New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (commonly called the North Island and the South Island), and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. The indigenous Māori named New Zealand Aotearoa, commonly translated as The Land of the Long White Cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing but in free association); Tokelau; and the Ross Dependency (New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica).
New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation: it is situated about 2000 km (1250 miles) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga. During its long isolation New Zealand developed a distinctive fauna dominated by birds, a number of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and the mammals they introduced.
The population of New Zealand is mostly of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority. Asians and non-Māori Polynesians are also significant minority groups, especially in urban areas. The most commonly spoken language is English.
New Zealand is a developed country that ranks highly in international comparisons on human development, quality of life, life expectancy, literacy, public education, peace, prosperity, economic freedom, ease of doing business, lack of corruption, press freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. Its cities also consistently rank among the world’s most liveable.
Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the country’s head of state and is represented by a ceremonial Governor-General who holds reserve powers. The Queen has no real political influence, and her position is essentially symbolic. Political power is held by the democratically elected Parliament of New Zealand under the leadership of the Prime Minister, who is the head of government.