New Zealand

New Zealand is a remote, mountainous group of islands located off the southeast coast of Australia. 

New Zealand's two main islands, North and South Islands, are separated by the Cook Strait. Australia , its nearest neighbor, is 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away.

The islands were created just 23 million years ago when land was thrust out of the ocean by volcanic forces. New Zealand has more than 50 volcanoes, some of which are still active today. Sharp snowy peaks, rocky shores, and pastures create a majestic landscape.

The South Island is home to the highest mountain peak in New Zealand, Mount Cook, which rises to 12,316 feet (3,754 meters) and is called "Cloud Piercer" by the Maori people.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


New Zealanders, or "Kiwis" as they are called, have been shaped by their isolation. Today, most Kiwis are no longer farmers, with 86 percent of the population living in cities. More people live in the city of Auckland on North Island, than the whole population of South Island.

The Maori named the country, Aotearoa, "The Land of the Long White Cloud." The Maori culture is widely respected by New Zealanders and many parcels of land under dispute were returned to the Maori in 1998.

Rugby is the favorite sport and nearly everyone cheers on the national team, the All Blacks. Many Kiwis also enjoy cricket.

Because of its remote location, New Zealand is rich in unusual wildlife not seen anywhere else in the world. Nearly all the land animals are birds and many of these species have lost the ability to fly. The Maori people and European settlers introduced animals to the islands and the flightless birds had no defense against them.

In the last 1,000 years, half of all animals on the islands have become extinct. Deforestation and draining of swamp land is also threatening many remaining species, including the kiwi bird. Fewer than 75,000 wild kiwis remain. Several species are recovering, including the kakapo, kokako, kiwi, and tuatara.

Bats are the only land mammals to have made the ocean crossing. Birds and insects, such as the weta, evolved to fill the gap of mammals on the islands. The giant weta, at 2.5 ounces (70 grams), weighs three times more than a mouse. It is a relative of crickets and is considered one of the world's heaviest insects.

Pilot and humpback whales visit the islands on their way to breed, and orcas come to feed on dolphins.


New Zealand's government is based on the parliamentary democracy based on the system used in Britain. There are 122 seats in the House of Representatives and each is elected for a three-year term. Seven seats are reserved for the Maori and they are chosen by Maori voters.

There are two main parties, National and Labour. The party with the most elected representatives forms the government. The leader of the party is the Prime Minister.

Tourism is the main industry in New Zealand with over two million visitors a year. The main exports are lamb, butter, kiwifruit, and wine.

The Maori people arrived by canoe from islands in Polynesia near Tahiti around 1,000 A.D. In the 1600s, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited the islands, but his party left after being attacked. New Zealand was named Nieuw Zeeland after a region in the Netherlands.

In 1769, Captain James Cook came to the islands. The British established settlements and signed a treaty with the Maori in 1840. The Maori protested the treaty after their lands were seized, and in the 1860s, they began a 12-year war against the British for control of North Island. Peace was restored to the islands in the 1870s.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to give women the right to vote. The country became a dominion of Britain in 1907 and gained its independence from Britain in 1947.

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An Overview of the History and Geography of New Zealand

The History, Government, Industry, Geography, and Biodiversity of New Zealand

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  • Country Information
  • Physical Geography
  • Political Geography
  • Key Figures & Milestones
  • Urban Geography
  • M.A., Geography, California State University - East Bay
  • B.A., English and Geography, California State University - Sacramento

New Zealand is an island country located 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Australia in Oceania . It consists of several islands, the largest of which are the North, the South, Stewart, and Chatham Islands. The country has a liberal political history, gained early prominence in women's rights, and has a good record in ethnic relations, especially with its native Maori. In addition, New Zealand is sometimes called the "Green Island" because its population has high environmental awareness and its low population density gives the country a large amount of pristine wilderness and a high level of biodiversity.

Fast Facts: New Zealand

  • Capital: Wellington
  • Population: 4,545,627 (2018)
  • Official Languages : Maori, English 
  • Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy; a commonwealth realm
  • Climate: Temperate with sharp regional contrasts
  • Total Area: 103,798 square miles (268,838 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Aoraki/Mount Cook at 12,218 feet (3,724 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

History of New Zealand

In 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to discover New Zealand. He was also the first person to attempt mapping the islands with his sketches of the North and South islands. In 1769, Captain James Cook reached the islands and became the first European to land on them. He also began a series of three South Pacific voyages, during which he extensively studied the area's coastline.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Europeans began to officially settle on New Zealand. These settlements consisted of several lumbering, seal hunting, and whaling outposts. The first independent European colony was not established until 1840 when the United Kingdom took over the islands. This led to several wars between the British and the native Maori. On February 6, 1840, both parties signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which promised to protect Maori lands if the tribes recognized British control.

Shortly after signing this treaty, though, British encroachment on Maori lands continued and wars between the Maori and British grew stronger during the 1860s with the Maori land wars. Prior to these wars, a constitutional government began to develop during the 1850s. In 1867, the Maori were allowed to reserve seats in the developing parliament.

During the late 19th century, the parliamentary government became well-established and women were given the right to vote in 1893.

The Government of New Zealand

Today, New Zealand has a parliamentary governmental structure and is considered an independent part of the Commonwealth of Nations . It has no formal written constitution and was formally declared a dominion in 1907.

Branches of Government in New Zealand

New Zealand has three branches of government, the first of which is the executive. This branch is headed by Queen Elizabeth II who serves as the chief of state but is represented by a governor general. The prime minister, who serves as the head of government, and the cabinet are also a part of the executive branch. The second branch of government is the legislative branch. It is composed of the parliament. The third is the four-level branch comprised of District Courts, High Courts, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. In addition, New Zealand has specialized courts, one of which is the Maori Land Court.

New Zealand is divided into 12 regions and 74 districts, both of which have elected councils, as well as several community boards and special-purpose bodies.

New Zealand's Industry and Land Use

One of the largest industries in New Zealand is that of grazing and agriculture. From 1850 to 1950, much of the North Island was cleared for these purposes and since then, the rich pastures present in the area have allowed for successful sheep grazing. Today, New Zealand is one of the world's main exporters of wool, cheese, butter, and meat. Additionally, New Zealand is a large producer of several types of fruit, including kiwi, apples, and grapes.

In addition, the industry has also grown in New Zealand and the top industries are food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, transportation equipment, banking and insurance, mining, and tourism.

Geography and Climate of New Zealand

New Zealand consists of a number of different islands with varying climates. Most of the country has mild temperatures with high rainfall. The mountains, however, can be extremely cold.

The main portions of the country are the North and South islands that are separated by the Cook Strait. The North Island is 44,281 square miles (115,777 square kilometers) and consists of low, volcanic mountains. Because of its volcanic past, the North Island features hot springs and geysers.

The South Island is 58,093 sq mi (151,215 sq km) and contains the Southern Alps—a northeast-to-southwest oriented mountain range covered in glaciers. Its highest peak is Mount Cook, also known as Aoraki in the Maori language, at 12,349 feet (3,764 meters) above sea level. To the east of these mountains, the island is dry and made up of the treeless Canterbury Plains. On the southwest, the island's coast is heavily forested and jagged with fjords. This area also features New Zealand's largest national park, Fiordland.


One of the most important features to note about New Zealand is its high level of biodiversity. Because most of its species are endemic (i.e. native only on the islands) the country is considered a biodiversity hotspot. This has led to the development of environmental consciousness in the country as well as ecotourism .

Interesting Facts About New Zealand

  • There are no native snakes in New Zealand.
  • 76% of New Zealanders live on the North Island.
  • 15% of New Zealand's energy comes from renewable sources.
  • 32% of New Zealand's population lives in Auckland.
  • “The World Factbook: New Zealand.”  Central Intelligence Agency .
  • “ New Zealand. ”  Infoplease .
  • “New Zealand.”  U.S. Department of State .
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A brief history

New Zealand was the last large and livable place in the world to be discovered.

Maori culture at a Marae

Māori ancestors were the first settlers in New Zealand.

Māori settlement

The first people to arrive in New Zealand were ancestors of the Māori. The first settlers probably arrived from Polynesia between 1200 and 1300 AD. They discovered New Zealand as they explored the Pacific, navigating by the ocean currents, winds and stars.

Some tribal traditions say the first Polynesian navigator to discover New Zealand was Kupe. You can read more about Kupe in Te Ara - The New Zealand Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

First peoples in Māori tradition | Te Ara

The first Europeans

The first European to arrive in New Zealand was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. The name New Zealand comes from the Dutch ‘Nieuw Zeeland’, the name first given to us by a Dutch mapmaker.

British and French

A surprisingly long time passed — 127 years — before New Zealand was visited by another European. The Englishman Captain James Cook arrived here in 1769 on the first of 3 voyages.

European whalers and sealers then started visiting regularly, followed by traders.

By the 1830s, the British government was being pressured to reduce lawlessness in the country and to settle here before the French, who were considering New Zealand as a potential colony.

Treaty of Waitangi signed

On 6 February 1840 at Waitangi, William Hobson — New Zealand’s first Governor — invited assembled Māori chiefs to sign a treaty with the British Crown.

The treaty was taken all around the country — as far south as Foveaux Strait — for signing by local chiefs. More than 500 chiefs signed the treaty that is now known as the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi).

About the Treaty of Waitangi

The term 'Māori' did not exist until the Europeans arrived. It means 'ordinary' and Māori used it to distinguish themselves from the new, fair-skinned European settlers.   

The New Zealand wars

Māori came under increasing pressure from European settlers to sell their land for settlement. This led to conflict and, in the 1860s, war broke out in the North Island.

A lot of Māori land was taken or bought by the government during or after 20 years of war.

New Zealand wars | Te Ara

Economic growth

Meanwhile, in the South Island settlements things were going very well. Settlers set up sheep farms on the extensive grasslands and Canterbury became the country’s wealthiest province. Gold was discovered in Otago in 1861 and then on the West Coast, helping to make Dunedin New Zealand’s largest town.

In the 1870s, the government helped thousands of British people start a new life in New Zealand. Railways were built and towns sprang up or expanded.

In 1882, the first shipment of frozen meat from New Zealand made it successfully to England, proving that exporting chilled meat, butter and cheese was possible. New Zealand became a key supplier to Britain.

With an economy based on agriculture, much of the forest that originally covered New Zealand was cleared for farmland.

Social change, war and independence

Rights for women and workers.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant all women the right to vote. Not long after, New Zealand was the first country to offer state pensions and, in the late 1930s, state housing for workers.

South African war

New Zealand was keen to show its loyalty to the British Empire and sent troops to fight for Britain in the South African War in 1899. It was the first war New Zealand soldiers were sent overseas to fight.

New Zealand gains independence

We became increasingly conscious of our own nationalism. In the late 1890s, we turned down the chance to join the Australian Federation. Instead, New Zealand became an independent Dominion in 1907.

World War I and the ANZACs

Thousands of New Zealanders served and died overseas in the First World War.

The 1915 landing at Gallipoli in Turkey is regarded as a coming of age for our country. It established the tradition of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and a pride in New Zealand’s military achievement and its special relationship with Australia.

ANZAC Day, which remembers the Gallipoli landing, is a public holiday on 25 April each year. It is marked with increasingly well-attended ceremonies. To explain the history of the day and its significance to New Zealand today, WW100 has created brief guides translated into 3 languages.

A guide to ANZAC day | WW100

World War II

New Zealand troops fought overseas again in the Second World War in support of the United Kingdom (UK). However, the fall of Singapore shook New Zealanders’ confidence that Britain could guarantee the country’s security.

With most of our forces effectively stranded in Egypt and the Middle East, it was the United States that protected New Zealand against Japan during the war in the Pacific.

Korean and Vietnam wars

As a sign of friendship with the United States, New Zealand fought in Korea in the 1950s and - against much popular opposition - in Vietnam in the 1960s.

Expanding trade and cultural diversity

Britain was an important and assured market for our farm products. But when Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, New Zealand lost that important market. This was a blow to our trading community and to the country.

Luckily, New Zealand had already begun diversifying its export trade. So when Britain joined the EEC, that event encouraged New Zealand to widen its outlook. We now sell our farm goods and many other exports to a wide range of countries.

New Zealand has become a culturally diverse country. Particularly from the 1980s, a wide range of ethnic groups have been encouraged to settle here and New Zealand is now much more multicultural.

According to data from 2013 national Census, 25% of people living in New Zealand were born abroad, 15% are Māori, over 12% are Asian, and over 7% are from Pacific Island nations. Hindi is the fourth most common language in New Zealand, after English, Māori and Samoan.

More information

The New Zealand History website provides more detailed information on New Zealand's history.

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New Zealand Geography and History PowerPoint Presentation

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This 27 slide New Zealand PowerPoint Presentation provides an overview of its history, geography, government, economy, and culture.

  • Geography/overview - 10 slides
  • Flag - 1 slide
  • History - 4 slides
  • Government - 2 slides
  • Economy - 2 slides
  • Culture - 3 slides
  • Miscellaneous info - 4 slides

A link to download a version formatted for Google Slides is also included.

A worksheet that can be used with this presentation can be found here: New Zealand Worksheet .

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New Zealand

Culture name.

New Zealander

Alternative Name


Identification. Originally discovered by Polynesians between 1200 and 1300 C.E. , the country was settled by Maori ("the people") and areas were named after the iwi (tribes). In 1642, the Dutchman Abel Tasman named the land Staten Island. This was soon changed to Nieuw Zeeland, after Zeeland in Holland. Tasman was attacked and never landed, but in 1769, James Cook claimed sovereignty for George III of England.

Extensive European settlement did not begin until 1840, and New Zealand remained a Maori culture. Whalers from the United States and Britain frequently sailed New Zealand waters, married or had children with Maori women, and introduced trappings of Euro-American culture, especially muskets. Missionaries began their activities around 1814.

In the 1860s, gold was discovered, bringing Chinese miners from Australia as well as China and Hong Kong. The Chinese have remained, though they now are chiefly market gardeners and café owners and professionals. Business and banking were supported by a Jewish population. Other minorities who have retained much of their culture are Polish, Lebanese, Yugoslav, and Dutch.

Regional cultural distinctions tend to be between North Island and South Island, coinciding largely with population composition and size. Half a million Maori plus nearly two million Pakeha (Caucasians of Europeans descent) live in the north, and eight hundred thousand (mostly Pakeha) live in the south, culturally subdivided between English (Canterbury) and Scottish (Otago).

The emerging culture leans increasingly on Maori symbolism in art and literature. Maori culture ( taonga ) is being reinvented, and parts of it are incorporated in ceremonies and other public events. Visiting dignitaries receive a Maori welcome, and the All Black Rugby Team (the national team) performs a haka (challenge) before games.

Location and Geography. New Zealand is in the southwest Pacific Ocean and has three main islands—North, South, and Stewart—separated by the Cook Strait and the Foveaux Strait. Several other islands are under New Zealand's jurisdiction.

The three main islands are 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) long and 280 miles (450 kilometers) wide and contain great topographic and climatic variation. The Southern Alps run the length of the western part of the South Island, with peaks over 9,840 feet (3,000 meters). North Island has three peaks over 6,560 feet (2,000 meters), and there are three active volcanoes. Moving glaciers, deep fjords, and large lakes are characteristic of South Island. The climate varies from subtropical in Northland to continental in Central Otago.

The country was two-thirds deforested by the time of the European settlement, and so the high country is largely tussock (South Island) and secondary bush (North Island) with extensive pine plantations.

New Zealand

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English, but all government institutions and some private ones use Maori as well. While 99 percent of Maori speak English, few Pakeha speak Maori. Preschool Maori children attend Kohanga-reo (language nests) to learn Maori. Universities have Maori studies departments. Maori is a Malayo-Polynesian language.

Symbolism. A national flag, coat of arms, and anthem are important symbols. Other symbols tend to be commercial or cultural and are of Maori origin. The national airline has a stylized Koru (fern leaf), all the national sports teams have a fern leaf, the feathered cloak of a Maori chief is used on ceremonial occasions, and haka is performed before international rugby matches. The kiwi, a flightless, nocturnal bird unique to New Zealand, is the symbol for everything from New Zealand.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Maori have a commemorative and oral history whose major instrument of record is the genealogy ( whakapapa ), which is recorded in the structure of the marae (meeting house) and in the moko (tattoo) worn by many Maori. Maori history features ties with ancestors and with the land.

In 1819, east coast North Island tribes raided the west coast tribes. In 1820, the chief Hongi Hiki visited England, and secured muskets and ammunition. Upon his return, there began the "Musket Wars" on South Island. A state of tribal unrest and migration set in, and the 1820s was distinguished by the appearance of many Maori prophet-military leaders such as Te Rauparaha.

In 1823, Britons were extended protection by New South Wales (Australia), and ten years later, James Busby arrived as the first British resident. However, there were no plans for British settlement until 1839, when the New Zealand Company was ordered to establish British rule. The first settlers arrived in 1840, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The treaty has been a great source of disharmony between Maori and Pakeha. It was drawn up by a European whose Maori was not fluent and read to chiefs who were unfamiliar with instruments of diplomacy. The greatest ambiguities turned on ideas of sovereignty and ownership alien to the Maori. The British understood themselves to be offering protection in return for sovereignty and the right to use or buy land at nominal cost. In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was established to hear claims of abuse of the treaty. Many claims have resulted in return of land, cash compensation, restoration of rights to natural resources, and the handing over of businesses to Maori.

In the 1840s, there were fierce battles between Maori and Europeans. Although the British had an advantage in arms, Maori had an advantage in tactics, and their pa (fortresses) of earth and wooden palisades absorbed artillery shells. The British infantry had to get past the palisades and grapple hand to hand with Maori warriors.

In 1854, the first General Assembly opened and the first governor was appointed. In 1856, Henry Sewell became the first prime minister. Wars broke out again in the 1860s on North Island, but they were quickly suppressed. In 1865, the capital was transferred from Auckland to Wellington, which was considered more central.

Outbursts of Maori resistance were led by charismatic prophets—military leaders such as Te Kooti. However, under the second term of Thomas Grey, a division of the country into provinces and districts and the formation of a parliament with four Maori seats created a stable and unified colony. The last British (Australian) troops left in 1870. That year a national university was established. Women were enfranchised in 1893.

Culturally, the ideals of Europe were adhered to. European craftsmen built mansions for newly enriched land holders, bankers, gold dealers, and politicians. The Mechanics Institute and lending libraries were established, and cities, such as Dunedin, were built.

National Identity. The ruling institutions were British in origin and conduct but were open to Maori, and scholar-politicians such as Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) and Apirana Ngata achieved pre-World War II preeminence internationally. Maori have had their own parliamentary party, are members of parliament, and have sought to introduce elements of Maori culture into debates.

National identity involves icons more than institutions. Sportspersons in general are iconic national identities, with Sir Edmund Hillary at the summit.

A row of typical houses in Dunedin, of the colonial villa verandah style.

Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand include Cook Islanders, Samoans, Tongans, Tokelauans, Fijians, and Nieueans. Basically, they see themselves as being in New Zealand temporarily to earn money to send their children to school, but many remain permanently. Pacific Islanders tend to be concentrated in and around Auckland and Wellington. They are ghettoized and cling to their Christian views and cultural ways—Polynesian but not identical to each other or to Maori. Urban life, poverty, large families, and a large percentage of teenagers have led to ethnically based conflict in the cities. The recent high-profile immigration of Asians, many of them wealthy, has been accompanied by some ethnic tension.

Gang organization is a feature of the culture. The Mongrel Mob, Black Power, and the Nomads are the three prominent Maori gangs. Each gang, however, views each "chapter" as a family, or whanau. The White Knights is a Pakeha gang that tends toward machismo and racism. Leather jackets, patches, and motorcycles are the chief ritual objects.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Despite the rural image, 86 percent of the people live in the five main urban centers: Auckland (one million people), Wellington (nearly 360,000), Christchurch (332,000), Hamilton (160,000), and Dunedin (112,000).

Vernacular architecture has involved the colonial villa verandah style: single-story, wooden, with a central hallway, but with the principal bedroom often in the front of the house. State housing provided a standardized bungalow-style house often made of brick and rented to low-income families. These houses have been privatized.

The only distinctive style of architecture is the Maori marae . Its elaborately carved timbers represent origin myths and genealogies. There, a communal sleeping area, and a strict etiquette of greeting, precedence, speechmaking, and farewell is preserved.

A woman works at a factory for wool products in Dunedin, New Zealand.

As Europeans have become fifth-generation descendants, it has become increasingly important to them to represent their ancestors. Both Maori and Pakeha households are not complete without pictures of significant ancestors. Contemporary marae architecture derives from the elaborately carved storehouses and chiefs' houses of earlier times.

New Zealanders are inveterate trampers and campers. Countless tracks are maintained by the Department of Conservation or by local enthusiasts. The geometry of the landscape and the sense that it is very different from the city has been the most powerful influence on a unique style of painting.

New Zealanders try to have a hideaway cabin by the lake, the sea, or the stream. In North Island, this is known as a bach; in the South Island, as a crib. There is usually no running water or electricity.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Before 1975, the diet was based on meat, potatoes, temperate climate vegetables in season (cabbage, peas, beans, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli), bread, fruits in season, dairy products, and fish. Chicken was a restaurant delicacy, and the favorite fast food was the meat pie. Beverages were tea and beer. Since 1975, the cuisine has opened up to include a range of tropical and subtropical fruits, vegetables, and spices. It has taken advantage of its Mediterranean climate to produce wine. Food items are readily available in supermarkets. There are ubiquitous fast-food restaurants. However, there is no New Zealand cuisine. Christmas features the presentation of the turkey or ham, followed by the Christmas pudding. The Sunday roast is still served in the British tradition.

The Maori cuisine is based on seafood, mutton birds (young petrels), wild pork or fowl, fat lamb, and kumara. The method of cooking is the earth oven ( hangi ) in which stones are heated by fire, the fire is extinguished so that the stones steam, and a large sealed basket containing the food is buried over the stones and left to cook for several hours. When Maori gather for meetings on the marae, men and women jointly help prepare the food; men dig the hole, place the stones, and bury and remove the food.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. In the Burns Clubs, the Ceremony of Piping in the Haggis is observed. Otherwise, there is the availability of hot cross buns at Easter.

Basic Economy. New Zealand is an exporter of dairy, meat, fish, and fruit products, which now include processed foods such as wine, deer velvet, venison, smoked and pickled seafood, cheeses, and yogurt. Multinational food companies are moving their processing plants to Australia so that New Zealand-grown food often finds its way back via that country. Logging of plantation pine forests is a major industry, but relatively little processing is carried out. Thus, the food supply is in surplus, and imports are largely luxury items or processed items from Australia or "fresh" fruits and vegetables out of season. Reforms in the 1980s encouraged a reduction in the farming sector because of the weakening of the European and British markets for primary produce. It was proposed to industrialize New Zealand. Apart from oil and natural gas finds and one aluminum smelter, heavy industry is not viable. Manufacturing, assembly, and processing have been encouraged, but since they rely on imported machinery and services, this has not been successful. Motor car assembly and light engineering (especially electrical and electronic appliances) are the basis of the industrial sector.

The fastest growing sector of the economy is service: trade, hospitality, tourism, finance, consultancy, computer software, advertising and film, business services, and insurance.

Almost every household gardens and produces some fresh food for itself. Gardening is a universal hobby.

Land Tenure and Property. Under a clause in the Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown had the exclusive right to extinguish Maori title in land. Under these terms, the Crown had a monopoly over land purchases while bestowing title to land valid in English common law. The Crown became the largest landowner.

In Maori land tenure, tribal boundaries were defined by the putative area settled and utilized by the ancestors, modified by wars and invasions. An individual may claim the use of and the right to burial in the ancestral lands of either parent. The purchase of Maori land by the government created further fragmentation, and the Waitangi Tribunal has been set up to hear claims for compensation. Since the treaty was signed in 1840 and purchases were made until recently, and since Maori have become urbanized, the legitimacy of land claims is complex. Nevertheless, the sense of belonging to one area, the region of the ancestors, still is strong and is finding echoes among the Pakeha. Having reached a fifth generation of settlement, many families see themselves centered in the areas where they first arrived; as Maori have tribal hui (gatherings), Europeans have family reunions.

Other land can be bought and sold. Inheritance by individuals is entirely discretionary among both Maori and Pakeha, and all ownership follows the pattern of English common law. Crown land is managed by the relevant agencies (departments of conservation, forestry, agriculture, and fisheries); iwi lands are managed by elders ( kaumatua ), increasingly on a commercial basis.

Commercial Activities. New Zealand is a primary producer and exporter of meat, dairy products, wool, hides, fish and aquatic invertebrates, wood, fruit, aluminum, and fuels. Tourism is a growing industry.

Major Industries. Processing goods to a second stage or final stage occurs in the dairy industry. Alumina is processed to ingots for export. Cattle is processed for meat for export or for pet food. Wood converted to wood chips is exported for newsprint. Imported parts are assembled as automobiles and electrical and electronic goods. Chemicals are processed for fertilizers.

Trade. The primary export markets are the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Australia, Taiwan, and China. Markets are being developed in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) and Southeastern Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia).

Division of Labor. The formerly powerful trade unions are now toothless. New Zealand is a monetarist economy that is "restructuring" industries and businesses through the increased use of electronic information and communications procedures and American-inspired management techniques. Jobs are increasingly specialized, requiring certification or on-the-job training. An emphasis on strategy in marketing, stock keeping, accounting, and management rather than on-the-floor production has emphasized and rewarded the managerial class. Computer skills are virtually mandatory.

In 1997, unemployment was 6.7 percent, overall; Maori 16.9 percent; Pacific Islander, 15.3 percent; and Pakeha, 4.7 percent.

Social Stratification

A worker removes bird protection nets from wine grapes in a vineyard. New Zealand's Mediterranean climate is conducive to wine producing.

New Zealand has a well-established class society based on income. Cities have developed a "first settler" elite of "old" families claiming prestige and status and occupying the inner ring of the city. Not all are wealthy. Maori maintain a status structure based on mana (inherited or earned) and respect (of older for younger, female for male), though this has largely broken down in the cities.

Symbols of Social Stratification. There are ostentatious houses and expensive cars in some areas. The Maori chiefly class ( rangatira ) and chiefs ( ariki ) wear a feathered cloak (as do honored Pakeha) on special marae occasions. Cultural performances of Maori dances include the traditional kilt (male) and apron (female).

Political Life

Government. New Zealand is a member of the British Commonwealth, and the sovereign is represented by a governor general. Within the Commonwealth, New Zealand is autonomous and is governed by a house of representatives with one hundred twenty elected members of parliament from six political parties. The present government is the first to be elected under a system of proportional representation. A clear majority under this system is unlikely, and the government usually is a coalition.

Leadership and Political Officials. The national government is divided between executive (elected) and administrative officers. It is headed by a prime minister, twenty cabinet ministers, and several ministers outside the cabinet. Below these are regional government bodies divided into cities and districts led by mayors and councillors. Government departments are run on a day-to-day basis by chief executives recommended by the state services commissioner.

Social Problems and Control. The Privy Council in London is the final court of appeal but may deliver only an opinion, not a judgment. The New Zealand Court of Appeal is the highest national appeals court. Its findings must be observed by the High Court. The High Court holds hearings in the main centers. There are district courts (local), employment courts, family courts, youth courts, Maori land courts, and environment courts. There are also over one hundred tribunals dealing with small claims and complaints.

Community law centers, originally set up by law students, give legal advice to those who cannot afford lawyers. There are also victim support groups. The most notable effort at informal social control has been the attempt by Maori to be allowed to exercise whanau (family) authority over accused and accuser in the context of the marae, where the whanau confront each other and elders seek a settlement.

The country is divided into four police region, and there are about 6,500 full-time officers. There are seventeen armed offenders squads that are called out when firearms are involved. There is also a search and rescue service. Other than the armed offenders squad, police do not carry firearms.

Accusations of "racial bias" by police toward Maori and Polynesians have become more frequent, but attitudes toward the police vary with the social and economic circumstances of a person's life. Drug and alcohol abuse seems to be a common ingredient in a large proportion of public and domestic violence and crime.

Military Activity. The armed forces are small and participate in peacekeeping exercises under United Nations or other multinational auspices or independently, including regional training search and rescue operations, fisheries protection, Antarctic support, hydrographic survey, and disaster relief.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

New Zealand has a noncontributory income support scheme for the unemployed, disabled, and sick, for domestic purposes (low income/sole parent), and for retired persons. Numerous social services are government-funded but also rely on volunteers. The numerous services (school, church, club, victim support, etc.), are coordinated as the New Zealand Council of Social Services, which lobbies for changes in government welfare programs and agencies. It stresses biculturalism. There is a no-fault Accident Compensation Corporation funded by employer and employee levies.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Numerous charitable trusts supported by individual donations or corporate profits fund community activities from bagpiping to creche care. There are neighborhood watch organizations. School boards serve voluntarily. There are chapters of worldwide associations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Saint Vincent de Paul, Returned Services Association (veterans), and numerous charitable societies for the blind, the deaf, and the disabled.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The stereotype of women in the home and men in the workplace is slowly disappearing. There has been an increase in the number of de facto partnerships and a resulting lack of commitment of men financially and emotionally to children and domestic responsibility.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs seeks to enforce equal opportunity legislation. Shearing gangs are traditionally mixed (male shearers/female sorters), and trades and occupations are becoming less gender-based. There is one female bishop (Anglican), though congregations are overwhelmingly female. In 1996 there were forty women members of parliament, and in 1997 the first woman prime minister took office.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. New Zealand was shocked by the power of gender difference among Maori as shown in the movie Once Were Warriors . Many would argue that although those portrayed were Maori, the degree of domestic sexual abuse and violence is a feature of New Zealand society. Under law there is no gender discriminations. Though almost as many women as men graduate with doctorates, in 1997 there were 402 male professors and 46 female ones. All seven university vice-chancellors were male. Women have been most successful in business at the upper middle range of the executive level or as national magazine editors or heading their own niche companies. Some sports teams are mixed.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Except in Muslim, Hindu and a few Chinese groups, marriages are entered into by mutual choice. Marriage may be conducted by a celebrant, a Church priest, or a vicar. Parental consent is required if a partner is under 20 years of age. De facto relationships are officially recognized for inheritance and benefit purposes. In 1996, 43 percent of males and 41 percent of females over 15 years were married. The only ground for divorce is irreconcilable breakdown, signaled by the two parties living separately for two years. Traditional weddings are still in evidence, but more people plan their own, and minorities hew to their traditional forms.

A view of Queen Street, the main thoroughfare of Auckland, the largest city, with a population approaching one million.

Inheritance. If there is a legally drawn up will, property is bequeathed by the estate holder. Maori inherit rights to ancestral land, tattoos, and burial places.

Kin Groups. Maori have revived their traditional social organization into whanau (extended family), hapu (lineage), and iwi (tribe) in an effort to reclaim their identity and negotiate under the Treaty of Waitangi. Quasi-tribes descended from a known ancestor as well as iwi celebrate periodic gatherings ( hui ). That pattern is also followed by Pakeha with family reunions based on genealogical research.


Infant Care. Pakeha use playpens and place an infant in a separate crib, often in a separate room. Maori, especially in low-income and rural areas, have all children sleep together. Children, including infants, may spend as much time at an "aunty's" house as at the house of the natural mother. An "aunty" is any close female relative or friend who may provide full- or part-time infant and child care. Babies are usually put into prams, though commercial baby carriers also are used. Calming and stimulating are matters of individual philosophy.

Child Rearing and Education. New Zealand has a fully comprehensive education system. The Maori "renaissance" has resulted in special Maori education from preschools to middle schools. The Maori language is increasingly an option at all levels, and one aim is for a total education in Maori. Alternative schooling such as Montessori, Rudolph Steiner, home schooling, and state-run correspondence school is available and government-approved. Primary, intermediate, and high school are based on a British model, with uniforms from the intermediate level on and a prefect system with a head boy responsible for discipline. There are co-ed and single-sex schools. Obedience and being able to "take it" are still prized male values.

Higher Education. There are seven universities with 214,228 students and twenty-five polytechnics.

The sacred feature of the Maori is the head and so touching it is avoided. In the marae, the hongi (touching of noses) is the accepted greeting. Otherwise the handshake, the hug, and the cheek kiss are used, depending on the degree of intimacy. Verbal greetings includes "Hello," "How are you?" "Gidday," and, especially, in North Island, Kia Ora ("Good health," "Are you well?"). Men enjoy "mateship," which involves close contact, but otherwise contact distance is arm's length. Behavior in public places is orderly, and good humor is expected. Depending on how recently they have arrived in the country, immigrants and refugees maintain their own customs but gradually adapt, especially in school.

Religious Beliefs. Sixteen religious sects are represented—with the Anglican Church (18.4 percent) the largest, followed by Catholic (13.8 percent) and Presbyterian (13.4 percent). Twenty-six percent of the people have no religious affiliation. The Pentecostal, Buddhist, and Muslim religions have had the greatest degree of increase.

Religious Practitioners. Archbishops, bishops, priests, presbyters, rabbis, imams, mullahs, elders, and pastors are office holders in New Zealand branches of worldwide churches. There is one Maori church (Ratana), and Maoridom makes wide use of the sacred-secular healing and counseling powers of the tohunga , a specialist in medicine and spirit belief.

Rituals and Holy Places. Rites of the Christian calendar are observed. Cathedrals are present in every major city, and many rural areas maintain small wooden parish churches. Cemeteries are controlled by local bodies, except for Maori burial grounds. Statues of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Pakeha public figures and war memorials are universal. Their disfigurement has become a sign of Maori protest. Waitangi has become a national memorial, as has One Tree Hill in Auckland, both marking significant events in the evolution of early Maori–European relations. Birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths may be privately or publicly commemorated.

A boy and a wooden Maori sculpture. Maori tribes were among New Zealand's first settlers.

Medicine and Health Care

The former welfare state established a wide network of hospitals, clinics, visiting professionals, free medicine, and free treatment funded from taxes. Political reform led to a mixed system of care based on subsidization, along with legislation allowing for medical insurance and private hospitals. These reforms have generated considerable political debate.

Traditional medicine practiced by tohungas has always been resorted to by Maori, while some Pakeha utilize alternative medical system. All forms of medical practice emphasize a close interaction between the physical and the nonphysical. "Natural" medicines are widely available in health shops, and pharmaceutical medicines are available in licensed pharmacies.

Secular Celebrations

New Year's Day, Waitangi Day, a special assembly at Waitangi of public dignitaries, the queen's birthday, and the anniversary of a province are celebrated.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Profits from the state-run lottery are used by Creative New Zealand to provide funds for the arts. Individual and corporate trusts also support both arts and sport.

Literature. The art of oratory is highly prized among the Maori, who speak extemporaneously but use traditional formulas and references. The Montana Book Awards are a national competition for all categories of writing. Many authors have international reputations and have been winners of overseas competitions. There is a large collection in the national and city libraries of rare European manuscripts as well as private collections. Early missionary influence was the most influential force for Maori and Pakeha literacy.

Graphic Arts. Cities such as Dunedin have state-of-the-art public art galleries. All forms of graphic arts are practiced, and a national style has emerged, blending Maori and European elements. Training in traditional Maori carving has been widely taken up.

Performance Arts. There is a National Symphony Orchestra and at least two first-class city symphony orchestras. The National Youth Orchestra meets once a year. The Royal New Zealand Ballet tours the country. Other national arts organizations are the New Zealand Drama School, Chamber Music New Zealand, New Zealand Choral Foundation, and the New Zealand Film Commission. Local operatic, choral, drama, and orchestral groups are numerous, and New Zealanders perform in a large number of bands. European opera and classical music are the staple fare at one end, with New Zealand composers receiving regular performances, while pop music is locally generated. European drama and ballet prevail, but New Zealand producers and choreographers produce their own versions, and there are many dramatists. Traditional Maori dancing and singing ( waiata ) are presented widely. Most television programming is imported, but New Zealand produces a soap opera and nature documentaries.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

All universities have state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, as do the larger research hospitals. There are also Crown Research Institutes and private research institutes. There is a Ministry of Science and Technology. Much government-funded research is linked to agriculture and geology. Medical research is prominent. New Zealand has proved adept at computer software innovation, small electronic devices, and sporting innovations. Polytechnics train mechanics and tradespeople.

All universities and some polytechnics teach the social sciences. Social scientists are increasingly employed by government and private agencies and firms dealing with or employing multicultural districts and workforces. Private consultants carry out "social impact" studies of new industrial, agricultural, and developmental projects. Economists have a direct input into economic policy.


Belich, James. Making Peoples: A History of New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century, 1996.

Duff, Alan. Once Were Warriors, 1993.

Kawharu, Hugh. Maori Land Tenure: Studies of a Changing Institution, 1977.

New Zealand Official Year Book 1998, 1998.

Salmond, Anne. Between Worlds: Early Exchanges between Maori and Europeans 1773–1815, 1997.


User Contributions:

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Visit the Maori meeting house at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Waitangi, Northland & Bay of Islands

By Northland Inc

New Zealand has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting our unique mix of Māori and European culture.

Today New Zealand is home to more than 5 million people. Learn more about how our  cultural diversity came about in this young country. 

Māori were the first to arrive in New Zealand, journeying in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. A Dutchman, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight the country but it was the British who made New Zealand part of their empire. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, an agreement between the British Crown and Maori. It established British law in New Zealand and is considered New Zealand’s founding document and an important part of the country's history. The building where the treaty was signed has been preserved and, today, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds  are a popular attraction.

You'll find amazing Māori historic sites and taonga (treasures) - as well as beautiful colonial-era buildings - dotted throughout the country. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country we have become.

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New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa) is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is part of Australasia.New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. The country has two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui), and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi).

  • The capital city of New Zealand is Wellington.
  • Its currency is the New Zealand dollar.
  • This island country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, an organisation of 52 countries - most with a shared history as part of the former British Empire. This is why we can see the Union Jack (the British flag) on the New Zealand flag, and why Queen Elisabeth II is queen of New Zealand.
  • They also drive on the left of the road.
  • The country has three official languages: English, Maori, and the New Zealand sign language.

Basic facts

James Cook, an English explorer, landed in New Zealand.

In 1840, representatives of the United Kingdom and Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which declared British sovereignty over the islands.

New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote

Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand.He called the islands "Nieuw Zeelandt"

During World War I, one hundred thousand NewZealanders (one tenth of the population) fought overseas under British orders.

New Zealand gained full statutory independence in 1947 and the British monarch remained the head of state

New Zealand became a dominion

New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire, but Brits and Maoris had different interpretations of the treaty, and this led to wars in the 1860s.

Because of its remoteness, New Zealand was the last large habitable land to be settled by humans. Between about 1280 and 1350, Polynesians began to settle in the islands and developed a distinctive Māori culture

13th century

A brief history

Watch this video and make a list of all the activities Carlos did during his two-week trip.

Backpacking around NZ

New Zealand's stunning landscapes captivated movie fans around the world as the unbilled star of the hugely successful The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Lord of the rings

Made popular by the New Zealand All Blacks, the national rugby team, the Haka is a Māori war dance that was traditionally saved for the battlefield. The action-packed dance is a display of strength and pride, which includes powerful stomps of the feet, wide eyes and the well-known tongue poking.

Rugby and haka

This is a marae, Maraes are tribal meeting grounds, and they offer unique opportunities to discover more about their culture and history first-hand. Some of the activities you can witness at maraes include speeches and displays of traditional Māori singing and dancing, but you have to be invited in.

Maori culture

New Zealanders are colloquially known as Kiwis. This nickname comes from the kiwi, a small bird that can't fly and that only lives in NZ. Largely hunted, this species is endangered. It has become the national animal of New Zealand.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Matching exercise (if it is too small, click on the icon top right to see it in full screen)

Time to play

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

To see more about the country, visit the the official tourism website for New Zealand

Unravelling Imperial Knots: Teaching New Zealand History Contrapuntally

  • Published: 28 December 2021
  • Volume 57 , pages 69–86, ( 2022 )

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I use Edward Said’s (in: Culture and imperialism, Vintage, 1993) theory, that nations ‘are narrations: who owned land, could settle, plan its future, are all stories of imperialism. The history teacher could not only consider ‘what to read’, but also ‘how to read’ taking account of the processes of imperialism; of the macro-history of world systems and micro-history of individuals within these. I examine Said’s theory in the context of New Zealand history, looking at four interconnected aspects: expropriation of land, trading in goods, appropriation of botanical knowledge, and the place of education in telling the story of the nation. I suggest that using this as a model, teachers can seek out local stories, ensuring several perspectives are heeded and linked to the bigger narratives of the colonial past and present.

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Kinship group, clan, tribe, subtribe

Refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor and associated with a distinct territory

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Stuart, M. Unravelling Imperial Knots: Teaching New Zealand History Contrapuntally. NZ J Educ Stud 57 , 69–86 (2022).

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a brief history of new zealand

A Brief History of New Zealand

Mar 26, 2019

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A Brief History of New Zealand. EDFS 380 Spring 2010. Geological Perspective. Solo land mass for 85 million years Flora and fauna evolve in isolation No mammals Birds take over ecological niche Southern Alps youngest in world and growing fast. A Long Journey. 4000 BC Taiwan

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A Brief History of New Zealand EDFS 380 Spring 2010

Geological Perspective • Solo land mass for 85 million years • Flora and fauna evolve in isolation • No mammals • Birds take over ecological niche • Southern Alps youngest in world and growing fast

A Long Journey • 4000 BC Taiwan • 1500 BC West Pacific- Soloman Island Migration • 200 BC Tahiti and Cook Islands

1300 • Arrival of Maori in wakas • Migrate to South Island over 100 years • Highly developed war culture • Highly organized and versatile society • Rapid evolution of art and technology

1742- 1769 • 1742- Abel Tasman • Mistakes Land Mass for South America • 1769- James Cook • Searches for the “Great Southern Continent”

1840 • Treaty of Waitangi • Article 1-Sovereignty of Queen vs Rangitirana- the chiefdom the power remains with Maori • Article 2- Protection of lands, fisheries and taonga • Article 3- Rights of British citizenship • 2000 Pakeha • 100,000 Maori

1840 • First Major Pakeha Settlement • 12,000 Rural Laborers with Families • Desire for Land and New World

1860 • 100,000 Pakeha • Maori Become Minority • Treaty Promises Broken

New Zealand Wars • Simultaneous with US Civil War • Affects NZ Identity in Similar Way • 10,000 Dead

1880 • Economic Depression • Aging Pioneer Population • Unemployment

1890 • Richard Seddon Becomes Prime Minister • Introduces the welfare state • core set of NZ values • old age pension • education • government housing • Voting rights for women (1893)

1890 • Refrigeration Revolutionizes Economy • Keep Meat Cold • Export to Britain • Create Dairy Industry • Boer War • Foot soldiers for British Army • Reputation as good at war and rugby

1938 “When the state ran supreme” • 1947 New Zealand gains sovereignty over law making

1984 • Prime Minister David Longy • Fundamental challenging of earlier core values: • Own distinctive foreign policy as war neutral • Anti nuclear • Pacific trade- Asia, Japan, Australia, • Maori rights (reconciliation and recompense) • schools • language • land • More women in positions of power • Urban society • Immigration policy changes

1990s • Over .5 million Maori • Growing faster than Pakeha • High degree of intermarriage • Urban culture • 60% of those in law and medicine are women

2000s • One of three countries without written constitution • Labour party • Center left • Prime Minister Helen Clark (1999-2008) • Civil unions • No smacking • Prostitution- • National party • elected in November 2008 • Prime Minister John Key

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  1. New Zealand

    Conrad Alexander Blyth, Warren Moran Professor of Geography, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Editor of Auckland and the Central North Island. Warren Moran See All Fact-checked by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

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    Population: 4,545,627 (2018) Official Languages: Maori, English Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD) Form of Government: Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy; a commonwealth realm Climate: Temperate with sharp regional contrasts Total Area: 103,798 square miles (268,838 square kilometers)

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    Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand; 2. Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society; 3. The course of Aotearoa New Zealand's history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power.

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    PPT - History of New Zealand PowerPoint Presentation, free download - ID:2001385 Presentation Download 1 / 10 Download Presentation >> History of New Zealand Apr 02, 2019 370 likes | 1.24k Views History of New Zealand. Made by Filip Borek C3C. Polynesian foundation.

  19. History of new zealand

    Jan 12, 2017 • 3 likes • 415 views Download Now Download to read offline Education 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.

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  21. Encounters

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    History 1970 NZ declared independent dominion 1973 Market crash due to the British joining European Economic Community. 13. Culture Friendly, welcoming, punctual Backyard Genius Outdoor People Water Passion. 14. Culture Pavlova Rugby Christmas 25th December, middle of summer, "Meri Kirihimete". 15.

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    Mar 26, 2019 170 likes | 435 Views A Brief History of New Zealand. EDFS 380 Spring 2010. Geological Perspective. Solo land mass for 85 million years Flora and fauna evolve in isolation No mammals Birds take over ecological niche Southern Alps youngest in world and growing fast. A Long Journey. 4000 BC Taiwan Download Presentation land