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New Zealand



Currency unit

NZ dollar


Cook Islands


Western Pacific







The Maori discovery of New Zealand was perhaps as early as 800 AD. They are a Polynesian people who seem to have migrated from islands to the north. They gave it the name: Land of the Long White Cloud. They share the heritage of the other Polynesian peoples and probably originate from south east Asia. They settled the land and adapted their culture to the new conditions - much cooler and with more extensive land surfaces and a greater variety of habitats than the tropical islands. The Maoris organized themselves into a number of tribal territories on both the main islands, but more densely on the north island. They brought with them the first mammals - dogs, pigs and rats.

New Zealand was first visited by Captain James Cook in 1769. From then European whalers began to visit the islands but without organized settlement. There was some resistance from the Maori inhabitants who were defeated by the superior military technology of the British troops. The British rights were asserted through the Treaty of Waitangi 1839 in which the rights of the Maoris were also recognized. Nevertheless their descendants believe the land was taken from them unlawfully and they are claiming it back.

From 1839 organized settlement began with Gibbon Wakefield's Colonization Society. The first Constitution was passed in 1852. The first elected Assembly sat from 1854. Following this there was gradual increase of self-government. The British Statute of Westminster in 1931 allowed all dominions to take control of foreign affairs and defense for themselves, though it was adopted in New Zealand only in 1947.

New Zealand was the first British territory to give women the vote.

Modern New Zealand has two main populations: the descendants of the original inhabitants, the Polynesian Maoris; the descendants of the European, mostly British, settlers known as Pakehas. The Polynesians, who include people from the Cook Islands and other south Pacific islands, have a higher birthrate than the Pakehas. Thus in the long run New Zealand seems likely to become more Polynesian. Maoris are asserting their traditional culture more vigorously but political expression of their identity is only beginning.

As New Zealand lost the main market for its agricultural products some commentators ask whether its future must be in a closer community with Australia in a South Pacific economic community or federation, perhaps with similar relations as in the European Union, maybe including a common currency - the Australian dollar.

In 2010 there is active discussion about whether to apply to be the seventh state of Australia. How would the Maoris feel about that?









An elected one chamber parliament with several parties, mainly Labour and National. After a recent period of Labour government, the National party returned in 1991.

A December 1992 referendum approved a change in the voting system to the Additional Member System (as In Germany).

This was confirmed in the November 1993 election and referendum. The election, under the First Past the Post system, gave the government a one seat majority. The next election was under the new system. Its most obvious feature was a pivotal role for a new party New Zealand First whose leader said he would not support a conservative (National) government. But soon he became a minister in a coalition with this party.

The NZ Labour Party abandoned the Welfare State and privatized the state industries, apparently following a Thatcherite Chicago model instead of its traditional socialist policies. This has created a certain cynicism among the electorate and the formation of a new leftwing coalition, the Alliance.

The reason for the change may have been the economic problems associated with Britain joining the European Union and excluding NZ produce, so that a welfare state could not be afforded on the former scale.

Elections in November 1999 resulted in a Labour-Alliance-Green coalition government, headed by the second woman prime minister, Helen Clark.

2008 elections resulted in a conservative coalition.

Interesting reading

Replenishing the earth - the Settler Revolution






New Zealand's economy is based on primary production of lamb, mutton and dairy products. Before Britain entered the European Community NZ had a guaranteed market in Britain and a high standard of living - in effect it was Britain's farm. Since then its economy has declined as the products have limited entry to Europe, including Britain.

This means New Zealand, along with Australia and Argentina, has an interest in liberalizing world trade in food in order not to have to compete with subsidized growers in Europe, America and Japan. NZ has pursued this interest at GATT talks on trade in food.

The country once had one of the world's most complete and earliest welfare states. There is some evidence that the Chicago School (of monetarist economists) deliberately decided to change this as an experiment. The Welfare State has been abandoned with an increase in poverty, crime and insecurity, but possibly is the cause of an increased rate of growth. However, NZ is still worse off than it was in the 1970s - declined from 7 to 25 in the OECD league table.

The abolition of farm subsidies turned out not to be the disaster that many farmers expected. Instead they became more entrepreneurial and developed new markets in Asia. But they are still having to compete against the subsidised farmers of Europe and the United States.






New Zealand is a fragment of a continent which separated from the main southern continent Gondwanaland. The flora and fauna reflect this. As in Australia the true mammals were not present until humans introduced pigs, dogs and rats, and neither were the Marsupials. There are many indigenous species including flightless birds which evolved in the absence of mammal predators and are now reduced in number. Especially the Giant Moa became extinct before Europeans arrived but European introduction of deer, foxes, cats and other animals has greatly changed the native fauna.

Cutting the forests and introducing new species has also changed the ecology.

In the long run an economy based on export of food tends to lead to soil depletion.

There are supplies of hydroelectricity and geothermal power that do not add to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Because NZ is on the fault line between major tectonic plates there are earthquakes and volcanic activity. For example the largest city, Auckland, is located in a field of volcanoes which are bound to erupt at some time. The important city of Christchurch was seriously damaged by a series of earthquakes in 2011.





Human Rights

Western standard.

Climate effects

One degree
North Island getting hotter and drier. Tendency for people to move to South Island.

Two degrees
Danger of more and stronger storms. South Island will be pleasanter, but coastal land will be flooded.

Last revised 11/10/11


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