New Zealand

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Overview

New Zealand or Aotearoa is about 1,000 miles from Australia across the often violent Tasman Sea. It was founded by the English as an agricultural colony (in contrast to Australia which was, in part, a penal colony, or to the American colonies which were havens for religious dissenters). It has a population of roughly 4,000,000 people and about 60,000,000 sheep.

New Zealand is a multicultural country, with the largest Polynesian population in the world including its own indigenous Maori people. New Zealanders sometimes refer to themselves by the name of the national bird, the Kiwi, and prefer that you refer to the small green on the inside, brown on the outside fruit from New Zealand as a Kiwifruit.

The system of government resembles Australia and Canada with a governor-general representing Elizabeth II and a prime minister and cabinet responsible to parliament.

New Zealand has a unicameral Parliament, the 120-seat House of Representatives. Since 1996, New Zealand has used the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, under which half the MPs are elected by voters in single-member constituencies and half are elected from from party lists. Several seats are reserved for members elected on a separate Maori roll. However, Maori may choose to vote and stand for the common roll seats and several have entered Parliament in this way. Parliaments have a maximum term of 3 years, although elections can be called more frequently.

In New Zealand, everyone (male and female) over the age of 18 years can vote. Women gained the vote in 1893. there is no written constitution. The New Zealand Constitution Act 1986 is an ordinary statute. The Treaty of Waitangi 1840 between Queen Victoria and the Maori chiefs has constitutional force as the founding document of New Zealand. 80% of the population is of European, mainly Scottish and English, descent. The Maori comprise just under 15%. The English and Maori languages have equal status

Elections last took place on 27 July 2002 (the next general election must be called by July 2005). In 2002 the Labour Party and the Progressive Coalition formed the government coalition, the United Future party undertook to support the government on essential matters. The National Party remained the official Opposition.

No Nukes in the South Pacific

Politically, New Zealand has made its biggest impact internationally through its strong anti-nuclear stance. This has strained the ANZUS defense alliance (Australia, New Zealand, and the United States) which is the centerpiece of its defense policy. New Zealand has a free trade agreement with Australia and is a member of the South Pacific Forum. New Zealand is not a member of the Coalition of the Willing.

Whaling Controversy

New Zealand Conservation Commissioner Chris Carter denounced Japanese whaling in the guise of scientific research on January 11, 2006, saying that, "New Zealanders regard whales as iconic creatures and do not understand the need to kill them for scientific or any other purposes." Royal NZ Air Force aircraft have begun monitoring the acitvities of Japanese whaling ships in the South Pacific. Source: n.a. "New Zealand Air Force Watching Japanese Whaling." Deutsche Presse-Agentur. January 11, 2006.

Tokelau Votes

Voters on Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo, three coral atolls in the Pacific, voted down a proposed plan for self-government on February 16 and will thus remain an effective colony of New Zealand. The islands, which have a population of only about 1,500, Tokelau, were seized by Britain in 1889 and handed to New Zealand in 1926.

Fun Facts About New Zealand

The Lord of the Rings movies were made in New Zealand.

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