New Zealand Facts
New Zealand and Antarctica were originally part of the continent of Gondwana. About eighty million years ago New Zealand broke away from Antarctica and drifted away from other land masses.
Polynesia, which means many islands, is a name covering over a thousand islands between Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. The Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, American Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Wallis and Futuna are also in this grouping.
The Maori people called New Zealand Aotearoa - Land of the Long White Cloud.
Mount Cook (3,754 m) on South Island is New Zealand's highest peak.
The mountains in Tongariro National Park have cultural and religious significance for the Maori people.
New Zealand's largest lake is Lake Taupo.
The Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps is the largest glacier in New Zealand.
The Lake Rotorua region is an area of geothermal activity with thermal lakes, boiling mud pools and a number of geysers.
Fiordland, part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, is one of the world's largest National Parks.
The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, extended British rule and set out Maori land rights.
The English novelist Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon, wrote about pioneer life in New Zealand: A First Year in the Canterbury Settlement.
In 1893 New Zealand became the first country to give women the vote.
At the turn of the century the British transferred administration of the Cook Islands to New Zealand. In 1965 residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand.
New Zealand is responsible for the Ross Dependency in Antarctica where it maintains the Scott Base.
During the First World War, New Zealand occupied Western Samoa. New Zealand continued to administer the islands under a League of Nations mandate and then a United Nations mandate.
New Zealand gained full independence from Britain in 1947.
New Zealand, a member of the Commonwealth, is a constitutional monarchy with the British monarch as Head of State.
A fern leaf is one of New Zealand's national emblems.
The Maori language was recognized as an official language by the 1987 Maori Language Act.
Maori names for North Island and South Island, in use when Captain Cook visited the islands, are Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui) and Te Wai Pounamu (the canoe of Maui).
Ernest Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1908. He was the first modern atomic physicist and split the atom.
Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal were the first people to climb Mount Everest (1953).
A plant known as "scurvy grass", thought to be almost extinct, was found growing on an islet on the west coast of New Zealand in 2006. The plant, a type of cress rich in Vitamin C, was first used by Captain James Cook to prevent scurvy.
In 2010 labour laws were changed to make sure that the US$500m film ‘The Hobbit’ would be made in New Zealand and which will be directed by Peter Jackson who was born in New Zealand.
Elections were announced in February 2011 to be held at the end of November. The date was set so far in advance to prevent politics interfering with the Rugby Union World Cup, which will be hosted by New Zealand in September/October.
An earthquake (of magnitude 6.3) caused widespread damage in Christchurch, South Island on 22nd February 2011. The earthquake was apparently due to a previously unknown fault line and is New Zealand’s worst natural disaster for 80 years. A second earthquake (of magnitude 4.5) affected the capital, Wellington on 1st March 2011. The earthquake was not strong enough to cause damage, but was widely felt.