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 and the South Island, along with a batch of other islands, including the Chathams off to the Southeast and Stewart Island immediately below the South Island. 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), 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 70 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 70 local representatives take their seats, the remaining 50 are filled by representatives form each party's list. There are also seven seats 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.
- 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 main languages. Extra languages likely to be found on signs in airports and other touristy places are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, as well as Tongan, Samoan, and other Pasifika languages depending on the location.
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. Naturally, the English version is the one that is usually followed currently.
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. The reason it's called New Zealand, however, is because it was discovered by the Dutchman Abel Tasman, who was driven off by Māori before he could land.
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 British colony. Other sub-national territories gave women the vote before 1893, including the American state of New Jersey in 1790, and the Australian colonies of South Australia in 1863 and Victoria in 1864. However, these didn't last as much as would be expected, so New Zealand is technically the first territory to permanently give women the right to 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 refridgeration got going), hence why sheep also have Kiwiana status. 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
- The Almighty Johnsons
- Bad Taste
- Black Sheep
- The Bone People
- Bro Town
- Digital Magic
- Eagle vs. Shark
- Flight of the Conchords (not technically shot in New Zealand but pretty much about it)
- Footrot Flats
- Go Girls
- Heavenly Creatures
- The New Zealand Story (although very loosely, apart from the place names)
- Once Were Warriors
- Outrageous Fortune
- Owls Do Cry
- Amanda Palmer, after writing "Map Of Tasmania," was asked by a Kiwi fan "where's our fucking song?" This is what she came up with.
- The Piano
- Siones Wedding
- The Tribe
- Weather Child
- Whale Rider
- Zoe Bell
- Russell Crowe (born in NZ, moved to Australia, now the Kiwis aren't sure whether they want him back)
- Flight of the Conchords
- Sir Edmund Hillary
- Peter Jackson
- Lucy Lawless
- Melanie Lynskey
- Sam Neil
- Karl Urban
- Cousins Butch (Miller) & Luke (Williams), aka "The Kiwis" in New Zealand; "The Sheepherders" in the American territories; and "The Bushwhackers" since debuting in the WWF.
- Keith Park
- Ernest Rutherford
- Charles Upham
New Zealand in Animation
- Bro Town. New Zealand's first prime time animated show.
- Freelance Animators New Zealand, a studio in Auckland, did a number of episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Taz-Mania. They also helped out on some stuff for Walt Disney Animation Australia as well.
- Weta FX has spearheaded NZ's digital special effects industry, particularly with The Lord of the Rings trilogy.