New Zealand is a small country in the Pacific Ocean with two main Islands, called (very imaginatively) the North Island and the South Island there are also a number of offshore islands, which combine to give New Zealand the world's largest Exclusive Economic Zone (area of the ocean we have exclusive rights to fish/mine/etc) of any country in the world. We also have a permanent Antarctic station.

Because New Zealand is oriented north-south on the globe, there is a great range in climate, from sub-tropical microclimates in the far north to cold and damp climates in the south. The prevailing wind is from the West, i.e. from Australia.

The indigenous population are the Maori, a polynesian race with a rich culture and language. The Maori langauge, which is written in a sub-set of English characters, has been undergoing a revival over the last 20-30 years. After initial conflict with the Maoris lead to the Maori land wars the English Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi with many of the Maori chiefs in 1840 . The Treaty of Waitangi was systematically broken over a period of a century, almost entirely by the government, but recently there has been a movement to reverse many of these changes. Waitangi Day, the New Zealand national holiday celebrates this treaty. New Zealand is no longer an English colony, but rather a member of the British Commonwealth, with the Queen of England as the Head of State and an elected parliment. The Queen of England is represented locally by the Governer General, who is nominated by the Prime Minister.

The seat of government is no longer in Waitangi, but in Wellington. Other population concentrations include Auckland, Chirstchurch and Dunedin.

The New Zealand national symbol is the Kiwi, a flightless nocturnal bird. Like most Maori birdnames, the word Kiwi is onomatopoetic. History has shown that it is bad luck to name an airline after a flightless bird.

Kiwifruit, a large hairy gooseberry grown in bulk in the northern parts of New Zealand are sometimes called Kiwi's, but their original name was Chinese Gooseberries, but when we tried to sell them to the Americans in the 1950's they wouldn't buy anything Chinese, so we renamed them. Kiwifruit remain a major export industry.

sources: - official information - Treaty of Waitangi