New Zealand is made up of two large islands -North Island and South Island - and many small islands. It is located about 1500 miles southeast of Australia.
North Island and South Island are separated by Cook Strait.
New Zealand has a total area of 104,454 square miles (270,534 square kilometers).
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. It is located in North Island.
Auckland, in North Island, is the largest city and the center of industry. It has the largest Polynesian population in Oceania.
New Zealand has a parliamentary system of government.
It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, which is equal to 100 cents.
The Maori, a Polynesian people, were the first to settle New Zealand.
It was one of the last of the major landmasses on Earth to be visited by Europeans. The first contact between European explorers and Maori in New Zealand did not take place until 1642.
New Zealand lies across the boundary between the Indo-Australian and Pacific continental plates. This accounts for many of the country's geological features.
North Island has many volcanic features.
There are active volcanoes along a plateau that rises up from the slopes of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake (238 square miles/616 square kilometers).
The valleys of Lake Taupo and Lake Rotorua (New Zealand's second largest lake - 31 square miles/80 square kilometers) are known for the breathtaking displays made by their thermal springs. These springs consist of superheated groundwater that travels through joints in the rocks and then rises to the surface.
White Island, off the northern coast of North Island, is an active offshore volcano in the Bay of Plenty.
There are many coastal inlets in the Northland region,in the far north. Mangrove swamps line the coast.
South Island is very mountainous.
The Southern Alps, a range of snowcapped mountains, run along the length of South Island for more than 300 miles (483 kilometers).
Tectonic activity has influenced the formation of the Southern Alps. This mountain range lies along the Alpine Fault - which as at the boundary between the Indo-Australian and the Pacific plates. These plates run in opposite directions. As they slide past each other, they are thrust on top of each other. This has caused the crust of the Pacific Plate to be lifted up. This process is known as "slip faulting".
Aoraki, also known as Mount Cook, in the Southern Alps is New Zealand's highest mountain. It is 12,316 feet (3,754 meters) high.
Tasman Glacier flows down the eastern slope of Aoraki for 18 miles (29 kilometers). It is the largest glacier in New Zealand.
There are more than 360 glaciers in the Southern Alps. Glaciers on the eastern slopes include the Godley, Mueller and Murchison Glaciers. The Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are on the western slopes.
The Canterbury Plains along the central east coast of South Island is the only large lowland area on New Zealand.. The Canterbury Plains were formed by glacial outwash.
Most of New Zealand has a temperate climate.
Winters are colder in South Island.
In the far north of North Island, the climate is subtropical.
4,266,000 people live in New Zealand.
75% of them live on North Island.
More then one third of the people in New Zealand live in Auckland.
English and Maori are official languages.
75% of the people are of European descent, 15% are Maori and 3% are Samoan.
Recently, many immigrants have arrived from China, India and some Pacific islands.
24% of the population is Anglican, 18% is Presbyterian, 15% is Roman Catholic and 5% is Methodist.
New Zealand's economy is based on farming. It is on of the largest producers of dairy products, beef, mutton, lamb and wool in the world.
There are also significant fruit-growing and fishing industries.
Iron, aluminum, timber, wood pulp, machinery and chemical industries are also important.
The tourism industry is growing rapidly.
Most of New Zealand's energy comes from hydroelectric and geothermal power. A mountainous topography and heavy rainfalls have created quickly flowing rivers, which has benefited the development of hydroelectric power.