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Portal:New Zealand

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Introduction

Flag of New Zealand.svg

New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui), and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Sometime between 1250 and 1300, Polynesians settled in the islands that later were named New Zealand and developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand. In 1840, representatives of the United Kingdom and Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which declared British sovereignty over the islands. In 1841, New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire and in 1907 it became a Dominion; it gained full independence in 1947, but the British monarch remained the head of state. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.7 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Māori and NZ Sign Language, with English being very dominant.

Selected article


House carving showing Kupe (holding a paddle), with two sea creatures at his feet
In the Māori mythology of some tribes, Kupe was involved in the Polynesian discovery of New Zealand.

According to one tradition (Craig 1989:127), Kupe was a great chief of Hawaiki who arrived in New Zealand in 925 AD. He left his cousin Hoturapa to drown during a fishing expedition and kidnapped his wife, Kuramarotini, with whom he fled in her great canoe Matahourua. During their subsequent journeys, they overcame numerous monsters and sea demons, including the great octopus named as Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, and discovered New Zealand. Returning to Hawaiki, Kupe told of his adventures and convinced others to migrate with him. Traditions about Kupe appear among the peoples of the following areas: Northland, Ngāti Kahungunu, Tainui, Whanganui-Taranaki, Rangitāne, and the South Island.

A.H. Reed wrote that "When Kupe, the first discoverer of New Zealand,first came in sight of the land,his wife cried,'He ao! He ao!" (a cloud! a cloud!). Great Barrier Island was therefore named Aotea (white cloud), and the long mainland Aotearoa (long white cloud). When Kupe finally returned to his homeland his people asked him why he did not call the newly discovered country after his fatherland. He replied, 'I preferred the warm breast to the cold one, the new land to the old land long forsaken'."

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Tangiwai Area, showing the Highway Road Bridge, near the disaster site.

The Whangaehu River is a large river in central North Island of New Zealand. Its headwaters are the crater lake of Mount Ruapehu on the central plateau, and it flows into the Tasman Sea eight kilometres southeast of Wanganui. The sudden collapse of part of the Ruapehu crater wall on December 24, 1953 led to New Zealand's worst railway accident, the Tangiwai disaster.

Did you know...

Olaus and Mardy Murie

... that wildlife biologist Olaus Murie (pictured with his wife) was the first American Fulbright Scholar to study in New Zealand?

... that the obscure mealybug, a pest of vineyards in New Zealand and California, is believed to have been introduced from Australia or South America?

In the news

  • November 24: Ferry MV Suilven sinks in Suva, Fiji
  • October 19: Searchers find wreckage of New Zealand fishing boat 'Jubilee'
  • May 7: New Zealand begins process to consider changing national flag design
  • April 27: Over 10,000 attend Gallipoli dawn service for ANZAC Day centenary
  • March 10: Cricket World Cup 2015: New Zealand defeats Afghanistan by six wickets in Napier
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