Country of the World New Zealand

About the country New Zealand, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: New Zealand is an isolated island nation in the South Pacific. It lies 1,200 mi. southeast across the Tasman Sea from its closest neighbor, Australia. There are two main islands--South and North--as well as the much smaller Stewart Island to the south and several tiny islands scattered about the southern Pacific. The main islands are mountaintops of a huge, volcanic range rising from the ocean floor.

South Island is rugged and Alp-like, covered in places by glaciers. North Island is bubbly and convulsive; a 150-mi.-long belt of snowcapped, steaming volcanoes wrap the land in clouds, 400 earthquakes shake the ground every year, and many hot springs and geysers heat the surface. Ten national parks cover about 8% of New Zealand's forestland. Much of the rest of the country, about two thirds, is under cultivation or roamed by huge sheep herds. The climate ranges from tropical in the north to temperate in the south.

Size: 103,736 sq. mi. (268,676 sq. km.). North Island is 44,281 sq. mi., South Island 58,093 sq. mi.

Population: 3.2 million.

Who Rules: Executive authority is entrusted to the governor-general, a direct representative of the British crown. In recent years, this post has been filled by native New Zealanders. The governor-general is assisted by an Executive Council, which includes the prime minister and other ministers of state. This council is comparable to the U.S. Cabinet.

Who REALLY Rules: For all practical purposes, sovereignty rests with the 87-member Parliament, which is presently dominated by the National party. The Parliament makes laws, interprets the New Zealand Constitution, and amends laws, often at the bat of an eyelash. It is heavily influenced by the sheep industry, which in turn is responsible for New Zealand's chief exports: wool, mutton, and lamb.

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