The Polynesian Maori were the first inhabitants of New Zealand and settled there around the year 800 A.D. In 1840, Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British, giving sovereignty to Queen Victoria. Land claims led to the “New Zealand Wars” between 1843 and 1872, eventually ending in the defeat of the Maori people. New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the British military effort during both world wars. In recent years, the government has awarded money and land to the Maori people in an attempt to address their longstanding grievances.
New Zealand is one of the wealthiest Pacific nations, and in 2007-08, its economy was one of the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Although agriculture is the main source of revenue, the economy also benefits from manufacturing, tourism and a growing film industry. In 2008, though, New Zealand fell into depression along with many of the world’s economies.
New Zealand maintains close trade ties with Australia, the US, China and Japan. In April 2008, it became the first western country that signed a free trade agreement with China.
New Zealand is actively involved with its Pacific neighbors, maintaining constitutional ties with the territories of Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau. It sent troops to a violence-filled East Timor in 1999 and also sent peacekeeping troops to the Solomon Islands in 2003. New Zealand has also participated in peacekeeping and development efforts in Afghanistan.
New Zealand maintains a strong anti-nuclear position, banning nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels from its waters.
Sources: BBC, The Economist, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Form of Government:
Parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Year of Independence:
1907 (from Britain)
Anglican 14.9%, Roman Catholic 12.4%, Presbyterian 10.9%, Methodist 2.9%, Pentecostal 1.7%, Baptist 1.3%, other Christian 9.4%, other 3.3%, unspecified 17.2%, none 26% (2001 census)
270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles)
English (official), Maori (official), Sign Language (official)
78 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)
1 New Zealand dollar ($NZ) = 100 cent
Wool, food (meat, fish and dairy products), wood and paper products (forestry products), machinery
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$27,900 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: