Facts about New Zealand
New Zealand (Aotearoa) is a South Pacific country located midway between the Equator and the South Pole, and approximately 1600 kilometres east of Australia. The country consists of two main islands, the North and South Islands, which are together similar in size to Japan or Britain. New Zealand's climate is oceanic, without extremes of hot or cold. Most parts of the country enjoy ample sunshine and rainfall, although the weather is changeable.
There are just over four million New Zealanders of all races, but predominantly of European and Polynesian origin. The Māori population is around 13% of the total. 75% of all New Zealanders live in the North Island. Auckland, the country’s largest city, has a population of over 900,000. English is the common language of business and everyday usage, but Māori is an official language recognised in the courts and of increasing significance nationally.
New Zealand is an independent parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. The formal head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a New Zealander as Governor-General. The legislature is a single-chamber House of Representatives, with 120 members. Elections are held every three years and all people 18 years and over have the right to vote. Some members are elected to represent geographic constituencies, while others win seats as representatives of their parties, in proportion to the percentage of the popular vote their party receives. The head of government is the Prime Minister (leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives) who is assisted by a Cabinet of about 20 Ministers chosen from the elected members of Parliament. The capital city and seat of government is Wellington.
New Zealand has a world-wide reputation for agricultural products. Meat and wool are produced from 53 million sheep, and meat and dairy products from more than 8 million cattle. Almost half of New Zealand’s export earnings are derived from farming. Other major exports are timber and timber products, fish and horticultural produce. Tourism has increased dramatically in significance over the past decade and is now one of the major income earners for New Zealand.