New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui), and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.
Sometime between 1250 and 1300, Polynesians settled in the islands that later were named New Zealand and developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand. In 1840, representatives of the United Kingdom and Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which declared British sovereignty over the islands. In 1841, New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire and in 1907 it became a dominion; it gained full independence in 1947, but the British monarch remained the head of state. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.8 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Māori, and NZ Sign Language, with English being very dominant.
Helen Elizabeth Clark
(born 26 February 1950), a New Zealand politician
and administrator, is the head of the United Nations Development Programme
, the third-highest UN position. Clark was the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand
, leading the Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand
for three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008.
Before taking leadership of the Labour Party, Clark had held portfolios in Health, Housing, Conservation, Labour, and Deputy Prime Minister. In 1999 Clark became New Zealand's first democratically elected female Prime Minister. She was also Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage from 1999 until 2008. She also had ministerial responsibility for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and for Ministerial Services. Her particular interests included social policy and international affairs.
Before resigning from Parliament in April 2009, Clark was Labour's foreign affairs spokeswoman and MP for the Mount Albert electorate which she had held since 1981. Forbes magazine ranked her the 20th most powerful woman in the world in 2006.
After an earlier wooden Parliament House was destroyed by fire in 1907, a competition to find a replacement design was announced by Prime Minister Joseph Ward in February 1911. Out of the 37 entries, the winning design was by Government Architect John Campbell. As another of Campbell's entries won fourth place, the actual design is a combination of both entries.
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