New Zealand is situated some 1500 km east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 10000 south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans.

New Zealand's capital city isWellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Polynesians settled in 1250–1300 CE and developed a distinctive Māori culture. Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, was the first European to sight in 1642.[11] In 1840, representatives of the British Crown and Māori Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, making New a British colony. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.5 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this,New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increasedimmigration. The official languages are English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominant. The country's economy was historically dominated by the export of wool, but exports of dairy products, meat, and wine, along with tourism, are more significant today.

In 1947 the country adopted the Statute of Westminster, confirming that the British parliament could no longer legislate for without the consent of .[45]New Zealand was involved in world affairs, fighting, as part of the British Empire, in the First and Second World Wars[52] and suffering through the Great Depression.[53] The depression led to the election of the first Labour government and the establishment of a comprehensive welfare state and a protectionist economy.[54]  experienced increasing prosperity following World War II[55] and Māori began to leave their traditional rural life and move to the cities in search of work.[56] A Māori protest movementdeveloped, which criticised Eurocentrism and worked for greater recognition of Māori culture and the Treaty of Waitangi.[57] In 1975, a Waitangi Tribunal was set up to investigate alleged breaches of the Treaty, and it was enabled to investigate historic grievances in 1985.[39] The government has negotiated settlements of these grievances with many iwi, although Māori claims to the foreshore and seabed have proved controversial in the 2000s.

New Zealand was ranked sixth in the 2013 Human Development Index,[182] fourth in the The Heritage Foundation's 2012 Index of Economic Freedom,[183] and 13th in INSEAD's 2012 Global Innovation Index.[184]

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and per capita incomeindicators, which is used to rank countries into four tiers of human development Unemployment peaked above 10 percent in 1991 and 1992,[194] following the 1987 share market crash, but eventually fell to a record low of 3.4 percent in 2007 (ranking fifth from twenty-seven comparable OECD nations).[195] However, the global financial crisis that followed had a major impact on New Zealand, with the GDP shrinking for five consecutive quarters, the longest recession in over thirty years,[196][197] and unemployment rising back to 7 percent in late 2009.[198] At May 2012, the general unemployment rate was around 6.7 percent, while the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 21 was 13.6 percent.[199] In the September 2014 quarter, unemployment was 5.4%.[200]  has experienced a series of "brain drains" since the 1970s[201] that still continue today.[202] Nearly one quarter of highly skilled workers live overseas, mostly in and , which is the largest proportion from any developed nation.[203] In recent years, however, a "brain gain" has brought in educated professionals from and lesser developed countries.[204][205]extractive industries have contributed strongly to 's economy, focussing at different times on sealing, whaling, flax, gold, kauri gum, and native timber

Food products made up 55% of the value of all the country's exports in 2014; wood was the second largest earner (7%).[208] Its major export partners are , , , , and the .[137] On 7 April 2008, New Zealand and China signed the New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement, the first such agreement China has signed with a developed country.[209][210]

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