New Zealand is a wealthy South Pacific island nation, located to the southeast of Australia. Populated by two main cultural groups – New Zealanders of European descent, and the Maori, who are descendants of Polynesian settlers, New Zealand is made up of two main islands and numerous smaller ones. Three-quarters of the population lives on the North Island, which is also home to the capital city, Wellington.
Agriculture is the primary economic contributor, but manufacturing and tourism are becoming increasingly important. Visitors are drawn to the glacier-carved mountains, lakes, beaches and thermal springs. Because of the geographical isolation, much of the flora and fauna is unique to the country. Prior to human arrival, the country’s forests were dominated by birds, like the kiwi, kakapo, weka and takahē. Subsequent changes in habitat, and the introduction of rats, ferrets and other mammals led to the extinction of many bird species, including large birds like the moa and Haast’s eagle.
New Zealand has over 5 million people, the majority of whom identify as being of European descent. The indigenous Maori population and other Asians form a minority of the population. Although English is the predominant language, Maori and Samoan have also been recognized as part of the country’s efforts to revive its indigenous cultures.