New Zealand has three main islands, North Island, South Island and Stewart Island and is located 1600km east of Australia and extends from latitude 34ºS to 47ºS.
About 1000 years ago, Polynesian Maori's settled in New Zealand. The first European arrival was the Dutchman Abel Tasman in 1642, but it was not until the voyages of Captain James Cook in 1769 and 1779 that the islands were charted and explored by Europeans. The vessel Captain Cook first arrived on was "Endeavour". British settlers began to emigrate after British sovereignty was established in 1840, and Wellington was founded soon afterwards. New Zealand was granted internal self-government in 1852, and the later years of the century saw a rapid growth in investment, communications and agricultural production.
In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to extend the vote to women. New Zealand became a Dominion in 1907, and its forces took part in both World Wars.
New Zealand’s society reflects many years of migration from all parts of the globe. The majority are of British descent, along with other European cultures such as Greek, Italian, French, Dutch, Dalmatian, Scandinavian and German.
More recently people from islands throughout the Pacific, such as Samoa and Fiji, have also migrated here, along with immigrants from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The largest non-European group of people are the Maori, the first settlers of New Zealand, known as the 'tangatawhenua' (the people of the land) who make up around 15% of the population. Maori culture, art and traditions are an important part of New Zealand’s heritage and culture. English and Maori are both official languages, though the vast majority of people speak only English. One of the last places in the world to be discovered and settled, New Zealand today is a modern high-tech western nation with a well-developed economy and a government structure based on the British parliamentary system.