The first people to settle in New Zealand were Polynesian tribes – the Maoris- before A.D.1000. The first European to see New Zealand was the Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, who discovered its western coast. The sea between New Zealand and Australia was later named after him, while the country itself was named “Nieuw Zeeland” by its Dutch discoverers. Captain James Cook, who circumnavigated New Zealand and discovered that it was a group of islands, rediscovered New Zealand more than 100 years later, in 1769. Colonisation was not attempted until much later, in the 19th century. In 1907 New Zealand was granted the status of a Dominion.
New Zealand is an archipelago consisting of two large islands separated by Cook Strait (North Island and South Island) and a small island (Stewart Island). The distance between the North and South Islands is 150 km. The country is predominantly mountainous, there is very little flat land. The North Island is famous for its hot springs, geysers and watering places. The thermal activity of the volcanic area is most spectacular in the Rotorua district. The South Island has fertile plains and high mountains, the Southern Alps. There are glaciers and fjords in the west. The highest peak is Mount Cook, 3,764m. Many of the rivers are short and torrential. The largest rivers are the Wanganui and the Waikato in the North Island. New Zealand has many lakes, the largest of which, Lake Taupo, is also in the North Island.
New Zealand has a very pleasant, healthy, temperate climate with plenty of sunshine and good rainfall, with warm summers and mild winters. The temperature also depends on the altitude and winters in the mountains are cold, with sufficient snow for skiing.
New Zealand has natural gas, coal, high-grade ironsands, sulphur, and some gold. It also has extensive forests.
Also New Zealand is larger than Great Britain, its population is relatively very small, only about 3,500,000. About 90% are of British descent and about 10% are Maoris, the indigenous population. All the principal towns lie on the coast. The largest town – Auckland as well as the capital – Wellington and Hamilton are in the North Island. Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson are the chief towns in the South Island.
New Zealand is a rich agricultural country, but industry also plays an important role. It has a relatively high living standard, but is economically dependent on the more powerful industrial states. New Zealand is primarily a grazing country, and specialises in livestock breeding (cattle and ship). Therefore the most characteristic feature of New Zealand’s agriculture is pastoral and dairy farming. The green farmlands are suitable for grazing all the year round. The grazing industry producing wool, meat, butter and cheese.
Industry is closely connected with agriculture. The principal branch of industry is the food industry, which includes butter, cheese and milk powder factories, and meat works and meat canneries.
The New Zealand Parliament has only one chamber, the House of Representatives, which consists of 92 members elected for 3 years. Four of the members are Maoris elected by the Maori electors. Executive administration follows the British pattern. The Crown is represented by a Governor General, who appoints an Executive Council, headed by the Prime Minister. There are two big political parties contending for power, the National Party, which stands for the interests of big farmers, businessmen and manufactures, and the Labour Party, which is a reformats, social democratic party, a counterpart of the British Labour party.