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New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori) is a temperate country located in the
South West Pacific. It is composed of two main Islands and a number of
smaller islands. The South Island is the largest land mass, and is
divided along its length by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of
which is Mount Cook, at 3754 m. There are eighteen peaks of more than
three kilometres in the South Island. The North Island is less
mountainous than the South, but is marked by volcanism. The tallest
North Island Mountain, Ruapehu (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 mid winter 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)
Clarke of the centre-left Labour party. 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.

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, who arrived
from the Netherlands in 1642, and James Cook, 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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