About New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses – that of the North Island, and the South Island, – and numerous 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 isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life; most notable are the large number of unique bird species. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions.
The majority of New Zealand's population is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages, with English predominant. Much of New Zealand's culture is derived from Māori and early British settlers.
Early European art was dominated by landscapes and to a lesser extent portraits of Māori. A recent resurgence of Māori culture has seen their traditional arts of carving, weaving and tattooing become more mainstream. The country's culture has also been broadened by globalisation and increasedimmigration from the Pacific Islands and Asia. New Zealand's diverse landscape provides many opportunities for outdoor pursuits and has provided the backdrop for a number of big budget movies.
New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes; these have less autonomy than the country's long defunct provinces did. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in a unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a Governor-General.