New Zealand is situated in the Southern hemisphere surrounded by the South Pacific Ocean, between latitude 34'S and 47'S. Geographically, New Zealand is perhaps the most isolated land mass on earth. It is made up of two main islands (North and South Islands), Stewart Island and a numorus of smaller islands, including the Auckland, Chatham and Pitt Islands. The total landmass is 268,680 sq kms. Seventy five percent of the country is more than 200 metres above sea level.Its nearest neighbour is Australia, 1,600 km to the northwest (same distant between London and Moscow). New Zealand is 3,932 km from Antarctica and 18,000 km from the UK and 12 hours ahead of GMT.
Its climate is temperate and changeable. Because of its isolated geographical location, New Zealand is home to many unique species of flora and fauna, including flightless birds, kiwi, kakapo and weka.
New Zealand has been greatly affected by its position on the edge of two tectonic plates. The boundary between the Pacific Plate and the Indian/ Australian Plate bisects the North and South Islands of New Zealand, resulting in extensive mountain range uplift, volcanic and earth quake activity. To the north of New Zealand, the Pacific Plate is sub ducting beneath the Indian and Australian Plate. This has formed the Tonga/Kermadec Trench. To the south of New Zealand, subduction is taking place in the opposite direction. Here, the Pacific Plate is overriding the Indian/Australian Plate forming the Puysegur Trench. The Alpine fault running through the South Island of New Zealand connects these two subduction zones. The Alpine fault, like the San Andres fault of California, is a transform fault.
The north of New Zealand is subtropical and the south temperate. The warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest months are June, July and August. In summer the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC and in winter between 10-15ºC.
It is estimated the Maori inhabited New Zealand around 800AD. Around eight hundred years later the Western world discovered New Zealand. In 1642, in a bid to locate the mysterious, rich land Australia, the Dutch Explorer, Abel Tasman caught sight of the West Coast of the South Island.
The First European to set foot on New Zealand soil was Captain James Cook of England, in 1769. He also made the first, but inaccurate map of the country.
Settlers from England started to arrive in the 1830's, and by 1840 a Treaty was signed between the crown and the chiefs of the Maori tribes on sixth day of February in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty. The Treaty of Waitangi handed sovereignty of New Zealand to the Crown, and is a matter of dispute even today, as the Maori translation is not quite the same as the English.
One hundred and seven years later, in 1947 New Zealand declared independence, and became its own country, after Britain did not let New Zealand troops return to defend their home against the possibility of Japanese invasion in the Second World War.
Though all New Zealanders became New Zealand citizens, until 1977 they were still British subjects. In 1983, New Zealand was declared "The Realm of New Zealand", and in 1986 the Constitution Act removed all power from the United Kingdom to legislate for New Zealand when it was requested. New Zealand remains part of the Commonwealth, but as an independent country.
1893 - First country to grant women the right to vote
1903 - Richard Pearse flew a home constructed aircraft. It's debatable whether he flew before the Wright brothers or not.
1953 - Explorer Sir Edmund Hillary with Tenzing Norgay reached Mt. Everest's summit