New Zealand is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometers east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometers 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 isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life.
Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt. In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandiaafter the Dutch province of Zeeland.
Aotearoa is the current Māori name for New Zealand. Māori had several traditional names for the two main islands, including Te Ika-a-Māui the North Island and Te Waipounamu or Te Waka o Aoraki for the South Island. The New Zealand Geographic Board discovered in 2009 that the names of the North Island and South Island had never been formalized, and names and alternative names were formalized in 2013.
Today, the majority of New Zealand’s population of 4.5 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 with a market economy that is dominated by the exports of dairy products, meat and wine, along with tourism. New Zealand is a high-income economy and ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as health, education, economic freedom and quality of life. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. In addition, New Zealand is organized into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes.