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New Zealand MAP AND DESCRIPTION
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New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa) is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses ‒ that of the North and South Islands ‒ as well as numerous 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 nations 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 isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of both animal and plant life. Most notable are the large number of unique bird species, many of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and introduced mammals. With a mild maritime climate, the land was mostly covered in forest. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions caused by the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates clashing beneath the earth's surface.

New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty which includes: jagged mountains, steep fiords, pristine lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic features. The islands are one of Earth's richest flora zones and is inhabited by some unique fauna, including many flightless birds such as the kiwi, which is the national symbol. The Maori culture continues to play an important part in everyday New Zealand life, and there are abundant opportunities for the visitor to understand and experience the history and the present day form of Maori life. The country is sparsely populated but easily accessible. New Zealand has modern visitor facilities, and developed transportation networks. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature, and is the home of jetboating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.

Geography
New Zealand consists of two main islands and many smaller ones in the South Pacific Ocean approximately 1,600 km (1,000 mi) southeast of Australia. With a population of four million in a country about the size of the United Kingdom, many areas are sparsely settled. Be sure to allow sufficient time to travel in New Zealand as distances are large, and roads wind along the coast and through mountain ranges, particularly on the South Island. It is possible to tour for three or four weeks on each island, although you can certainly see highlights in far less time. Auckland, with a population of around 1.5 million people, is the largest city in Polynesia.

Climate
New Zealand has a temperate climate - winters are fairly cold in the south of the South Island but mild in the north of the North Island. The nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F)and only fall below 0°C (32°F) in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds. Part situated in the Roaring Forties, unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington. The winds seem to be stronger around the equinoxes. In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.

Settlement and history
New Zealand was the last significant land mass to be inhabited by humans, both in terms of indigenous settlement and European colonization. This, combined with geological youth and geographical isolation, has led to the development of a young, vigorous nation with a well-travelled, well-educated expatriate population of 1,000,000. One in four born New Zealanders and and in three between ages 22 and 48 have left their place of birth for more favourable locations. The Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in about 800 AD. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, in 1642, was the first European to see New Zealand after the Portuguese expedition led by Cristovao de Mendonça over a hundred years before in 1521-1524. However this is a disputed claim by historians and in 1642 Tasman mapped the country's coastline, and so forth it appeared on Dutch maps as "Nieuw Zeeland" from as early as 1645. British naval Captain James Cook rediscovered, circumnavigated and mapped the islands in 1769. A few people, mostly sealers, whalers, traders and missionaries, settled during the next 80 years and the islands were administered by the British colony in New South Wales.

In 1840, with the assistance of missionaries, the Maori agreed to accept British sovereignty over the islands through the Treaty of Waitangi. More intensive settlement began that same year. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872, coupled with political manoeuvring and the spread of European diseases, broke Maori resistance to land settlement, but left lasting grievances. In recent years the government has sought to address longstanding Maori grievances, and this is a complicated process. In 2005, the Maori Party was formed, in part in response to the Government's law on the Foreshore and Seabed but also to promote an independent Maori perspective at a political level. When the six British colonies federated to form Australia in 1901, New Zealand decided not to join the federation. Instead, the British colony of New Zealand became a dominion in 1907. It was offered complete independence under the 1931 Statute of Westminster, although it did not adopt this until 1947. All remaining constitutional links with the United Kingdom were severed with the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act by both parliaments in 1986, though the British queen remains the Head of State with an appointed Governor-General as her representative in New Zealand. However the Constitution of Australia permits New Zealand to join as another Australian state. New Zealand supported the United Kingdom militarily in the Boer War of 1899–1902, as well as both World Wars. It also participated in wars in Malaya, Korea and Vietnam under various military alliances, most notably the ANZUS treaty with Australia and the United States. New Zealand's population has strongly opposed the testing and use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear armed warship visits meant that the Parliament enacted anti-nuclear legislation in the mid-1980s. This led to the abandonment of New Zealand's commitment to the ANZUS defence alliance.

People
A former British colony, it has a population mainly of European descent, with a sizeable indigenous Maori minority, a similarly sized Asian minority, and smaller minorities of various Polynesian and other groups.

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