Mitre PeakAlan's Class (1996/7)



by Lucía



A fascinating trip, an exotic place to live or visit? Getting to know its Maori people, their situation, population, beliefs...

This is how I would like to introduce these islands of Aotearoa (New Zealand)....

The people



An island nation in the middle latitudes of the southern hemisphere, Aotearoa or New Zealand is bordered by the Tasman Sea on the west and the South Pacific Ocean on the east, and lies about 1,600 km (994 miles) southeast of Australia.

It comprises two main islands: North Island and South Island. There are also numerous tiny islands and islets: the Antipodes, Auckland and Steward Island. North Island has been shaped by internal volcanic activity. The highest point on the island is Ruapelu Volcano (2,797m/ 9,176ft). South Island has about 20 peaks exceeding 3,000 m (9,840ft). The highest, Mt. Cook (3,764 m/12,349ft) is part of the impressive Southern Alps range.

The climate is considered mild and comfortable; there isn't much difference in temperature between North and South islands. January and February are the warmest months, and July the coldest. South Island is wetter, while the driest area is Central Otago.


About 74% of New Zealand's population lives on North Island, while South Island is considered "the country". New Zealand is highly urbanized, with one in four New Zealanders living in the cities and suburbs of Auckland, Wellington (the capital), Christchurch and Dunedin.

Number of inhabitants 3,500,000
Population density 13.2 inhabitants/sq. km
Distribution 85% urban
15% rural
City Inhabitants
Auckland 952,600
Wellington 331,100
Christchurch 324,400

The people

The original human settlers of Aotearoa were the Maoris, a Polynesian people who reached the islands in about 900 AD. The native Maoris are now far outnumbered by people of European descent -- especially English and Scottish -- who make up 86% of the total population:

Ethnic group Percentage of present population
European 86%
Maori 9%
Pacific islanders 3%

85% of the population are New Zealanders by birth.

The name Maori is thought to date from the mid-1800s, when the natives adopted it to distinguish themselves from the Pakeha (Europeans). Its real meaning is "ordinary" or "normal". The Maoris originally lived in the warmer areas of the north island, but their descendants spread throughout both islands.

New Zealand is an English speaking country. The indigenous language of New Zealand, Maori, has some official recognition. There are also other languages spoken, including Polynesian languages, such as Samoan, Tongan, Rarotongan, Nuiean, and Tokelauan.1

The following are the main religions:

Anglican 22%
Presbyterian 16%
Roman Catholic 15%
Others (including Jews, Hindus, and Christian Maori churches) 27%
no religious creed 20%



New Zealand is an advanced industrial state with an economy dependent on trade. It is also attempting to build new markets, particularly in the Pacific region, to increase economic self-reliance and to restructure the economy to make it more responsive to world market forces. Its gross internal product is US $51,200,000,000.

Main economic products
Agriculture wool, barley, wheat, corn , fruit, meat and dairy products
Forestry Californian pine, douglas (a species of fir tree), rimu and miro
Fishing hoki, blue whiting, squid, mackerel and barracuda
Mining coal, oil, natural gas, iron, gold
Industry foodstuffs, wood , chemicals, metal, metallurgic products, machinery and transport equipment
services and trades 55%
industry 25%
business 10%
agriculture, fishing and forestry 10%


New Zealanders are very proud of their two cultures. Here are some examples of manifestations of this heritage:


New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy. The legislature comprises 95 members who are elected by universal suffrage and 4 who are elected from Maori electoral rolls.

The two major political parties are the Labour Party (founded in 1916) which introduced most of the nation's social welfare and labour legislation, and the National Party (founded in 1931) which traditionally favours personal initiative.


c.600 AD The first Maori population was established in the islands.
1642 Dutch navigator Abel Janszoon Tasman discovered the islands that later received the name of New Zealand.
1769 James Cook, navigator and British soldier, claimed the islands for England after sailing around them.
1791 Coming from Australia, missionaries and British whalers create settlements.
1840-1841 The Waitangi Treaty established a British colony in New Zealand. Auckland became the first capital. 545 Maori chiefs signed the treaty that recognised their nation's rights.
1848-1850 European settlement of the south island began.
1860 Discovery of gold in Otago generated a massive influx of immigrants during the 1860.
1865 Treaty established Wellington as capital.
1860-1872 The new Maori Wars ended with pacification and reconciliation between Maoris and Europeans.
1893 New Zealand was the first country in the world that recognised women's right to vote.
1914-1918 New Zealand forces suffered losses during the First World War.
1939 New Zealand took part in the Second World War against the Axis forces.
1951 N.Z. signed the treaty of mutual defence with Australia and USA, known as ANZUS.
1973 In response to Britain's joining the European Community, New Zealand signed an important agreement with Australia for economic cooperation
1984 Ships with nuclear weapons forbidden from entering New Zealand's harbours.
1986 USA withdrew from its defensive commitments in the matter of ANZUS because of antinuclear measures.
1991 The National Party government carry forward radical measures that extend industrial privatization.
1993 Referendum approves a change in the electoral system that permits participation of minority parties.
1995 New Zealand's government and the main tribal federation signed an agreement on the 22nd of May calling for payment of money and the return of lands that had been ceded to Europeans during the 1860s.


1. Thank you to Peter Keegan for correcting this information.



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Last updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004