New Zealand, home of the kiwi, the native Maori and the All Blacks is one of the most recently settled major landmasses. The first colonisers of New Zealand were Eastern Polynesians who arrived on to New Zealand shores, probably in a series of migrations, sometime between 700 and 2000 years ago.
Over the following centuries these settlers were fundamental in creating the distinct culture now known as Maori. The population was divided into Iwi (tribes) and hapu (subtribes) that would co-operate, compete and at times fight against each other. At some point of time a group of Maori migrated to the Chatham Islands where they developed their own distinct Moriori culture.
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The earliest Europeans recognised to have reached New Zealand were Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman and his crew in 1642. Maori executed several of the crew and no Europeans returned to New Zealand until British explorer James Cook’s voyage of 1768–71.Cook mapped almost the entire coastline as he reached New Zealand in 1769, and Following Cook, New Zealand was visited by numerous European and North American whaling, sealing and trading ships. They traded European foods and goods, especially metal tools and weapons. In exchange for Maori timber, food, artefacts and water. On occasion, Europeans traded goods for sex. Maori agriculture and warfare was significantly changed when introduced to the potato and the musket. The resulting Musket Wars died out once the tribal imbalance of arms had been rectified. Christian missionaries began to settle in New Zealand during the early nineteenth century, eventually converting most of the Maori population, who had become disillusioned with their indigenous faith by the introduction of a Westernised culture.
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean encompassing two major landmasses (The North and South Island), and numerous smaller islands, particularly Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. The Territory of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing but in free association); Tokelau; and the Ross Dependency (New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica). The indigenous Maori named New Zealand Aotearoa, commonly interpreted as The Land of the Long White Cloud.
New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation, located about 2000 km (1250 miles) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea. New Zealand’s closest neighbours are in the northern direction, formally known as New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga. During the long isolation and lack of human inhabitants, New Zealand developed a unique fauna dominated by birds, a number of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and the mammals they introduced into the country.
The population is predominantly of European ancestry, with the indigenous Maori being the principal minority. Asians and non-Maori Polynesians are also significant minorities, especially in the urban areas. Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the Head of State and, in her absence, is represented by a non-partisan Governor-General. She has no real political influence, and her position is essentially symbolic. The democratically elected Parliament of New Zealand, under the leadership of the Prime Minister holds political power. New Zealand’s open economy is known for being one of the worlds most free market capitalist economies.
A great deal of modern New Zealand culture is derived from British roots. It also includes major influences from American, Australian and Maori cultures, along with those of other European cultures and more recently Polynesian and Asian cultures. Pasifika is the world’s largest Polynesian festival. It is an annual event in Auckland and often attracts thousands to the momentous occasion. Cultural links between New Zealand and the United Kingdom are preserved by a common language, sustained migration from the United Kingdom, and many young New Zealanders spending time in the United Kingdom on their “overseas experience” (OE). The cuisine and music of New Zealand are similar to that of Britain and the United States, although both have some distinct New Zealand and Pacific qualities.