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June 19th, 2017

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New Zealand is unusual in world terms as it is one of the few nations without any bordering neighbours.

A collection of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, it lies between latitudes 34º and 47º south, with its nearest neighbour - Australia - roughly the same distance away as New York is from Chicago - but in this case separated by the waters of the Tasman Sea.

Around 1600km in length and no wider than 300km, almost all the 268,680 sq.km of land mass is in the two main islands - imaginatively called the North Island and the South Island! The landscape is hugely varied, from the glaciers and huge Southern Alps mountain range of the South Island through to the active volcanoes, geothermal fields and island-studded bays and harbours of the North Island. It's this variety, packed into a relatively small area, that has helped make New Zealand such a popular tourist destination - and more recently, a mecca for film producers (witness the huge interest in the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings, filmed throughout the country).

New Zealand was settled by Maori more than 1000 years ago following giant canoe migrations from central Pacific islands. The first known European discoverer was Abel Tasman in 1642. He named the country Staten Landt, later renamed Nieuw Zeeland. European settlement didnt begin until 1792 following mapping of the coastline by english explorer James Cook during the late 18th century.

The country's isolation has meant a unique array of native flora and fauna have developed. Visitors can still see primeval forests the likes of which have died out elsewhere in the world, and our indigenous species include the flighless Kiwi bird, the dinosaur-relative Tuatara, the world's heaviest insect (Weta), and the world's largest parrot (Kakapo).

Historically, New Zealand has often been at the forefront of social change, being the first nation to give women the vote (1893) and the first to provide state-funded old age pensions (1898). Universal social security was introduced in 1938. It was a New Zealander - Sir Ernest Rutherford - who was the first person to split the atom, and another - Sir Edmund Hillary - was was first to climb Mt Everest.

New Zealand's currency is the New Zealand dollar. Being close to the International Date Line, our time zone is Greenwich Mean Time +12 hours. English is the most widely spoken language.

For more detailed information on New Zealand visit: purenz.com

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