New Zealand is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses – that of the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu – and numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia,Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.
The official languages are English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominant. The country's economy was historically dominated by the export of wool, but exports of dairy products, meat, and wine, along with tourism, are more significant today.
Early Māori adapted the tropically based east Polynesian culture in line with the challenges associated with a larger and more diverse environment, eventually developing their own distinctive culture. Social organization was largely communal with families (whanau), sub-tribes (hapu) and tribes (iwi) ruled by a chief (rangatira) whose position was subject to the community's approval. The British and Irish immigrants brought aspects of their own culture to New Zealand and also influenced Māori culture, particularly with the introduction of Christianity. However, Māori still regard their allegiance to tribal groups as a vital part of their identity, and Māori kinship roles resemble those of other Polynesian peoples. More recently American, Australian, Asian and other European cultures have exerted influence on New Zealand. Non-Māori Polynesian cultures are also apparent, with Pasifika, the world's largest Polynesian festival, now an annual event in Auckland.
New Zealand has a mild and temperate maritime climate (Köppen: Cfb) with mean annual temperatures ranging from 10 °C (50 °F) in the south to 16 °C (61 °F) in the north. Historical maxima and minima are 42.4 °C (108.32 °F) in Rangiora, Canterbury and −25.6 °C (−14.08 °F) in Ranfurly, Otago. Conditions vary sharply across regions from extremely wet on the West Coast of the South Island to almost semi-arid in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin of inland Canterbury and subtropical in Northland. Of the seven largest cities, Christchurch is the driest, receiving on average only 640 millimetres (25 in) of rain per year and Wellington the wettest, receiving almost twice that amount. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all receive a yearly average of more than 2,000 hours of sunshine. The southern and south-western parts of the South Island have a cooler and cloudier climate, with around 1,400–1,600 hours; the northern and north-eastern parts of the South Island are the sunniest areas of the country and receive about 2,400–2,500 hours. The general snow season is about early June until early October in the South Island. Snowfall is less common on the North Island, although it does occur.
Primary and secondary schooling is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16, with the majority attending from the age of 5. There are 13 school years and attending state (public) schools is free to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents from a person's 5th birthday to the end of the calendar year following their 19th birthday. New Zealand has an adult literacy rate of 99 percent, and over half of the population aged 15 to 29 hold a tertiary qualification.
There are five types of government-owned tertiary institutions: universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, specialist colleges, and wānanga, in addition to private training establishments. In the adult population 14.2 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, 30.4 percent have some form of secondary qualification as their highest qualification and 22.4 percent have no formal qualification. The OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment ranks New Zealand's education system as the 7th best in the world with students performing exceptionally well in reading, mathematics and science.
Types of schools by years:
While there is overlap in some schools, primary school traditionally runs from Year 1 to Year 8 and secondary school from Year 9 to Year 13. Depending on the area, Years 7 and 8 may be taken either at a 'full' primary school (in contrast to a Year 1–6 'contributing' primary school), a separate intermediate school, or at a Year 7–13 secondary school. Schools catering for both primary school and secondary school students (Years 1 to 13) are common among private schools, and also state schools in areas where the population does not justify separate primary and secondary schools (the latter are termed 'area schools').
The main six types of schools are:
• Contributing Primary school: Years 1–6 (ages 5–11). There are no private contributing primaries.
• Full Primary school: Years 1–8 (ages 5–13). Common among integrated and private schools.
• Intermediate school: Years 7–8 (ages 10–13). Only two non-state intermediate schools exist.
• Secondary school: Years 9–13 (ages 12–18).
• Year 7–13 secondary school or Secondary school with intermediate: Years 7–13 (ages 10–18). Common among integrated and private schools, and state schools in Invercargill and South Island provincial areas.
• Composite school or Area school: Years 1–13 (ages 5–18). Common among integrated and private schools. There are some schools that fall outside the traditional year groupings. All of the following types of schools are rare, with less than ten of each type existing.
• Middle School: Years 7–10 (ages 10–15). Only six exist
• Senior School: Years 11–13 (ages 14–18). Only two exist (Albany Senior High School and Ormiston Senior College, both in Auckland)In addition, there are three other types of schools defined by the Ministry of Education:
• Correspondence school: Preschool – Year 13 (Preschool – age 19). Serves distance education, for those in remote areas or for individual subjects not offered by a school. The only school of this type is the national correspondence school: Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu.
• Special school: Preschool – age 21. Serves special education to those with intellectual impairments, visual or hearing impairments, or learning and social difficulties, who receive Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding.
• Teen parent unit: Years 9–15 (age 12–19). Serves teenage parents in continuing secondary school education. They are under the jurisdiction of a hosting secondary school, but are largely autonomous.
New Zealand cuisine is largely driven by local ingredients and seasonal variations. An island nation with a primarily agricultural economy, New Zealand yields produce from land and sea. Similar to the cuisine of Australia, the cuisine of New Zealand is a diverse British-based cuisine, with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as the country becomes more cosmopolitan.
Historical influences came from Māori culture. New American cuisine, Southeast Asian, East Asian, and South Asian culinary traditions have become popular since the 1970s.
In New Zealand households, dinner (also known as "tea") is the main meal of the day, when families gather and share their evening together. Restaurants and takeaways provide an increasing proportion of the diet.
There are several languages of New Zealand. English (New Zealand English) is the dominant language spoken by most New Zealanders and is one of three official languages of New Zealand. The country's de jure official languages are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Other languages are also used by ethnic communities.
English is the predominant language in New Zealand, spoken by 98 percent of the population. New Zealand English is similar to Australian English and many speakers from the Northern Hemisphere are unable to tell the accents apart. The most prominent differences between the New Zealand English dialect and other English dialects are the shifts in the short front vowels: the short-"i" sound (as in "kit") has centralised towards the schwa sound (the "a" in "comma" and "about"); the short-"e" sound (as in "dress") has moved towards the short-"i" sound; and the short-"a" sound (as in "trap") has moved to the short-"e" sound. Hence, the New Zealand pronunciation of words such as "bad", "dead", "fish" and "chips" sound like "bed", "did", "fush" and "chups" to non-New Zealanders.
After the Second World War, Māori were discouraged from speaking their own language (te reo Māori) in schools and workplaces and it existed as a community language only in a few remote areas. It has recently undergone a process of revitalisation, being declared one of New Zealand's official languages in 1987, and is spoken by 4.1 percent of the population. There are now Māori language immersion schools and two Māori Television channels, the only nationwide television channels to have the majority of their prime-time content delivered in Māori. Many places have both their Māori and English names officially recognised. Samoan is one of the most widely spoken languages in New Zealand (2.3 percent), followed by French, Hindi, Yue (Cantonese, Spoken in Hong Kong) and Northern Chinese. New Zealand Sign Language is used by about 28,000 people. It was declared one of New Zealand's official languages in 2006.