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September 2011

New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand, located in the South Pacific Ocean, is about the size of Colorado with an area of 270,500 sq. km. It has 15,134 km. in coastline and includes the Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Bounty Islands, Campbell Island, Chatham Islands, and Kermadec Islands. The capital city of New Zealand is Wellington, the southernmost national capital in the world; other cities are Auckland, Christchurch, and Hamilton. New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time.

Archaeological evidence indicates that New Zealand was populated by fishing and hunting people of East Polynesian ancestry perhaps 1,000 years before Europeans arrived. In 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, made the first recorded European sighting of New Zealand. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, lumbering, seal hunting, and whaling attracted a few European settlers to New Zealand. In 1840, the United Kingdom established British sovereignty through the Treaty of Waitangi signed that year with Maori chiefs. Constitutional government began to develop in the 1850s. In 1867, the Maori won the right to a certain number of reserved seats in parliament. New Zealand was declared a dominion by a royal proclamation in 1907. It achieved full internal and external autonomy in 1947.

The climate is temperate to subtropical, with sharp regional contrasts. The terrain is highly varied and consists of snowcapped mountains to lowland plains. New Zealand's natural resources include: natural gas, iron ore, sand, coal, timber, hydropower, gold, and limestone. Natural hazards facing the country include: earthquakes, though usually not severe and volcanic activity.

On 14 September 2011 an earthquake of 5.6 magnitude struck 254 miles south of L'Esperance Rock, Kermadec Islands. To learn more about earthquakes around the world, go to the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program site.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, 9/2011; 8/2011; 9/2011

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