Area: 104,534 square miles. New Zealand comprises the North and South Islands (separated by the Cook Strait), and numerous smaller islands.
Environment: Mountainous, with stunning scenery (Mount Cook 3,764 metres) and large coastal plains. North Island has three active volcanoes. The climate is temperate, with strong local variations. There is a wide variety of wildlife.
Population: 4 million, with 75% living on North Island and 80% in the cities.
Life expectancy: Men 75 years, women 81 years.
Ethnic groups: New Zealand European 73%, Maori 10%, other European 5%, Pacific islander 4%, Asian and others 8%. There are many immigrants.
Official languages: English and Maori.Literacy: 99%.
Capital: Wellington. Main cities: Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and Dunedin.
Economy: Half the land is suitable for farming and a further quarter is forested. Over the last 20 years the economy has prospered, as it has moved from agricultural to mixed free market. New Zealand is self-sufficient in power (60% hydroelectric; with its own coal and natural gas). Inflation is low. Exports include forestry and dairy products, meat, fish, and manufactured goods; Australia, USA, Japan and UK are trading partners. Tourism is also important.
Religions: Protestant 38%; Non-religious 35%; Roman Catholic 13%; Cults (especially Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists) 11%; Buddhist/Chinese religions 1%; Hindu 1%; others 1%.
Protestant denominations: Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, various Pentecostal, Brethren and others.
History: Captain James Cook discovered New Zealand in 1769. From 1840 it was a British colony. In 1907 it became an independent dominion, with the English monarch remaining titular Head of State. There are political tensions between the indigenous Maori and white New Zealanders.