New Zealand facts
|Anthem: God Defend New Zealand|
Location of New Zealand within the Realm of New Zealand
|Ethnic groups (2013)|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|-||Governor-General||Dame Patsy Reddy|
|-||Prime Minister||Jacinda Ardern|
|-||Chief Justice||Dame Sian Elias|
(House of Representatives)
|Stages of Independence from the United Kingdom|
|-||Responsible government||7 May 1856|
|-||Dominion||26 September 1907|
|-||Statute of Westminster adopted||25 November 1947|
|-||Total||268,021 km2 (76th)
103,483 sq mi
|-||2017 estimate||4,997,340 (123rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2016 estimate|
|-||Total||$173.2 billion (67th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2016 estimate|
|HDI (2015)|| 0.915
very high · 13th
|Currency||New Zealand dollar ($) (NZD)|
|Time zone||NZST (UTC+12)|
|-||Summer (DST)||NZDT (UTC+13)|
|Drives on the||left|
New Zealand i// (Māori: Aotearoa [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu—and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.
Sometime between 1250 and 1300 CE, Polynesians settled in the islands that later were named New Zealand and developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand. In 1840, representatives of Britain 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. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.7 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 recent broadening arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominant.
New Zealand is a developed country and ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as health, education, economic freedom and quality of life. Since the 1980s, New Zealand has transformed from an agrarian, regulated economy to a market economy. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently Bill English. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a governor-general. In addition, New Zealand is organised 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, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Islands Forum, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt, supposing it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America. In 1645, Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. British explorer James Cook subsequently anglicised the name to New Zealand.
Aotearoa (often translated as "land of the long white cloud") is the current Māori name for New Zealand. It is unknown whether Māori had a name for the whole country before the arrival of Europeans, with Aotearoa originally referring to just the North Island. Māori had several traditional names for the two main islands, including Te Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Māui) for the North Island and Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) or Te Waka o Aoraki (the canoe of Aoraki) for the South Island. Early European maps labelled the islands North (North Island), Middle (South Island) and South (Stewart Island / Rakiura). In 1830, maps began to use North and South to distinguish the two largest islands and by 1907, this was the accepted norm. The New Zealand Geographic Board discovered in 2009 that the names of the North Island and South Island had never been formalised, and names and alternative names were formalised in 2013. This set the names as North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui, and South Island or Te Waipounamu. For each island, either its English or Māori name can be used, or both can be used together.
New Zealand was one of the last major landmasses settled by humans. Radiocarbon dating, evidence of deforestation and mitochondrial DNA variability within Māori populations suggest New Zealand was first settled by Eastern Polynesians between 1250 and 1300, concluding a long series of voyages through the southern Pacific islands. Over the centuries that followed, these settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori. The population was divided into iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) who would sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete and sometimes fight against each other. At some point, a group of Māori migrated to the Chatham Islands (which they named Rēkohu) where they developed their distinct Moriori culture. The Moriori population was all but wiped out between 1835 and 1862, largely because of 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.
The first Europeans known to have reached New Zealand were Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and his crew in 1642. In a hostile encounter, four crew members were 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, artefacts 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 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.
In 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip assumed the position of Governor of the new British colony of New South Wales which according to his commission included New Zealand. The British Government appointed James Busby as British Resident to New Zealand in 1832 following a petition from northern Māori. In 1835, following an announcement of impending French settlement by Charles de Thierry, the nebulous United Tribes of New Zealand sent a Declaration of the 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 Great Britain 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, still part of the colony of New South Wales, became a separate Colony of New Zealand on 1 July 1841. 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 over all domestic matters other than native policy. (Control over native policy 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 the Cook Strait. Wellington was chosen for its harbour and central location, with parliament officially sitting there for the first time in 1865. As immigrant numbers increased, conflicts over land led to the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, resulting in the loss and confiscation of much Māori land.
In 1891 the Liberal Party led by John Ballance came to power as the first organised political party. The Liberal Government, later led by Richard Seddon, 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 1898 Seddon's government passed the Old-age Pensions Act of 1898, the first general pensions scheme in the British Empire.
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. Accordingly, the title "Dominion of New Zealand" dates from 1907. 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 Labour 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 criticised Eurocentrism and worked for greater recognition of Māori culture and of 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 iwi, although Māori claims to the foreshore and seabed have proved controversial in the 2000s.
As of June 2016, the population of New Zealand is estimated at 4.69 million and is increasing at a rate of approximately 2.1% per year. New Zealand is a predominantly urban country, with 73.0% of the population living in the seventeen main urban areas (i.e. population 30,000 or greater) and 53.7% living in the four largest cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton. New Zealand cities generally rank highly on international livability measures. For instance, in 2010 Auckland was ranked the world's fourth most liveable city and Wellington the twelfth by the Mercer Quality of Life Survey.
Life expectancy for New Zealanders in 2012 was 84 years for females, and 80.2 years for males. Life expectancy at birth is forecast to increase from 80 years to 85 years in 2050 and infant mortality is expected to decline. New Zealand's fertility rate of 2.1 is relatively high for a developed country, and natural births account for a significant proportion of population growth. Consequently, the country has a young population compared to most industrialised nations, with 20% of New Zealanders being 14 years old or younger. By 2050 the population is forecast to reach 5.3 million, the median age to rise from 36 years to 43 years and the percentage of people 60 years of age and older to rise from 18% to 29%. In 2008, the leading cause of premature death was cancer, at 29.8%, followed by ischaemic heart disease, 19.7%, and then cerebrovascular disease, 9.2%.
Largest urban areas in New Zealand
Statistics New Zealand June 2016 estimate
|5||Tauranga||Bay of Plenty||134,400||15||Whanganui||Manawatu-Wanganui||39,600|
|10||Rotorua||Bay of Plenty||57,800||20||Taupo||Waikato||24,100|
Ethnicity and immigration
In the 2013 census, 74.0% of New Zealand residents identified ethnically as European, and 14.9% as Māori. Other major ethnic groups include Asian (11.8%) and Pacific peoples (7.4%), of which two-thirds live in the Auckland region. The population has become more diverse in recent decades: in 1961, the census reported that the population of New Zealand was 92% European and 7% Māori, with Asian and Pacific minorities sharing the remaining 1%.
While the demonym for a New Zealand citizen is New Zealander, the informal "Kiwi" is commonly used both internationally and by locals. The Māori loanword Pākehā has been used to refer to New Zealanders of European descent, although others reject this appellation. The word Pākehā today is increasingly used to refer to all non-Polynesian New Zealanders.
The Māori were the first people to reach New Zealand, followed by the early European settlers. Following colonisation, immigrants were predominantly from Britain, Ireland and Australia because of restrictive policies similar to the white Australian policies. There was also significant Dutch, Dalmatian, German, and Italian immigration, together with indirect European immigration through Australia, North America, South America and South Africa. Following the Great Depression policies were relaxed and migrant diversity increased. In 2009–10, an annual target of 45,000–50,000 permanent residence approvals was set by the New Zealand Immigration Service—more than one new migrant for every 100 New Zealand residents. Just over 25% of New Zealand's population was born overseas, with the majority (52%) living in the Auckland region. The United Kingdom remains the largest source of New Zealand's overseas population, with a quarter of all overseas-born New Zealanders born there; other major sources of New Zealand's overseas-born population are China, India, Australia, South Africa, Fiji and Samoa. The number of fee-paying international students increased sharply in the late 1990s, with more than 20,000 studying in public tertiary institutions in 2002.
English is the predominant language in New Zealand, spoken by 96.1% of the population. New Zealand English is similar to Australian English and many speakers from the Northern Hemisphere are unable to tell the accents apart. The most prominent differences between the New Zealand English dialect and other English dialects are the shifts in the short front vowels: the short-"i" sound (as in "kit") has centralised towards the schwa sound (the "a" in "comma" and "about"); the short-"e" sound (as in "dress") has moved towards the short-"i" sound; and the short-"a" sound (as in "trap") has moved to the short-"e" sound.
After the Second World War, Māori were discouraged from speaking their own language (te reo Māori) in schools and workplaces and it existed as a community language only in a few remote areas. It has recently undergone a process of revitalisation, being declared one of New Zealand's official languages in 1987, and is spoken by 3.7% of the population. There are now Māori language immersion schools and two television channels that broadcast predominantly in Māori. Many places have both their Māori and English names officially recognised.
As recorded in the 2013 census, Samoan is the most widely spoken non-official language (2.2%), followed by Hindi (1.7%), "Northern Chinese" (including Mandarin, 1.3%) and French (1.2%). About 20,000 people use New Zealand Sign Language. It was declared one of New Zealand's official languages in 2006.
Christianity is the predominant religion in New Zealand, although its society is among the most secular in the world. In the 2013 census, 55.0% of the population identified with one or more religions, including 49.0% identifying as Christians. Another 41.9% indicated that they had no religion. The main Christian denominations are Roman Catholicism (12.6%), Anglicanism (11.8%), Presbyterianism (8.5%) and "Christian not further defined" (i.e. people identifying as Christian but not stating the denomination, 5.5%). The Māori-based Ringatū and Rātana religions (1.4%) are also Christian. Other significant minority religions include Hinduism (2.3%), Buddhism (1.5%) and Islam (1.2%). The indigenous Māori Christians tend to be associated with the Anglican and Catholic churches, while Pacific people tend to be Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic and Latter-day Saint adherents.
Primary and secondary schooling is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16, with the majority attending from the age of 5. There are 13 school years and attending state (public) schools is free to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents from a person's 5th birthday to the end of the calendar year following their 19th birthday. New Zealand has an adult literacy rate of 99%, and over half of the population aged 15 to 29 hold a tertiary qualification. There are five types of government-owned tertiary institutions: universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, specialist colleges, and wānanga, in addition to private training establishments. In the adult population 14.2% have a bachelor's degree or higher, 30.4% have some form of secondary qualification as their highest qualification and 22.4% have no formal qualification. The OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment ranks New Zealand's education system as the seventh best in the world, with students performing exceptionally well in reading, mathematics and science.
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 organisation was largely communal with families (whanau), sub-tribes (hapu) 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 regard 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 have been pervasive 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".
As part of the resurgence of Māori culture, the traditional crafts of carving and weaving are now more widely practised and Māori artists are increasing in number and influence. Most Māori carvings feature human figures, generally with three fingers and either a natural-looking, detailed head or a grotesque head. Surface patterns consisting of spirals, ridges, notches and fish scales decorate most carvings. The pre-eminent Māori architecture consisted of carved meeting houses (wharenui) decorated with symbolic carvings and illustrations. These buildings were originally designed to be constantly rebuilt, changing and adapting to different whims or needs.
Māori decorated the white wood of buildings, canoes and cenotaphs using red (a mixture of red ochre and shark fat) and black (made from soot) paint and painted pictures of birds, reptiles and other designs on cave walls. Māori tattoos (moko) consisting of coloured soot mixed with gum were cut into the flesh with a bone chisel. Since European arrival paintings and photographs have been dominated by landscapes, originally not as works of art but as factual portrayals of New Zealand. Portraits of Māori were also common, with early painters often portraying them as "noble savages", exotic beauties or friendly natives. The country's isolation delayed the influence of European artistic trends allowing local artists to developed their own distinctive style of regionalism. During the 1960s and 70s many artists combined traditional Māori and Western techniques, creating unique art forms. New Zealand art and craft has gradually achieved an international audience, with exhibitions in the Venice Biennale in 2001 and the "Paradise Now" exhibition in New York in 2004.
Māori cloaks are made of fine flax fibre and patterned with black, red and white triangles, diamonds and other geometric shapes. Greenstone was fashioned into earrings and necklaces, with the most well-known design being the hei-tiki, a distorted human figure sitting cross-legged with its head tilted to the side. Europeans brought English fashion etiquette to New Zealand, and until the 1950s most people dressed up for social occasions. Standards have since relaxed and New Zealand fashion has received a reputation for being casual, practical and lacklustre. However, the local fashion industry has grown significantly since 2000, doubling exports and increasing from a handful to about 50 established labels, with some labels gaining international recognition.
Māori quickly adopted writing as a means of sharing ideas, and many of their oral stories and poems were converted to the written form. Most early English literature was obtained from Britain and it was not until the 1950s when local publishing outlets increased that New Zealand literature started to become widely known. Although still largely influenced by global trends (modernism) and events (the Great Depression), writers in the 1930s began to develop stories increasingly focused on their experiences in New Zealand. During this period literature changed from a journalistic activity to a more academic pursuit. Participation in the world wars gave some New Zealand writers a new perspective on New Zealand culture and with the post-war expansion of universities local literature flourished. Dunedin is a UNESCO City of Literature.
Media and entertainment
New Zealand music has been influenced by blues, jazz, country, rock and roll and hip hop, with many of these genres given a unique New Zealand interpretation. Māori developed traditional chants and songs from their ancient South-East Asian origins, and after centuries of isolation created a unique "monotonous" and "doleful" sound. Flutes and trumpets were used as musical instruments or as signalling devices during war or special occasions. Early settlers brought over their ethnic music, with brass bands and choral music being popular, and musicians began touring New Zealand in the 1860s. Pipe bands became widespread during the early 20th century. The New Zealand recording industry began to develop from 1940 onwards and many New Zealand musicians have obtained success in Britain and the United States. Some artists release Māori language songs and the Māori tradition-based art of kapa haka (song and dance) has made a resurgence. The New Zealand Music Awards are held annually by Recorded Music NZ; the awards were first held in 1965 by Reckitt & Colman as the Loxene Golden Disc awards. Recorded Music NZ also publishes the country's official weekly record charts.
Radio first arrived in New Zealand in 1922 and television in 1960. The number of New Zealand films significantly increased during the 1970s. In 1978 the New Zealand Film Commission started assisting local film-makers and many films attained a world audience, some receiving international acknowledgement. The highest grossing New Zealand movies include: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Boy, The World's Fastest Indian, Once Were Warriors, and Whale Rider. Deregulation in the 1980s saw a sudden increase in the numbers of radio and television stations. New Zealand television primarily broadcasts American and British programming, along with a large number of Australian and local shows. The country's diverse scenery and compact size, plus government incentives, have encouraged some producers to film big budget movies in New Zealand, including Avatar, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong and The Last Samurai. The New Zealand media industry is dominated by a small number of companies, most of which are foreign-owned, although the state retains ownership of some television and radio stations. Since 1994, Freedom House has consistently ranked New Zealand's press freedom in the top twenty, with the 19th freest media in 2015[update].
Most of the major sporting codes played in New Zealand have British origins. Rugby union is considered the national sport and attracts the most spectators. Golf, netball, tennis and cricket have the highest rates of adult participation, while netball, rugby union and football (soccer) is popular among young people. Around 54% of New Zealand adolescents participate in sports for their school. Victorious rugby tours to Australia and the United Kingdom in the late 1880s and the early 1900s played an early role in instilling a national identity. Horseracing was also a popular spectator sport and became part of the "Rugby, Racing and Beer" culture during the 1960s. Māori participation in European sports was particularly evident in rugby and the country's team performs a haka, a traditional Māori challenge, before international matches.
New Zealand has competitive international teams in rugby union, netball, cricket, rugby league and softball, and has traditionally done well in triathlons, rowing, yachting and cycling. New Zealand participated at the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1912 as a joint team with Australia, before first participating on its own in 1920. The country has ranked highly on a medals-to-population ratio at recent Games. The "All Blacks", the national men's rugby union team, are the most successful in the history of international rugby and the reigning World Cup champions. New Zealand is known for its extreme sports, adventure tourism and strong mountaineering tradition, as seen in the success of notable New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary. Other outdoor pursuits such as cycling, fishing, swimming, running, tramping, canoeing, hunting, snowsports and surfing are also popular. The Polynesian sport of waka ama racing has increased in popularity and is now an international sport involving teams from all over the Pacific.
The national cuisine has been described as Pacific Rim, drawing inspiration from Europe, Asia and Polynesia. Popular ingredients or dishes include lamb, salmon, crayfish (lobster), dredge oysters, whitebait, pāua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (both are types of New Zealand shellfish), kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit, tamarillo and pavlova (considered a national dish). A hāngi is a traditional Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. After European colonisation, Māori began cooking with pots and ovens and the hāngī was used less frequently, although it is still used for formal occasions such as tangihanga.
Milford Sound is one of New Zealand's most famous tourist destinations.
The snow-capped Southern Alps dominate the South Island, while the North Island's Northland Peninsula stretches towards the subtropics.
The endemic flightless kiwi is a national icon.
The extinct moa (Megalapteryx didinus).
A statue of Richard Seddon, the "Beehive" (Executive Wing), and Parliament House (right), in Parliament Grounds, Wellington
Anzac Day service at the National War Memorial.
Māori Battalion haka in Egypt, 1941.
Rural scene near Queenstown
Autumn in Wellington
Central Plateau in winter
New Zealand Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.