Population

4,841,000 (2019)

Official languages

English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language

Language spoken

92% of New Zealanders have English as their mother tongue. There are over 750,000 Moari people in New Zealand and the estimated number of fluent speakers is around 125,000.

People

70% of the population is of European descent, Maori make up almost 17%. There are also non-Maori Pacific Islanders who make up 9% of the population, plus some Asian communities, including Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese.

Religion

There is no state religion in New Zealand, but the principal religion is Christianity, with 38% of the population identifying themselves as Christians. In addition, around 8% of the population are affiliated with other religions (including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism) and almost 49% of the population don’t identify as belonging to any religion. The traditional Maori religion still has some followers, but many Maori people converted to Christianity after the European settlement of New Zealand.

Holiday

February 6: Waitangi Day (commemorating the treaty signed between Maori and the British in 1840).

Holiday Schedule

  • January 1: New Year.
  • January 2: New Year's Day Holiday.
  • February 6: National Day.
  • In late March, early April: Easter (from Good Friday to Easter Monday).
  • April 25: ANZAC Day (in honor of the Pacific soldiers in the First World War).
  • First Monday in June: The Queen’s Birthday.
  • Last Monday in October: Labor Day.
  • December 25: Christmas.
  • December 26: Boxing Day.

History

New Zealand was first settled in the early 14th century by Polynesians who arrived by canoe. Once they arrived, they spread out across the country - which they named Aotearoa, meaning "land of the long white cloud" - and established the Maori culture. In 1642, the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman explored the seas around the west coast of the country - which he called Statenland - but never landed on the islands. There were no European explorers in New Zealand then until 1769 when the British explorer Captain Cook reached New Zealand on the first of his three voyages and became the first European explorer to circumnavigate and map New Zealand. In the following years, New Zealand was visited by traders, missionaries and explorers which had a mixed impact on the Maori communities, with some experiencing a huge change with a lot of exposure to Europeans while other communities continuing with day-to-day life mostly as is. However, a huge change that changed the lives of all Maori was the introduction of guns. The Maori people had only spears as weapons before colonisation and the introduction of muskets created an imbalance of power between tribes and caused the Musket Wars where thousands of Maori people died and were enslaved by other tribes.

In 1839, the United Kingdom announced their plans to buy much of the land in New Zealand and systematically establish colonies.Then in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by around 40 Maori chiefs in Waitangi in the Bay of Island on the North Island, then was taken around New Zealand for other chiefs to sign. The meaning of this treaty is disputed, as the English version of the treaty doesn’t match the Maori version of the treaty exactly. The English version gave the British Crown sovereignty over New Zealand while the Maori version gave the crown kawanatanga, meaning less power than sovereignty. The interpretations of the treaty is still being discussed to this day, but the outcome was that New Zealanders had the rights of British Citizens and increased trade and protection.

As the European population booms with many British citizens moving to settle in New Zealand, Auckland is named as the capital for the new colony (to be replaced by Wellington in 1865). As the number of settlers grew and grew, tensions arose between European governors and Maori chiefs as to who was in charge, and there was increased pressure on Maori people to sell their land to the government, who it turned sold it to others for a profit.

In 1854, the first New Zealand Parliament was convened and the colony won partial autonomy, although it didn’t ga In 1907, New Zealand became a self-governing dominion of the British Empire until 1907, and it didn’t become full independent until 1947. During this time, women were given the right to vote (in 1893, making them the first country to do so), New Zealand supported Britain in both World Wars, and the Great Depression hit the economy hard. New Zealand recovered from this over the coming years and saw a lot of progress economically, politically and socially.

Policy

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy, with the sovereign represented by a governor general. They appoint the prime minister who is elected as the party leader with the majority following a national vote. The House of Representatives is made up of 122 members, elected for three years, and New Zealand’s justice system’s highest court is The Supreme Court of New Zealand.

Famous New Zealanders

  • Dame Whina Cooper (1896-1994) led the famous land march - hikoi - in 1975 to protest about Maori land loss to Europeans and to remind the country of the strength of the Maori culture and identity.
  • Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) is considered to be one of the most talented short story writers of all time.
  • Hone Papita Raukura (Ralph) Hotere (1931-2013) Ralph is one of New Zealand’s most famous and influential artists, working as a painter, sculptor and installation artist. He was a Maori man who had a catholic upbringing, which came through in his work about social justice, colonisation and human rights.
  • Colin Meads (1936-2017) is considered one of the best of New Zealand rugby players of all time. He played 113 games for the country’s national team the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971.
  • Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) is a nuclear physicist who discovered the element radon, plus alpha and betaparticles, beta particles, the atomic nucleus. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 for showing that radioactivity is accompanied by the disintegration of the chemical elements.
  • Edmund Percival Hillary (1919-2008) was the first, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to reach the summit of Everest (29 May 1953). He also reached the South Pole on January 4, 1958. He was a Knight of the Order of the Garter.
  • Kiri Te Kanawa (born 1944) is Maori soprano who began life singing in bars in New Zealand, but later moved to study in London. In 1971 she made her debut at Covent Garden in The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.
  • Peter Jackson (born 1961) is a director, screenwriter and producer and is perhaps most famous for the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films.

Etiquette

Tipping is not expected and is entirely at your discretion.

Shopping

If you love handmade products, invest in some locally-made pottery, knitwear or leather goods, and pieces of Maori work and art.

Food

The food in New Zealand is pretty close to British food, with fish and chips, pies, roast meats and vegetables all being very popular. The traditional Maori method of cooking in an underground oven - called hangi - created delicious dishes of root vegetables, meat and stews. There is some good fish and seafood in New Zealand in coastal areas, too.

Drink

You can drink the tap water across New Zealand. When it comes to alcohol, you can find some excellent beers and craft breweries, but the country is really known for its outstanding wines. The main producing regions are Hawke's Bay (North Island) and Marlborough (South Island) and their famous grape in sauvignon blanc which grows exceptionally well.

Useful information

Practical Guide

New Zealand in Context

Contact one of our New Zealand specialists