The island country of New Zealand is located deep in the South Pacific Ocean and consists of two main islands, known as North Island and South Island, as well as hundreds of other much smaller islands. The life of the residents on the two main islands is quite different, with North Island being far more industrialized. Both the country’s capital city of Wellington as well as its largest urban area, known as Auckland, are located on North Island.
It is on the North Island that one will also find New Zealand’s active volcanoes, expanses of farmland, and some of the country’s nicest beaches. The South Island, meanwhile, is largely mountainous and forested on the west coast, yielding to more farmland in the east.
New Zealand’s unique location allowed the country to remain unpopulated by humans until approximately 1250. However, since then the population of New Zealand has grown to almost 5 million people. The inhabitants of the islands mostly consist of individuals who are of European descent, although there are still quite a few of the indigenous Māori people living there.
Finding New Zealand on a Map
New Zealand is one of the few countries that can say it is 1,000 miles away from its nearest neighbor. In the case of New Zealand, the closest country is Australia, making isolation a very big part of the island’s culture, especially in the earlier centuries.
In many cases, this isolation has been good for the country since it was one of the last places on Earth to be populated by humans, allowing it to sustain a diverse range of plants and animals. One great example of this is the fact that New Zealand is the only place in the entire world where the flightless bird known as a kiwi can be found.
The History of New Zealand
Up until the 13th century, New Zealand is widely believed to have been unpopulated except for a few different species of plants and animals. Some time during the mid-13th century, Polynesian wayfinders made the treacherous journey across the ocean and discovered New Zealand’s South Island. They soon settled the the area and began expanding their reach. Upon arrival of Europeans, these people would become known as the Māori.
Europeans were not even aware of the existence of this land until 1642, when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman reached the shores of the island. However, their stay was incredibly short and Europeans would not come back to New Zealand until over a century later in 1769, when James Cook attempted to complete the task of mapping out New Zealand’s coastline.
Only a couple of decades later, Captain Arthur Phillip assume control of New Zealand in the name of the British Empire as part of the latest colony of New South Wales. It was in the year 1841, after many years of warfare between varying powers, that New Zealand was finally recognized as a separate colony from New South Wales. However, it still remained under the control of the British Empire and would remain this way until 1856 when it finally became self-governing and established its own Parliament.
Shortly after gaining the right to be self-governing, New Zealand began passing a series of laws, one of which was to give women the right to vote in 1893, which made New Zealand the first country in the world to do so.
The status of New Zealand would more or less remain unchanged until 1947, when the statute of Westminster made it illegal for the British Parliament to legislate for New Zealand without their explicit consent. This gave New Zealand their de facto political independence (the country has no fixed date of independence, nor an “Independence Day”).
New Zealand Today
For a couple of centuries, New Zealand was almost entirely populated by either Europeans or members of the Māori tribe. However, in the last 30 or 40 years, it has seen its population diversify. By using its points-based immigration system, New Zealand has been able to acquire quite a large number of immigrants from countries like China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Great Britain in recent years.
Unfortunately, New Zealand has also been forced to deal with quite a few national tragedies in the last decade. Most of these have occurred in the South Island city of Christchurch, where two separate earthquakes destroyed large portions of the city in 2010 and 2011, which was followed by the worst mass shooting in the country’s history in 2019, which took 50 lives.
Thankfully, the unparalleled beauty of New Zealand and its vast nature landscapes overshadows any negativity it has been forced to deal with. To this day, New Zealand remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
If you enjoyed this article, here are a few geography-related articles you can also check out:
- Interesting Geography Facts – Oceania
- What Is Fiji? Is Fiji a Country?
- Is Antarctica a Country – Who Owns Antarctica?