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Useful Notes: New Zealand

Not Australia, the one next to it. The semicolon, or as The Onion and Jon Stewart called it, "Australia's Canada".

New Zealand (Aotearoa, "The Land of the Long White Cloud" in Māori) was a former British colony, becoming fully independent in 1947, although it had been a self-governing Dominion since 1907.

Residents of New Zealand are called New Zealanders or Kiwis (named after the bird). The word Pakeha is often used to identify New Zealanders of European descent, although it sometimes is also used to refer to non-Maori New Zealanders, or just non-Māori, generally.

NZ consists of two major landmasses, the North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui ("the fish of Māui"note ) and the South Island or Te Waipounamu ("the waters of greenstone"note ), along with a batch of other islands, including the Hauraki Gulf islands near Auckland, including Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island; the Chatham Islands off to the southeast; and Stewart Island immediately below the South Island. The atoll group of Tokelau, north of Samoa, is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. There are also two Pacific Island nations, Niue and the Cook Islands, who are self-governing but are in "free association" with New Zealand, which mostly means that New Zealand manages their external affairs. Cities include Auckland (the largest), Wellington (the capital), Christchurch (the South Island's largest city), Hamilton, Tauranga, the twin cities of Napier and Hastings, Palmerston North, and Dunedin.

New Zealand is a Commonwealth Realm, i.e. a parliamentary democracy that recognizes the British Monarch as head of state. The overall structure is a like that of Britain's, with a few major differences:
  • Parliament is elected by a mixed-member proportional system (MMP) every three years (give or take), which boils down to this: There are 120 seats in parliament. People get two votes: one vote to choose their local representative, of which the 71 districts each send one; and one vote for a party, which is tallied together with all the other votes cast across the country, which tally is then used to divvy up all 120 seats proportionally. After all the 71 local representatives take their seats, the remaining 50 are filled by representatives form each party's list. Of the 71 district seats, 64 are general district seats (16 in the South Island, 48 in the North) and seven are reserved for Māori MPs: Māori voters can choose whether they wish to enroll with the election of their administrative district's representative, or with the election of their Māori district's representative.
    • If you're German or familiar with German politics, it works basically the same as the Bundestag.
    • Until 1993, the traditional First Past the Post system used in Britain was used, in which there were 99 districts and 99 seats: 95 general (25 South and 70 North) and four Māori.
  • The New Zealand Parliament consists solely of one House, the House of Representatives; the Legislative Council was abolished in 1951.
  • There is a Governor-General to serve as the monarch's viceroy, who discharges the (almost entirely ceremonial) daily duties of the head of state in the name of the Queen (rather than, you know, having her do it herself).

Māori, New Zealand Sign Language, and English (the de facto language) are its three official languages. There are also a significant number of people speaking Samoan, French, Hindi, and Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), with extra languages likely to be found on signs in airports and other touristy places, as well as parts of Auckland.

New Zealand was one of the last landmasses settled by humans: Māori only migrated to New Zealand in the late 1200's. Dutchman Abel Tasman was the first European to sight the country in 1642, but who was driven off by Māori before he could land. Dutch cartographers subsequently named the country New Zealand after the Dutch Province of Zeeland. Europeans (mostly Brits, although there was one abortive attempt by the French) first began settling in the country in the early 1800's.

New Zealanders (or Kiwis) view Captain James Cook similarly to how Americans view Christopher Columbus. This is because Cook's crew were the first Europeans to land in New Zealand and Cook produced the first accurate maps of the country (well, nearly accurate: he drew Stewart Island as a peninsula and Banks Peninsula as an island!)

The founding document of New Zealand is the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed in 1840 between the British and representatives of Māori iwi and hapu (tribes and subgroups). This is viewed as the founding of New Zealand as a country. There is much controversy in what the Treaty actually said, as two versions were signed, one in te reo Māori and one in English, and the two said slightly different things about whether or not the Māori gave up their sovereignty to the British Crown and exactly how much of New Zealand the Māori were entitled to. Ever since the 1990s various iwi have been compensated for land or resource rights that were determined to have been inappropriately taken from them, and various national landmarks (such as Mount Cook) have been symbolically given back to the nearest iwi...which then promptly gifts the landmark back to the Crown. The Treaty is also why there are dedicated Maori language TV channels and radio stations: te reo Maori has been determined to be a "treasure" of the Maori people, and therefore it is the obligation of the Crown to protect and promote it. Some of the strongest anti-republican sentiment is among the Maori, as their existence as a political community is based on their relationship with the Crown; in a "Republic of New Zealand", they'd be just another ethnic group.

New Zealand claims to be the first country to give the vote to women in 1893. At the time, however, New Zealand was not a "country" in the sense of an independent nation-state, but merely a self-governing British colony. Other sub-national territories gave women the vote before 1893, including the American state of New Jersey in 1790, the Australian colonies of South Australia in 1863 and Victoria in 1864, and the Wyoming Territory in the U.S. in 1869 (which became the state of Wyoming in 1890). Despite this, New Zealand is still the first modern independent sovereign state to give the women the vote.

Kiwis served under the British in the Boer War. They were also a part of the ANZAC forces in World War I, sent to Gallipoli with the Australians. Their greatest accomplishment was the taking of Chunuk Bair. If you see soldiers with hats that look like Scoutmasters or like a lemonsqueezer, those'd be the New Zealanders.

New Zealand's Rugby Union team, the All Blacks, have long been ambassadors to the rest of the world. They have notably popularised the haka, a traditional Māori dance, which they perform before each match. Perhaps because of this notable example, there is a common misperception overseas (as well as for many in NZ) that all haka are war dances. This is by no means true, and even the haka the All Blacks have traditionally performed before matches is in fact a celebratory dance, rather than a peruperu (challenging/war dance). Nevertheless, the unfamiliarity overseas and among some New Zealanders with the facial and vocal expressions common in a haka mean people from overseas often find a haka intimidating. Ka Mate, the haka usually performed by the All Blacks, has seen some controversy due to copyright claims by the iwi from whom it originated. However, origins aside, it is a glorious thing to behold.

New Zealand set itself up proper thanks to farming (especially exporting meat overseas once refrigeration got going), hence why sheep also have Kiwiana status. The old saying goes that there are 20 sheep to every New Zealander, although this figure hasn't been accurate since the mid 1980s - changing economic conditions and increased immigration means there are now only 7 sheep to every New Zealander. As a consequence of this and the prevalence of sheep farming in Australia as well, good-natured ribbing about bestiality occurs in both countries.

New Zealand in fiction

Famous Kiwis

New Zealand has produced several famous actors, musicians, and others, but since it's also a fairly small country, many famous Kiwis move away when they make it big, either to Australia, the UK, or the United States.

New Zealand in Animation

Films/series shot in New Zealand

As New Zealand has a similar climate to Great Britain or the West Coast of North America, but with less development and some really dramatic landforms (due to being a relatively young landmass geologically), it is becoming increasingly popular to shoot films there. A certain multi-million dollar franchise that did so didn't hurt either.


The New Zealand flag
Like Australia to the west, New Zealand also adopted the "blue ensign" as its flag, featuring the Union Jack at the canton. At the fly side is their own take on Crux Australis, one of the most famous constellations in the southern hemisphere, colored red as a distinguishing mark from the Australian version, as approved by Māori chiefs in 1834 (although it would not be legalized as the national flag until 1902).

New York SubwayImageSource/MapsNicaragua
AustraliaUsefulNotes/OceaniaPapua New Guinea

alternative title(s): New Zealand
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