New Zealand

"Great place to Relax"

New Zealand History/Government and Other

  • The first inhabitants of New Zealand were Maori, a Polynesian people who are thought to have arrived in a series of migrations beginning in the 9th century A.D. The Maori settled mainly on the warmer, more luxuriant forest-clad North Island. Only later did they make their way to the South Island.
  • When discovered in 1642 by the Dutch navigator Abel Janszoon Tasman, the Maori were cannibals in an advanced state of Neolithic civilization. They remained virtually unknown to Europe until rediscovered in 1769 by Capt. James Cook when he circumnavigated New Zealand.
  • In 1833 the first administrator arrived; he lacked adequate support, however, and proved ineffective. As a result, Britain finally decided to take possession of the islands.
  • In the New Zealand Wars (formerly known as the Maori Wars; 1860-1872), the Maori people tried unsuccessfully to defend their ancestral lands on the North Islands of New Zealand from encroachment by British settlers. Among whites the wars were popularly known as "the fire in the fern." A number of the Maori tribes united to form a kingdom in 1858 and soon came into conflict with land-hungry colonists. In the Taranaki Wars (1860-1863), fighting was concentrated in the area around New Plymouth; in the Waikato War (1863-1864) it moved to the country south of Auckland. In the last war (1864-1872) several tribes fought on the government side against Maori militants, many of whom belonged to the Hauhau (Pai Marire) and Ringatu religious movements. The wars ended in defeat for the Maori, who lost their independence and much of their land.
  • New Zealand's leaders have been committed to a moderately controlled economic system and an extensive social-welfare system since the 1930's. The two major political parties are the Labour party (founded 1916, which originated most of the nations social-welfare and labor legislation, and the National party (founded 1931), which traditionally favors personal initiative, private enterprise, and the dismantling of extensive government controls. The Labour party dominated the government during the periods (1935-1949), and (1965-1961), (1972-1975), (1984-1990). Despite Labour's socialist traditions, the fourth Labour government deregulated the economy, increasing unemployment. The National party, which returned to power in 1990, continued deregulation and cut social benefits.

Information and Major Issues/problems and Economy

New Zealand Major Issues/Problems

Ethnic and Population

New Zealand is one nation and two peoples and is only now coming to grips with its biculturalism. The initial Maori settlers are far outnumbered by people of European descent, primarily of English and Scottish heritage. The latter are often referred to as pakeha (the Maori word for foreigners), though many would prefer to be known simply as New Zealanders. National census returns permit people to identify with more than one ethnic group. In the 2001 census nearly 70% of the total population classified themselves as European, almost 8% as Maori, and 4.4% as other Pacific Islanders; another 11.6% categorized themselves as of mixed ancestry or did not specify their ethnic group.

Climate and Demography

The islands extend approximately 1,610 km (1,000 mi) from north to south, and this distance contributes to variations in weather patterns. Generally, however, the climate throughout the country is considered mild and comfortable, and there is surprisngly little difference in temperature ranges between the North and the South islands. January and February are the warmest months, and July is the coldest. Westerly winds from the Tasman Sea bring frequent rain. The North islands generally receives about 150 days of rain a year; the South island averages 100 days of rain annually. The South Islands has both the wettest (the Southern Alps) and the driest (Central Otago) regions in the country.

Approximately 74% of the population live on the North Island, while only 25% live on the South Island. The Maori and Pacific Islander populations are increasing at a more rapid rate than those of other ethnic groups. New Zealand is highly urbanized, with one in three New Zealanders living in the city and suburbs of Auckland, but cities (officially classified as centers with a population in excess of 20,0000 are not overcrowded, and the overall population density remains low. Other cities included Wellington (the capital),Christchurch, Manukau, Dunedin, Gisborne, Napier, Nelson, Palmerston North, Rotorua, and Turanga. The most northerly is Whangarei, and the farthest south is Invercargill.

Religion and Sports

The official language is English. Te Reo (the Maori language) has similarities to other Pacific island languages, and its promotion is an important factor in the Maori cultural renaissance that has occurred since the late 1960's. Christianity is the dominant religion. About 15% of the population are Anglican (see Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia), 11% are Presbyterian, and 12% are Roman Catholic.

New Zealanders have always been an outdoors people. The levels of active participation in all sports often surprise newcomers to the country. Rugby is the dominant spectator sport, with the national team, the All Black's, at the center. Other sports in which New Zealanders have traditionally excelled include middle -distance running and, more recently, endurance events. Yachting is another national passion. Team New Zealand won the America's Cup in 1995 and successfully defended it in Auckland in 2000 but lost to the Swiss Challenger in 2003.

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