A collection of islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean
New Zealand comprises two large main islands being the North Island and the South Island. There are also around 600 smaller islands close to and associated with the country. The country lies 1,500 kilometres east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. It is remote, and because of this, it was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans. Polynesians settled here just 700 years ago and developed the Māori culture. Dutch navigator Abel Tasman was the first European to sight the islands, on 13 December 1642.
During its extended historical period of confinement, New Zealand has developed vast biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country’s varied landscapes and its sharp mountain peaks confirm that this is a young country.
Agriculture and farming drive the economy.
New Zealand’s capital city is Wellington, while the most populated city is Auckland, also on the North Island. Most of the industry and economic activity is around these two cities. However, agriculture, farming and the export of meat are widespread throughout both the North and South Islands
The first shipments of refrigerated meat began in 1882. This led to the establishment of regular meat and dairy exports to Britain. This trade provided the basis for strong economic growth in New Zealand. High demand for products from the United Kingdom and the United States in return helped New Zealanders achieve a standard of living considered better than both Australia and Western Europe, during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1973, New Zealand’s export market became damaged when the United Kingdom joined the EU. Other factors, such as the 1973 and 1979 energy crisis, led to severe economic depression. Living standards fell in New Zealand – far behind those of Australia and Western Europe. In 1982, New Zealand had the lowest income of all the developed nations.
Getting out on the water
Sailing and water sports, including fishing and whale watching, are prevalent. The Cook straights are a well-visited transit passage for diverse marine life. Yachting and boating thrive in the area, and the tourism industry attracts visitors from all over the globe. This is helped by the fact that the far north of the country experiences a tropical climate whereas down in the south the weather and landscape can resemble the North of England.