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New Zealand Information
By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 3, 2003, 21:43

New Zealand is a country formed of two major islands and a number of smaller islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. New Zealand's most common name in the indigenous Mâori language is Aotearoa, which is popularly translated as the Land of the Long White Cloud. Another Mâori name for New Zealand was Niu Tireni, a transliteration of the English name. The name Aotearoa New Zealand is gaining increasing acceptance in the country, but has not caught on in the rest of the world.

New Zealand is the most geographically isolated of all countries. Closest neighbour Australia is 2,000 km to the northwest of the main islands across the Tasman Sea. The only landmass to the south is Antarctica, and to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga.

New Zealand became a British colony with the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, which also promised "complete chieftainship" (tino rangatiratanga) to the Mâori tribes of New Zealand. To this day the exact meaning of the Treaty is still under dispute, and it remains a source of division and resentment. Since 1840, New Zealand has progressively developed into a fully independent parliamentary democracy under the British monarch. New Zealand maintains responsibility for the foreign affairs of the self-governing countries of the Cook Islands and Niue, and administers the dependency of Tokelau.

New Zealand has a broadly temperate climate and a varied and famously scenic landscape. Its economy is trade-focused with a dominant pastoral base. New Zealanders are typically well-travelled and tend to be strong advocates of international co-operation and the environment. Outdoor activities are popular pastimes, in particular the national sports of rugby, cricket and netball, as well as extreme sports and tramping.


Of New Zealand's four million people, roughly three million live in the North Island and one million in the South Island. These islands are among the largest in the world, and the combined land area is comparable to the British Isles or Colorado.

Other islands have much smaller populations, and cover much less land area. The most significant of these islands are:

  • Stewart Island (south of the South Island), the third largest island by land area with a population of around 400
  • Waiheke Island, an island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, and, with about 7,000 people (far more in summer), the third most populated island in New Zealand
  • Great Barrier Island, east of the Hauraki Gulf
  • the Chatham Islands, an outlying group of islands with a population of about 750 Places in New Zealand:


New Zealand is one of the most recently settled major land masses. Polynesian settlers arrived probably some time between 500 and 1300 AD, and established the indigenous Mâori culture.

The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were led by Abel Janszoon Tasman, who sailed up the west coast of the South and North islands in 1642. The Dutch thought it was a single land which they named Staaten Landt. It was later named "Nieuw Zeeland" after the area in Batavia where they had been based, which in turn was named after their province of Zeeland. In 1769 Captain James Cook began extensive surveys of the islands. This led to European whaling expeditions and eventually significant European colonisation. The Treaty of Waitangi on February 6, 1840 between the British government and the Mâori established British sovereignty over New Zealand.

New Zealand became an independent dominion on 26 September 1907 by royal proclamation. Full independence was granted by the United Kingdom Parliament with the Statute of Westminster in 1931; it was taken up upon the Statute's adoption by the New Zealand Parliament in 1947, since then New Zealand has been a sovereign constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations.


New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Under the New Zealand Royal Titles Act (1953), Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of New Zealand and is represented as head of state by the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Parliament consists of the 120-member unicameral House of Representatives, from which an executive Cabinet of about 20 ministers is appointed. There is no written constitution.

The Cabinet is led by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, currently Helen Clark of the centre-left Labour party, which governs in coalition with the further-left Progressive Party, and with support from the Christian conservative United Future.

General elections are held every three years; the most recent were held in July 2002. The Leader of the Opposition is Don Brash who became leader of the National party on 28 October 2003. Currently seven parties are represented in the House of Representatives, which since 1996 has been elected by a form of proportional representation called Mixed Member Proportional ("MMP").

New Zealand is a party to the ANZUS security treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. In 1985 New Zealand refused to allow US nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships to enter its ports, causing the US to abrogate its ANZUS responsibilities to New Zealand in 1986. New Zealand has not formally withdrawn from the treaty.

New Zealand is a member of the following geo-political organizations:

  • Commonwealth of Nations
  • APEC
  • OECD
  • United Nations


New Zealand has a High Court (until 1980 known as the Supreme Court) and a Court of Appeal (formerly part of the Supreme Court), as well as subordinate courts. Until 2004, appeals from decisions of the Court of Appeal could be appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

The current Chief Justice is Dame Sian Elias.

In 2003 the Supreme Court Act was passed, abolishing appeals to the Privy Council, with effect from 2004 and setting up a Supreme Court of New Zealand in Wellington.

Local Government

When originally settled, New Zealand was divided into provinces. These were abolished in 1876 so that government could be centralised for financial reasons. As a result, New Zealand has no separately represented subnational entity such as a province, state or territory apart from its local government. The spirit of the provinces however still lives on and there is fierce rivalry exhibited in sporting and cultural events.

Since 1876, local government has administered the various regions of New Zealand. Due to its colonial heritage, New Zealand local government was modelled fairly closely on British local government structures, with city, borough, and county councils. Over the years some of these councils merged or had boundary adjustments by mutual agreement, and a few new ones were created. Finally, in 1989, the government performed a complete reorganisation of local government, and implemented the current two-tier structure of regional councils and territorial authorities.

Today New Zealand has 16 regions for the administration of environmental and transport matters and 74 territorial authorities that administer roading, sewerage, building consents, and other local matters. The territorial authorities are 16 city councils, 57 district councils, and the Chatham Islands Council. Four of the territorial councils (unitary authorities) have regional functions as well, within their areas. The Chatham Islands Council similarly combines functions. The 12 larger regions each have a separately-elected regional council. A few territorial authorities straddle regional council boundaries.


New Zealand 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 metres. There are 18 peaks of more than 3000 metres in the South Island. The North Island is less mountainous than the South, but is marked by volcanism. The tallest North Island mountain, Mount Ruapehu (2797 metres), is an active cone volcano.

The total land area of New Zealand, 268,680 km², is somewhat less than that of Japan or of the British Isles, and slightly larger than Colorado in the USA. The country extends more than 1600 km along its main, north-northeast axis.

The usual climate throughout the country is mild, mostly cool temperate to warm temperate, with temperatures rarely falling below 0°C or rising above 30°C. Conditions vary from wet and cold in Southland and the West Coast of the South Island, where most of the country's rain falls, to subtropical in Northland. In Wellington the average minimum temperature in winter is 5.9°C and the average maximum temperature in summer is 20.3°C.

Scenic backdrop

New Zealand's scenery has appeared in a number of television programmes and films. In particular, Hercules and Xena were filmed around Auckland, Heavenly Creatures in Christchurch. Peter Jackson shot The Lord of the Rings in various locations around the country, taking advantage of the spectacular and relatively unspoiled landscapes.

Flora and Fauna

Because of its long isolation from the rest of the world, New Zealand has extraordinary flora and fauna. Until the arrival of the first humans just a millennium or two ago, 80% of the land was forested and, barring two species of bat, there were no non-marine mammals at all. Instead, New Zealand's forests were inhabited by a diverse range of birds (many of them flightless), reptiles, and insects—some of them almost the size of a mouse (see weta).


New Zealand has a modern, developed economy. Its primary export industries are agriculture, horticulture, fishing, forestry and information technology. There is also a substantial tourism industry. The film and wine industries are considered to be up-and-coming.

Since 1984 successive governments have engaged in major economic restructuring, transforming New Zealand from a highly protectionist and regulated economy to a liberalised, free-trade economy. Despite periods of dynamic growth in the mid 1980s and early '90s, real incomes have declined from 1980 levels, and average yearly economic growth has been poorer than expected and is highly reliant on massive levels of immigration to boost GDP.

The current New Zealand government's economic objectives are centred around moving from being ranked among the lower end of the OECD countries to regaining a higher placing again, pursuing free-trade agreements, "closing the gaps" between ethnic groups, and building a "knowledge economy."

Unlike in previous decades, New Zealand has now contained inflationary pressures, meaning hyperinflation has been consigned to the past.

New Zealand is heavily dependent on trade—particularly in agricultural products—to drive growth, and it has been affected by global economic slowdowns and slumps in commodity prices. Since agricultural exports are highly sensitive to currency values and a large percentage of consumer goods are imported, any changes in the value of the New Zealand dollar has a strong impact on the economy.

In 2004 it began discussing free trade with China, one of the first countries to do so.

During the late 1980s, the New Zealand Government sold a number of major trading enterprises, including its telephone company, railway system, a number of radio stations and two banks in a series of asset sales. Although the New Zealand Government continues to own a number of significant businesses, collectively known as State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), they are operated through arms-length shareholding arrangements as stand alone businesses that are required to operate profitably, just like any privately owned enterprise. Various items of protective legislation establish business objectives yet prevent shareholding governments from having influence over day to day operations of the business. Postal services, electricity companies, radio and television broadcasters, as well as hospitals and other trading enterprises are established in this way. The core State Service consists of government departments and ministries that primarily provide government administration, policy advice, law enforcement, and social services.


About 80% of the New Zealand population is of European descent. Mâori people are the second largest ethnic group (14.7%). Between the 1996 and 2001 censuses, the number of people of Asian origin (6.6%) overtook that of Pacific Islanders (6.5%) (note that the census allowed multiple ethnic affiliations). Acceptance of Mâori culture continues to grow, especially with the recent introduction of a Mâori Television service.

The main Christian denominations are Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Roman Catholicism and Methodism. Over a third of the population is unaffiliated.

Time Zone

On November 2 1868, New Zealand officially adopted a standard time to be observed nationally, and was perhaps the first country to do so. It was based on the longitude 172° 30' East of Greenwich, that is 11 hours 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This standard was known as New Zealand Mean Time.

During the Second World War, clocks were advanced half an hour in New Zealand for the duration of the War, starting in 1941 (12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time). This advance of time was made permanent in 1946 by the Standard Time Act 1945. The Act provided that the time at the meridian 180°E was adopted as the basis for New Zealand Time. The new Act put into effect New Zealand Standard Time which was permanently half an hour ahead of New Zealand Mean Time as determined in 1868 and 12 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time or Universal Time. (The Chatham Islands was 45 minutes in advance of New Zealand Mean Time under the new Act).

In the late 1940s the development of the first atomic clock was announced and several laboratories began atomic time scales. A new time scale known as Co-ordinated Universal Time was adopted internationally in 1972. This was based on the readings of atomic clocks but updated periodically in accordance with time variations in the earth's rotation by the addition or deletion of seconds (called leap seconds). Fifteen leap seconds have been added to our time since 1972.

The Time Act 1974 defines New Zealand Standard Time, as meaning the 12 hours in advance of Co-ordinated Universal Time.

Daylight Saving Time

The Summer Time Act 1929, which was later replaced by the Time Act 1974, gives power to the Governor-General to declare a period which Daylight Time is to be observed by Order in Council. Under the Act, Daylight Time is fixed as a one hour advance on New Zealand Standard Time.

The Summer Time Act of 1929 provided for Daylight Time to be observed in New Zealand from the second Sunday in October to the third Sunday in March of the following year. Clocks were set half an hour in advance during that time. In 1933 the period was extended from the first Sunday in September to the last Sunday in April of the year following. This continued until World War II when in 1941, the Summer Time period was extended by emergency regulations to cover the whole year. This change was made permanent in 1946 with the Standard Time Act of 1945.

The New Zealand Time Order 1975 fixed period of observance from the last Sunday in October each year to the first Sunday in March of the year following.

In 1985, after 10 years experience with Daylight Time, a comprehensive survey was undertaken by the Department of Internal Affairs. Public attitudes towards Daylight Time and its effects on work, recreation and particular groups of people in society were surveyed. The results of the survey demonstrated that 76.2% of the population wanted Daylight Time either continued or extended.

The survey also concluded that opinion on the topic differed little between sexes, and that support for Daylight Time was generally higher in urban centres. Support for shortening or abolishing Daylight Time was always in the minority in the areas surveyed.

In 1988 as a consequence of the survey and further feedback from the public, the Minister of Internal Affairs arranged for a trial period of extended Daylight Time to be held in 1989/90 from the second Sunday in October to the third Sunday in March. The Minister invited the public to write to him with their views on the five week extension.

Today, under the new Daylight Time Order 1990, it declared that Daylight Time would commence at 2.00am Standard Time on the first Sunday in October each year (changes from 2am ST to 3am DST) and would cease at 2.00am Standard Time on the third Sunday in March of the following year (changes from 3am DST to 2am ST).

More and more shops now adjust their opening times to allow for daylight saving. Experience shows that there are more customers spending money in summer than in winter. Supermarkets, department stores and different kinds of retail stores usually open an hour longer in the daylight saving period.

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