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New Zealand

Commonwealth of Nations, free association, Ross Dependency, Polynesians, Tasman Sea

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New Zealand, island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, located south of the equator in the Southern Hemisphere, and marking the eastern boundary of the Tasman Sea, a portion of the Pacific Ocean that separates New Zealand and the nearest large landmass, Australia, by a distance of about 1,600 km (1,000 mi). New Zealand includes two large islands that constitute most of its landmass, as well as numerous small islands. New Zealand administers two overseas territories, Tokelau and Ross Dependency (in Antarctica). The self-governing entities of Niue and the Cook Islands are in free association with New Zealand, which handles their foreign affairs and defense as requested.

New Zealand is known for its scenic landscapes of snowcapped mountains and rolling green pastures. Its image as a farming outpost stems from the traditional importance of agriculture to the economy as well as the low population density in most areas. However, the majority of New Zealanders live in urban areas, and many now earn a living in service industries such as tourism. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington. The largest and most cosmopolitan city is Auckland.

Polynesians first settled the islands of New Zealand about 800 to 1,000 years ago. According to legend, they named the islands Aotearoa (“Land of the Long White Cloud”). Their descendants are the Maori. The first European settlers came from the United Kingdom, arriving in increasing numbers after New Zealand became a colony of the British Empire in 1840. Until the mid-20th century the non-Maori population of New Zealand was predominantly European in origin. Since then many people have migrated from the Pacific Islands and Asia, and the ethnic composition of the country is becoming more diverse. In 1907 New Zealand became a self-governing dominion within the British Empire. Now an independent nation, New Zealand maintains close ties with the United Kingdom as a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations, but increasingly it sees its identity as a nation in the Pacific and Asia.


For younger readers

Gillespie, Carol Ann. New Zealand. Chelsea House, 2002. In the Modern World Nations Series, for readers in grade 7 and up.

Landau, Elaine. Australia and New Zealand. Scholastic, 1999. For readers in grades 3 to 5.

Shepherd, Donna Walsh. New Zealand. Children's Press, 2002. In the Enchantment of the World series, for readers in grades 4 to 8.

Smelt, Roselynn. New Zealand. Benchmark, 1998. For readers in grade 7 and up.

Theunissen, Steve. The Maori of New Zealand. Lerner, 2002. For readers in grades 4 to 6.

New Zealand

Belich, James. Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders, from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century. University of Hawaii Press, 1996. This first volume of a planned two-volume work provides excellent general history.

Booz, Elizabeth B. New Zealand. Odyssey, 2000. An overview of New Zealand's Maori culture, geological wonders, cities, and people.

Easton, Brian. In Stormy Seas: The New Zealand Economy Since 1945. Otago, 1997. Detailed discussion of New Zealand economics.

Hanbury-Tenison, Robin. Fragile Eden. Salem Press, 1989. Discussion of the vulnerability of the nature encountered on travels through New Zealand.

Kanze, Edward. Notes from New Zealand. Holt, 1992. Impressions of author's three trips to New Zealand to view three wild, rare animals: the kiwi, the tuatara, and the New Zealand frog.

McLaughlan, Gordon, ed. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Bateman, 1990. Extensive information, arranged alphabetically and including a chronology of history.

New Zealand Official Yearbook. GP Publications, 1997- . This annual compendium of facts and figures describes major changes each year and includes discussions of agriculture, social life, government, history, geography, commerce, and more.

Nile, Richard, and Christian Clerk. Cultural Atlas of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. Facts on File, 1996. Comprehensive source on geography, history, and culture.

Palmer, G. W. R. Bridled Power: New Zealand Government Under MMP. Oxford University Press, 3rd ed1997. Excellent description of the government, parliament, and courts of New Zealand.

Rice, G. R., ed. The Oxford History of New Zealand. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1992. Comprehensive, well-written history.

Starzecka, D. C. Maori Art and Culture. Art Media, 1996. Good introduction to the history and culture of the Maori people.


Belich, James, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of History, Department of History, The University of Auckland. Author of Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the 19th Century (1996) and The Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict: The Maori, the British, and the New Zealand Wars (1990).

Friesen, Ward, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, The University of Auckland.

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Article key phrases:

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