zealand

When originally settled, New Zealand was divided into provinces, though these were abolished in 1876 so that government could be centralised for financial reasons. As a result, New Zealand has no separately represented subnational entity such as a province, state or territory apart from its local government.

Since 1876, local government has administered the various regions of New Zealand. Due to its colonial heritage, New Zealand local government was modelled fairly closely on British local government structures, with city, borough and county councils. Over the years some of these councils merged with each other by mutual agreement. Many councils were merged and reorganised into districts and regions by the Local Government Commission in 1989. Today, New Zealand local government is divided into 16 regional Territorial Authorities that encompass 57 districts and 16 cities of which four are unitary authorities, with combined regional and district administrative roles (marked by a *):

North Island

South Island

The Chatham Islands district council is also considered a separate territorial (unitary) authority due to its isolation and small population.

North Island-South Island Separatism

Political separation of the two main islands was very much an issue in the 1860s. The North Island was riven by war and political turmoil while the South island was prospering and prosperous. The South Island grew very tired of financially supporting the North Island while receiving very little in return. The feeling was particularly bitter between Otago and Auckland. A Dunedin journalist, Julius Vogel began a strong campaign to make the South island completely independent.

The matter was put to a vote in Parliament on 19 September, 1865. Seventeen members voted for separation and thirty one for unity so New Zealand remained united. The question has never quite gone away but in modern times it is more a matter of humour than of serious debate. Julius Vogel later became Prime Minister of a united New Zealand.


Main article: Geography of New Zealand

New Zealand is composed of two main islands and a number of smaller islands. The South Island is the largest land mass, and is divided along its length by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of which is Mount Cook, at 3754 metres. There are eighteen peaks of more than three kilometres in the South Island. The North Island is less mountainous than the South, but is marked by volcanism. The tallest North Island mountain, Mount Ruapehu (2797 metres,) is an active cone volcano.

The total land area of New Zealand, 268,680 km², is somewhat less than that of Japan or of the British Isles, and slightly larger than Colorado in the USA. The country extends more than 1600 km along its main, north-northeast axis.

The climate throughout the country is mild, mostly cool temperate to warm temperate, with temperatures rarely falling below 0C or rising above 30C. Conditions vary from wet and cold in Southland and the West Coast of the South Island, where most of the country's rain falls, to subtropical in Northland. In Wellington the average minimum temperature in winter is 5.9C and the average maximum temperature in summer is 20.3C.

Scenic backdrop

New Zealand's scenery has appeared in a number of
television programmess and films. In particular, Hercules and Xena were filmed around Auckland, Heavenly Creatures in Christchurch. Peter Jackson shot The Lord of the Rings in various locations around the country, taking advantage of the spectacular and relatively unspoiled landscapes.

Flora and Fauna

Main articles: New Zealand animals – New Zealand plantsNew Zealand birdsTrees of New Zealand

Because of its long isolation from the rest of the world, New Zealand has an extraordinary flora and fauna. Until the arrival of the first humans just a millennium or two ago, 80% of the land was forested and, bar two species of bat, there were no non-marine mammals at all. Instead, New Zealand's forests were inhabited by a diverse range of birds (many of them flightless), reptiles, and insects—some of them almost the size of a mouse (see weta).


Main article: Economy of New Zealand

New Zealand has a modern, developed economy. Its primary export industries are agriculture, horticulture, fishing and forestry. There is also a substantial tourism industry. The film and wine industries are considered to be up-and-coming.

Since 1984 successive governments have engaged in major economic restructuring, transforming New Zealand from a highly protectionist and regulated economy to a liberalised, free-trade economy. Despite periods of dynamic growth in the mid 1980s and early '90s, real incomes have declined from 1980 levels, and average yearly economic growth has been poorer than expected and is highly reliant on massive levels of immigration to boost GDP.

The current New Zealand government's economic objectives are centred around moving from being ranked among the lower end of the OECD countries to regaining a higher placing again, pursuing free-trade agreements, "closing the gaps" between ethnic groups, and building a "knowledge economy."

Unlike in previous decades, New Zealand has now contained inflationary pressures, meaning hyperinflation has been consigned to the past.

New Zealand is heavily dependent on trade—particularly in agricultural products—to drive growth, and it has been affected by global economic slowdowns and slumps in commodity prices. Since agricultural exports are highly sensitive to currency values and a large percentage of consumer goods are imported, any changes in the value of the New Zealand dollar has a strong impact on the economy.

During the late 1980s, the New Zealand Government sold a number of major trading enterprises, including, amongst others, its telephone company, railway system, a number of radio stations and two banks in a series of asset sales. Although the New Zealand Government continues to own a number of significant businesses, collectively known as State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), they are operated through arms-length shareholding arrangements as stand alone businesses that are required to operate profitably, just like any privately owned enterprise. Various items of protective legislation establishes business objectives yet prevents shareholding governments from having influence over day to day operations of the business. Postal services, electricity companies, radio and television broadcasters, as well as hospitals and other trading enterprises are established in this way. The core State Service consists of government departments and ministries that primarily provide government administration, policy advice, law enforcement, and social services.


Main article: Demographics of New Zealand

About 80% of the New Zealand population is of European descent. These people are often known in New Zealand as Pakeha. Maori people are the second largest ethnic group (14.7%). Between the 1996 and 2001 census, people of Asian origin (6.6%) overtook Pacific Islanders (6.5%) as the third largest ethnic group. Note that the census allowed multiple affiliations. Maori culture is a significant feature of New Zealand's public life.

The main Christian denominations are Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Roman Catholicism and Methodism. Over a third of the population is unaffiliated.


Main articles: Culture of New Zealand, Culture of the Maori

See also: New Zealand English, New Zealand cinema, New Zealand literature, Music of New Zealand, Iwi

Public Holidays

Statutory Holidays
1 JanuaryNew Year's Day
2 JanuaryDay after New Year's Day
6 FebruaryWaitangi day
The Friday before Easter SundayGood Friday
The first Sunday after the first full moon folling the vernal equinoxEaster Sunday
The day after Easter SundayEaster Monday
25 AprilANZAC Day
The first Monday in JuneQueen's Birthday
The fourth Monday in OctoberLabour Day
25 DecemberChristmas Day
26 DecemberBoxing Day

If January 1 or December 25 is a Saturday or Sunday, then the following Monday is holiday for New Year's Day. If January 2 or December 26 is a Saturday, then the Day after New Year's Day or Boxing Day is celebrated on the next Monday. If either of these days occurs on a Sunday, then the holiday occurs on the following Tuesday, as the Monday will have been used for New Year's or Christmas.

These holidays are legislated by several Acts of Parliament, particularly the Holidays Act 1981. Additionally, the Holidays Act 1981 specifies Provincial Anniversary Days to celebrate the founding days or landing days of the first colonists of the various colonial provinces. The regions covered are set by provincial district (as they stood when abolished in 1876), plus Southland, the Chatham Islands, South Canterbury and Northland. The actual observance days can vary even within each province and is due to local custom, convenience or the proximity of seasonal events or other holidays. This may differ from the official observance day, and may be several weeks from the official day.

Provincial Anniversary Days
Provincial DistrictincludesActual DayObservance Day
SouthlandInvercargill, Bluff, Milford Sound, Fiordland17 JanuaryVaries – determined by local custom and tourist season.
WellingtonWellington, Manawatu, Wanganui22 JanuaryMonday nearest to the actual day
AucklandWaikato29 JanuaryMonday nearest to the actual day
NorthlandWhangarei29 JanuaryMonday nearest to the actual day
NelsonNelson, Buller1 FebruaryMonday nearest to the actual day
OtagoDunedin23 MarchMonday nearest to the actual day
Taranaki (New Plymouth)New Plymouth31 MarchSecond Monday in March – to avoid Easter
South Canterbury25 SeptemberFourth Monday in September – Dominion Day
Hawkes' BayNapier, Hastings1 NovemberFriday before Labour Day
MarlboroughPicton1 NovemberFirst Monday after Labour Day
Chatham Islands30 NovemberMonday nearest to the actual day
WestlandWestport, Greymouth1 DecemberMonday nearest to the actual day (Greymouth)
Varies (outside Greymouth)
CanterburyChristchurch, Ashburton, Banks Peninsula16 DecemberChristchurch Show Day (Northern Canterbury)
Christchurch Show Day (Central Canterbury)
Second Friday after the first Tuesday in November (Christchurch City) – (To coincide with the Agricultural and Pastoral Show and avoid a holiday just a week before Christmas.

Vacations and Non-working days

In addition to the above holidays many New Zealand workers have three weeks vacation, often taken in the summer Christmas – New Year period. (As New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, the summer months are from December to February. Also the best summer weather often occurs during January and February.) In many industries this coincides with a Christmas – New Year shutdown for maintenance. With only 3 working days between Christmas and New Year, many workers take this time off, as they can have a 10 day summer break for only 3 days leave. Many retail outlets also hold sales at this time to stimulate business while others close down due to low demand for services. The days from 25 December to 15 January are not considered to be working days for official government purposes, although the public counters of most government departments do open weekdays during this period, though often only a limited service may be available.

School Holidays

New Zealand schools (now) have a 4 term year, of about 10 weeks each and 2 or 3 weeks holidays between terms. Although standard term dates are set by the Ministry of Education each year, schools can vary these to account for local holidays and school closures due to weather. The first term generally commences in late January and finishes so that Easter is celebrated within the holidays between terms 1 and 2. The holidays between terms 2 and 3 are generally known as the midwinter break and occur in July. While those between terms 3 and 4 occur in late September and early October. Term 4 ends in mid December, generally a week or two before Christmas, though for many senior students this term ends after their final examinations in early December.


New Zealand's most popular sports are rugby (primarily rugby union but also rugby league), soccer, (the most popular sport amongst children), cricket, and netball (the sport with the most players); golf, tennis, rowing and a variety of water sports, particularly sailing. Snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding are also popular.

Rugby as a sport is closely linked to New Zealand's national identity. The national rugby team is called the All Blacks and New Zealanders expect it to be able to beat the world. This style of name has been followed in naming the national team in several other sports. New Zealand's national sporting colours are not the colours of its flag, but are black and white (silver). The silver fern is a national emblem worn by New Zealanders representing their country in sport. The haka—a traditional Maori war dance—is often performed at sporting events. The All Blacks traditionally perform a haka before the start of play.

National teams:

New Zealand is world-famous among glider pilots for hosting the 1995 Gliding World Cup at Omarama in North Otago near the centre of the South Island. The Southern Alps are known for the excellent wave soaring conditions. Steve Fosset has recently tried to beat the world gliding altitude record there. (See external links.)

Auckland hosted the last two America's Cup regattas (2000 and 2003). In 2000, Team New Zealand successfully defended the trophy they won in 1995 in San Diego, but in 2003 they lost to a team headed by Ernesto Bertarelli of Switzerland whose Alinghi was skippered by Russell Coutts, the expatriate Kiwi who helmed the victorious Black Magic in 1995 and New Zealand in 2000.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Countries of the world  |  Oceania