With a temperate climate, and stunning variations in NZ geography - all surrounded by the Pacific and Tasman Oceans – people in New Zealand happily lead an outdoor life. Knowing that you'll spend far less time commuting in New Zealand than in most world cities, you'll also enjoy far more time with your friends and family. No matter where you live in New Zealand, for instance, you are probably less than an hour from the ocean, and less than 4 hours from a ski field. Which means on the same day you can mountain bike, snowboard and surf!
With just over 4 million people living in New Zealand, it's easy to find - or get away from - the crowd. So if your preference is access to big-city shopping, check out Auckland (the largest city with over 1.5 million residents), Christchurch, Wellington (the capital) or Dunedin. But one of the joys of New Zealand is that you can also choose to live a more rural lifestyle, and still live within an hour's drive of the centre of any of these cities. Or you can choose to settle in the country - there's plenty of room for expansion here!
For students, New Zealand offers the familiarity of life in an English-speaking, modern democracy. Education is based on the prestigious British system. Generally, our universities offer small class sizes for personalized, top quality courses.
New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy under England and while the Queen is the head of state, New Zealand effectively governs itself through its parliamentary system with a Prime Minister. The public votes every three years which often sees a change in government. The two main political parties are the National Party and the Labour Party. New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote in 1893.
The flag of New Zealand has been in its current form since 1902 and because of New Zealand's British ties, is the British Blue Ensign with four stars representing the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross are the four brightest stars in the sky over New Zealand. In recent years, a change of flag has been debated with the popular black flag with a silver fern being one of the more popular choices. This unofficial New Zealand flag is often seen when Kiwis are on the world stage in sporting events.
Early New Zealand history suggests the islands were first settled by eastern Polynesians between 1250-1300. Over the years since, these settlers developed their own distinct culture called 'Maori'.
The first European thought to have landed on New Zealand shores was a Dutch explorer called Abel Tasman in 1642. It was a hostile encounter between his crew and local Maori. The Europeans didn't come back until 1769 when British explorer James Cook mapped the entire New Zealand coastline. During the early 19th century, conflict between Maori and the British was quite frequent.
In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed making New Zealand a colony. This resulted in many more immigrants making New Zealand their home but also contributed to more conflict resulting in the New Zealand Wars. These wars lasted from 1845 to 1872 and were primarily around land ownership and the settlers who occupied the disputed land. Today historical disputes continue however are fought in the courtroom and by negotiation.