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New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori [MaoriLanguage?]) is a temperate country located in the South West Pacific [SouthWestPacific?]. It is composed of two main Islands and a number of smaller islands. The South Island [TheSouthIslandOfNewZealand?] is the largest land mass, and is divided along its length by the Southern Alps [NewZealandSouthernAlps?], the highest peak of which is Mount Cook [AorangiMountainNewZealand?], at 3754 m. There are eighteen peaks of more than three kilometres in the South Island. The North Island [TheNorthIslandOfNewZealand?] is less mountainous than the South, but is marked by volcanism [VolcanismDefinition?]. The tallest North Island Mountain, Ruapehu [RuapehuMountainNewZealand?] (2 797m) is an active cone volcano. The total land area of New Zealand, 270 500km<sup>2</sup> is somewhat smaller than that of Japan and the British Isles, and slightly larger than Colorado in the USA. The country extends more than 1600 km along its main, North-North East axis.

The climate througout the country is mild, rarely falling below 0C or rising above 30C. Daily average temperature in Wellington, the centrally located capital, is 5.9C in midwinter and 20.3C in mid summer.

New Zealand is an independent Parliamentary Democracy governed by a 120 member parliament, from which a 20 member executive cabinet is selected. This cabinet is led by the Prime Minister, currently (Jan 2001) Helen Clarke [PrimeMinisterHelenClarke?] of the centre-left Labour party [NewZealandLabourParty?]. Currently six parties are represented in the New Zealand parliament. New Zealand's head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by the Governor General, The Right Honourable Sir Michael Hardie Boys (not to be confused with the fictional HardyBoys?).

New Zealand was one of the most recently settled major land masses. Polynesian settlers arrived, probably some time between 500 and 1300AD, and established the indigenous Maori culture. The first European explorers to reach New Zealand were Abel Tasman [AbelJanzoonTasmanExplorer?], who arrived from the Netherlands in 1642, and James Cook [JamesCookExplorer?], whose extensive surveys starting in 1769 lead to significant European colonisation from the 1790s on. Although the majority of the New Zealand population is now of European origin, Maori and Pacific islanders are the second and third largest ethnic groups, and Maori culture is a significant feature of New Zealand's public life.

New Zealand is a modern, industrialised country. It's primary export industries are agriculture, horticulture, fishing and forestry. There are also substantial manufacturing, tourism and service industries.

Further Reading:

Statistics New Zealand, "The New Zealand Official Yearbook, 1998", GP Publications, Wellington, 1998

Rice, Geoffrey W (Ed), "The Oxford History of New Zealand, Second Edition", Oxford University Press, Auckland, 1992.

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