- Wellington; 343,000
- 270,534 square kilometers (104,454 square miles)
- English, Maori
- Protestant, Roman Catholic
- New Zealand dollar
- Life Expectancy:
- GDP per Capita:
- U.S. $20,100
- Literacy Percent:
New Zealand Facts Flag
New Zealand is a fertile and mountainous group of islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. "It is a land uplifted high," wrote Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator who was the first European to sight New Zealand, in 1642. Snowy peaks, fjord-scarred shores, and pastures dotted with sheep define this country.
New Zealand, a parliamentary democracy modeled on that of the United Kingdom, has been a self-governing British dominion since 1907. It became a founding member of the British Commonwealth in 1926.
One in three citizens—Kiwis—lives in or around the city of Auckland. Rugby clubs with names such as Canterbury and Wellington reveal a nation peopled mostly by descendants of British settlers. The indigenous Maori constitute about 15 percent of New Zealanders; recent immigrants—primarily from Samoa and Fiji—make Auckland one of the world's largest Polynesian cities.
The export-driven country, whose chief trading partner used to be the United Kingdom, faltered in 1973 when Britain joined the European Union. The loss of preferential treatment prompted a search for new markets. Japan, Australia, and the U.S. now buy half of all exports, which include wool, mutton, lamb, beef, cheese, fish, and chemicals.
New Zealand plays an active role in helping democratic nations and emerging Pacific island economies. It sent troops to East Timor when violence broke out in 1999, and it provided millions of dollars to the South Pacific island of Niue after it was devastated by a tropical cyclone in 2004. Niue and the Cook Islands enjoy a status of self-government in free association with New Zealand.
- Industry: Food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery
- Agriculture: Wheat, barley, potatoes, pulses; wool; fish
- Exports: Dairy products, meat, wood and wood products, fish, chemicals, wool, mutton
—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition
It's time to start planning your adventures for 2012. Here are Traveler magazine's 20 best places in the world to visit, including New Zealand.
New Zealand marine reserves are a model for the world.
The land that invented commercial bungee jumping is a thrill-seeker's paradise.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Browse Stunning Images of These Natural Marvels
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.