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Useful Notes / New Zealand

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Not Australia, the one next to it. The semicolon, or as The Onion and Jon Stewart called it, "Australia's Canada".note  Alternatively, given the inhabitants' love of Rugby Union and the significant presence of sheep, "Wales in the South Pacific" may also be a fair description.

New Zealand (Aotearoa, "The Land of the Long White Cloud" in Māorinote ) 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 Pākehā is often used to identify New Zealanders of European descent, although it sometimes is also used to refer to non-Māori 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 constitutional monarchy 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. Currently the nation is governed by the social democratic Labour Party with Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister.
    • 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, which would be a pain given that she lives in London).

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 hapū (tribes and subtribes). 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 Crownnote  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.

Disputed land sales were also the leading cause of the New Zealand Wars, in which British imperial forces and Crown-supporting Māori (kūpapa) fought disenfranchised Māori iwi. Although massively outnumbered (estimates of 18,000 British and kūpapa against a peak of 5,000 Māori) the local Māori were surprisingly (to the British) resilient, making use of fortified villages called pa and guerrilla warfare to vex Imperial forces. This era saw the rise of many colourful and distinct characters such as Te Kooti, a religious leader and warlord who started New Zealand's Ringatū religion (which still exists today, with around 16,000 followers); Hone Heke, who cut down the flagstaff at Kororareka; and Gustavus von Tempsky, the eccentric adventurer who founded the Forest Rangers.

The Treaty is also why there are dedicated Māori language TV channels and radio stations: te reo Māori has been determined to be a "treasure" of the Māori 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 Māori, 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 Second 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 for some reason is frequently omitted from maps. An example of this is during Star Trek: First Contact where Picard is in orbit on his ship, and points out Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but New Zealand is absent. In fairness, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands actually are located significantly closer to Australia than New Zealand is. There's actually upward of 1,700 kilometers of ocean between New Zealand and Australia, which is precisely why it took so long for the first humans to arrive in New Zealand. The two nations are quite a lot closer culturally and politically than they are geographically.

New Zealand in fiction

Shout Outs in foreign media

New Zealand's remoteness and relative obscurity has led to some amusing pride amongst its citizens, whenever it gets mentioned in major Hollywood productions:

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.

See also:

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 and with only the four cardinal stars (Epsilon is missing) 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). Attempts have been made to create a more distinctive New Zealand flag (it's commonly mistaken for the Australian flag), but all have failed due to lack of any agreement on which flag to use.


Video Example(s):


God Defend New Zealand

God Defend New Zealand is the national anthem of New Zealand.

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