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A distinctive country both geographically and culturally, New Zealand has become both a major tourist destination and an important part of the economy of the Pacific. First settled by Polynesian travelers in the 13th or 14th century, the islands were later colonized by the United Kingdon in the 19th Century.
Unlike its neighboring Australia, however, the native culture managed to survive colonization and has been able to play a greater role in the ongoing culture of the modern nation. Now famous not only for its extreme biodiversity but also for its picturesque landscapes, New Zealand has become a vital part of the Pacific world.
Quick Facts about New Zealand
- Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is the southernmost capital city in the world.
- New Zealand is home to more types of penguins than any other place in the world.
- There are only two species of land mammals native to New Zealand - both of which are bats.
- New Zealand has nine sheep for every human, giving it the highest sheep to person ratio on the planet.
- New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote.
New Zealand is an island nation, and as such it shares no land borders with any other country. That does not, however, mean that it does not have neighbors. Most famously, New Zealand shares a maritime border with Australia to its southeast. To the north, it is closest to Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia.
It is the southernmost nation in the Pacific, however, and it does not have any nations near it to the south. It is, however, close enough to Antarctica that it's a prime location for flights to the frozen continent.
The total land area of New Zealand is about 103,360 square miles. The nation itself is broken into over six hundred islands, two of which contain the majority of the population. The southern island, called the South Island, is actually the twelfth largest island in the world. The smaller North Island, on the other hand, is the fourteenth largest island in the world. Taken together, the nation is also ranked as the sixth-largest island nation in the world.
New Zealand has three official languages. The most spoken of them, English, is spoken by virtually everyone in the country as either a primary or secondary language. In addition to English, about 3.7 percent of the population speaks Maori. With this said, however, there is no one in New Zealand who speaks Maori who does not also speak English.
Uniquely, New Zealand also lists New Zealand Sign Language as an official third language. Samoan, Hindi, and Mandarin are also frequently spoken in the country.
The weather in New Zealand is largely mild, though it does receive a fairly high amount of rain during the year. The average temperature of the northern half of the country is about fifty-nine degrees, while it is as low as forty-nine degrees in the south. The weather in New Zealand can change quite rapidly, though, with many natives and visitors alike claiming that one can experience all four seasons in just one day.
Type of Government
Like the United Kingdom and Australia, New Zealand is a Constitutional Monarchy. The head of state of the country is the Queen of England, who is represented by the Governor-General. The head of the government, however, is the Prime Minister. Legislative power in New Zealand is held by a unicameral Parliament made up of 120 members.