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the national capital Wellington
the national currency  
official languages  
the national holidays  
the largest cities  

New Zealand, about 1,250 mi (2,012 km) southeast of Australia, consists of two main islands and a number of smaller outlying islands so scattered that they range from the tropical to the antarctic. The country (268,680 thousand square km) is the size of Colorado. New Zealand's two main components are the North Island and the South Island, separated by Cook Strait. The North Island (44,281 sq mi; 115,777 sq km) is 515 mi (829 km) long and volcanic in its south-central part. This area contains many hot springs and beautiful geysers.

The government type of New Zealand is Parliamentary democracy. New Zealand is governed under The Constitution Act of 1986, adopted in 1987, as well as other legal documents. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by the governor-general, is the head of state. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the governor-general following legislative elections. Members of the 120-seat unicameral parliament (the House of Representatives) are elected by popular vote for three-year terms using a system of mixed constituency and proportional representation. Administratively, the country is divided into 16 regions and one territory (the Chatham Islands). New Zealand is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Maoris were the first inhabitants of New Zealand, arriving on the islands in about 1000. Maori oral history maintains that the Maoris came to the island in seven canoes from other parts of Polynesia. In 1642, New Zealand was explored by Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator. British captain James Cook made three voyages to the islands, beginning in 1769. Britain formally annexed the islands in 1840.

The Treaty of Waitangi (Feb. 6, 1840) between the British and several Maori tribes promised to protect Maori land if the Maoris recognized British rule. Encroachment on the land by British settlers was relentless, however, and skirmishes between the two groups intensified.

From the outset, the country has been in the forefront in instituting social welfare legislation. New Zealand was the world's first country to give women the right to vote (1893). It adopted old-age pensions (1898); a national child welfare program (1907); social security for the elderly, widows, and orphans, along with family benefit payments; minimum wages; a 40-hour workweek and unemployment and health insurance (1938); and socialized medicine (1941).

New Zealand fought with the Allies in both world wars as well as in Korea. In 1999, it became part of the UN peacekeeping force sent to East Timor.

In recent years, New Zealand has introduced extremely liberal social policies. In June 2003, parliament legalized prostitution and in Dec. 2004,

same-sex unions were recognized. In 2005, Helen Clark was reelected.

About 80% of the population lives in cities. Wellington is the southernmost national capital in the world. The national currency is New Zealand dollar. New Zealand has two official languages, English and Maori. The national holidays in New Zealand are Waitangi Day, which is on the 6th of February (it was celebrated when the Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty over New Zealand) and ANZAC Day, which is commemorated as the anniversary of the landing of troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I at Gallipoli, Turkey, 25 April. The largest cities in New Zealand are Auckland and Christchurch.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1348

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