New Zealand is a island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the country is composed of two major land masses – which are the North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui and the South Island or Te Waipounamu – as well as many small islands. New Zealand is located about 1,500 kilometers east of Australia over the Tasman Sea and about 1,000 kilometers south of the Pacific islands of New Caledonia Fiji and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last countries to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand has developed a distinct biodiversity of animals, fungi and plants. The country’s varied topography and steep peaks, such as the Southern Alps, have much to do with tectonic land uplift and volcanic eruptions. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington, while Auckland is the most populous city.
Between 1250 and 1300 AD, Polynesians settled on the islands that later became New Zealand and developed a distinctive Maori culture. Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, was the first European to see New Zealand in 1642. In 1840, British Crown officials along with Maori leaders officially signed The Treaty of Waitangi, which made New Zealand a British colony. Today, the majority of New Zealand’s 4.7 million inhabitants are of European descent. Indigenous Maori represent the dominant minority, which is followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. For this reason, New Zealand’s culture derives mainly from Maori and early British settlers, with recent expansion due to increased immigration. The official languages are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominating.
New Zealand is a developed market economy. It is a high-income economy with high rankings for international benchmarks of national performance including health, education, and economic freedom as well as the quality of life. At the national level, legislative power rests with an elected unicameral parliament, while executive political power rests with the cabinet, headed by the prime minister, who is currently John Key. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the country and is represented by a governor-general. Additionally, for the purposes of local government, New Zealand has been arranged with 11 regional councils along with 67 territorial departments.
Geography of New Zealand
New Zealand consists of two main islands (the North Island and the South Island) and many smaller islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,600 km southeast of Australia. With a population of 4.7 million in a country the size of the United Kingdom or Italy, many areas are sparsely populated. The South Island is larger than the North Island and is sometimes called ” the mainland,” though it has only 1/3 the population of the North Island.
Make sure you have enough time to travel around New Zealand. It’s definitely worth touring each island for at least three or four weeks, although you can certainly see highlights in much less time. Roads wind along the coast and through mountain ranges, especially on the South Island. In exit surveys at Christchurch International Airport, many international visitors said they had underestimated the time it would take to really enjoy their visit.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and Polynesia, with a population of about 1.49 million. A city with a population of over 1 million, it is also the most remote city in the world – the closest equivalent city is Sydney, 2,150 km away. Wellington, on the southern tip of the North Island, is the country’s capital and third largest city (population 207,000). It replaced Auckland as the capital of the country in 1865 when the parliament had decided to relocate to a more central location.
People in New Zealand
As of June 2016, 4.69 million people live in New Zealand. Just under 1.10 million live on the South Island, the majority on the North Island. Waiheke Island in the Gulf of Hauraki off the coast of Auckland is by far the most populous offshore island, with 9,200 inhabitants. Over half of the country’s population lives in the four largest urban areas: Auckland (1,495,000), Wellington (405,000), Christchurch (390,000) and Hamilton (230,000).
New Zealand, a former British colony, has a population of primarily European descent with a substantial indigenous Māori minority and significant Asian and Polynesian groups. Approximately 11% of people in New Zealand are identified with more than one ethnic group, the most common being the combination of Europeans and Māori.
About 43.5% of New Zealanders are Christian, 38.5% are non-religious, and 6% follow non-Christian religions (12% of New Zealanders did not answer the question).
Time zones in New Zealand
New Zealand leads the world in time!
Part of New Zealand but 800 kilometers east of Christchurch, the Chatham Islands observe Chatham Islands Standard Time (CIST) by adding 12 hours and 45 minutes to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), resulting in UTC + 12: 45. Nepal is the only other formal time zone with a 45-minute increment of UTC. The Line Islands of Kiribati; Tonga and Samoa are the only time zones further ahead of UTC.
The main islands of New Zealand are 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (UTC + 12 = NZST = New Zealand Standard Time) and 20 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST).
Daylight saving time (UTC + 13 = NZDT = New Zealand Daylight Time) begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday in April.
Economy of New Zealand
New Zealand has a high-income advanced economy with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $36,254. The currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, known as the “Kiwi dollar.” It also circulates in the Cook Islands , Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands. In 2013, New Zealand was ranked 6th on the Human Development Index.
Historically, the extractive industry has been a strong contributor to New Zealand’s economy, focusing at different times on sealing, whaling, flax, gold, cow gum, and native timber. With the development of refrigerated shipping in the 1880s, meat and dairy products were exported to Britain, a trade that formed the basis for strong economic growth in New Zealand. During the 50s and 60s, the increased demand for agricultural products from the UK and the US has helped New Zealanders to create a high standard of living compared to Western Europe and Australia. During 1973, New Zealand’s export market decreased when the UK became a member of the European Community. Other factors, such as the 1973 oil and energy crisis, led to a severe economic depression. Living standards in New Zealand lagged behind those in Australia and Western Europe, and by 1982 New Zealand had the lowest per capita income of any industrialized nation surveyed by the World Bank. New Zealand de-regulated its agriculture sector during the mid-1980s, allowing subsidies to be phased out over a period of 3 years. Since 1984, successive governments have implemented large-scale macroeconomic reforms, rapidly changing New Zealand from a highly protectionist economy to a liberalized free-trade economy.
Unemployment peaked above 10% in 1991 and 1992 after the 1987 stock market crash, but fell to a record low of 3.4% in 2007 (ranking fifth out of 27 comparable OECD countries). However, the ensuing global financial crisis had a significant impact on New Zealand, with GDP contracting for five consecutive quarters, the longest recession in over thirty years, and unemployment rising again to 7% in late 2009. In May 2012, the General The unemployment rate was 6.7%, while the unemployment rate for youth aged 15-21 was 13.6%. In September 2014, unemployment was 5.4%. New Zealand has experienced a series of “brain drains” since the 1970s that continue today. Nearly a quarter of the highly skilled workforce lives overseas, mainly in Australia and the UK. This is the largest proportion of any industrialized nation. In recent years, however, a “brain gain” has attracted educated professionals from Europe and less developed countries.
Politics in New Zealand
The New Zealand government is largely based on the British Westminster system of government. Unlike most Westminster systems, however, the New Zealand Parliament has only one chamber, the popularly elected House of Representatives with 121 members. Elections are held every three years under the mixed proportional voting system, a form of proportional representation in which members are elected from both nationwide party lists and local constituencies.
The prime minister is the head of government and usually the leader of the political party with the most seats in parliament. The current prime minister is John Key, leader of the center-right National Party in the House of Representatives. The four major parties in New Zealand are the National Party, the center-left Labour Party, the left-wing environmental Green Party, and the populist New Zealand First Party.
Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. On the advice of the prime minister, she appoints a governor general to represent her in New Zealand. The royal and viceregal roles are largely ceremonial and politically powerless, and the prime minister has the greatest authority in government.
New Zealand was the first modern country in the world to grant women the right to vote, as early as September 19, 1893. However, women were not allowed to stand for election to Parliament until 1919, and it was 1933 before New Zealand had its first female MP. In 2005 and 2006, New Zealand had the distinction of having all five high-level political offices (monarch, governor general, prime minister, speaker of the house, chief justice) held by women.
Below the national government, New Zealand is divided into 16 regions and, separately, 65 cities and districts. Since regions have been based on their physical geography while cities and districts are based on human geography, several districts fall into 2 or more regions.