New Zealand

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New Zealand (Aotearoa in the Maori language) is a temperate country located in the South West Pacific 1 600 km south-west of its nearest neighbour, Australia. It 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 m. 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 (2797m) is an active cone volcano. The total land area of New Zealand, 270 500km2 is somewhat smaller than that of Japan and the British Isles, and slightly larger than Colorado in the USA. The country extends more than 1600 km along its main, North-North East axis.

The capital city is Wellington. Other major cities include Auckland and Christchurch.

The climate througout the country is mild, rarely falling below 0C or rising above 30C. Average maximum daily temperature in Wellington is 5.9C in midwinter and 20.3C in mid summer.

New Zealand is an independent parliamentary democracy governed by a 120 member parliament, from which a 20 member executive cabinet is selected. This cabinet is led by the Prime Minister, currently (Dec 2001) Helen Clark of the centre-left Labour party, which governs in coalition with the further-left Alliance party. Currently six parties are represented in the New Zealand parliament. New Zealand's head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by the Governor General, Dame Silvia Cartwright.

New Zealand was one of the most recently settled major land masses. Polynesian settlers arrived, probably some time between 500 and 1300AD, and established the indigenous Maori culture. The first European explorers to reach New Zealand were Abel Janzoon Tasman, who arrived from the Netherlands in 1642, and James Cook, whose extensive surveys starting in 1769 lead to significant European colonisation from the 1790s on. Although the majority of the New Zealand population is now of European origin, Maori and Pacific islanders are the second and third largest ethnic groups, and Maori culture is a significant feature of New Zealand's public life.

New Zealand is a party to the Australia, New Zealand, United States security treaty (commonly known as ANZUS). In 1985 New Zealand refused to allow U.S. 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 is a modern, industrialised country. Its primary export industries are agriculture, horticulture, fishing and forestry. There are also substantial manufacturing, tourism and service industries.

A small sample of the beauty of New Zealand's landscape is displayed throughout the Xena and Hercules television series. But it really doesn't do it justice! Hopefully this will be rectified in the soon to be released first instalment of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

New Zealands most popular sports are Rugby, Cricket, Netball, Golf, Tennis, Rowing and as well as many water sports and snow sports which are all easily accessable. The country is perfectly suited to lots of fishing and hunting with an abundance of fish in the lakes and rivers, and all around its beautiful coastline, and lots of game in the many hills, forests and breathtaking mountains, including Red, Sika and Fallow Deer, Elk, Chamois and Tahr.

Further Reading:

Statistics New Zealand, "The New Zealand Official Yearbook, 1998", GP Publications, Wellington, 1998

Rice, Geoffrey W (Ed), "The Oxford History of New Zealand, Second Edition", Oxford University Press, Auckland, 1992.----

From the CIA World Factbook 2000. Not Wikified.

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Notice, don't remove: An earlier version of the above article was posted on Nupedia. This article is open content.