Polynesian settlers may have arrived in New Zealand in the late 1200s, with widespread settlement in the mid-1300s. They called the land Aotearoa, which legend holds is the name of the canoe that Kupe, the first Polynesian in New Zealand, used to sail to the country; the name Aotearoa is now in widespread use as the local Maori name for the country. Competition for land and resources led to intermittent fighting between different Maori iwi (tribes) by the 1500s as large game became extinct. Dutch explorer Abel TASMAN was the first European to see the islands in 1642 but after an encounter with local Maori, he sailed away. British captain James COOK was the next European to arrive in New Zealand in 1769, followed by whalers, sealers, and traders. The UK only nominally claimed New Zealand and included it as part of New South Wales in Australia. Concerns about increasing lawlessness led the UK to appoint its first British Resident in New Zealand in 1832, although he had few legal powers. In 1835, some Maori iwi from the North Island declared independence as the United Tribes of New Zealand. Fearing an impending French settlement and takeover, they asked the British for protection. In 1840, the British negotiated their protection in the Treaty of Waitangi, which was eventually signed by more than 500 different Maori chiefs, although many chiefs did not or were not asked to sign. In the English-language version of the treaty, the British thought the Maori ceded their land to the UK, but translations of the treaty appeared to give the British less authority, and land tenure issues stemming from the treaty are still present and being actively negotiated in New Zealand.
The UK declared New Zealand a separate colony in 1841 and gave it limited self-government in 1852. Different traditions of authority and land use led to a series of wars from the 1840s to the 1870s fought between Europeans and various Maori iwi. Along with disease, these conflicts halved the Maori population. In the 1890s, New Zealand initially expressed interest in joining independence talks with Australia but ultimately opted against it and changed its status to an independent dominion in 1907. New Zealand provided more than 100,000 troops during each World War, many of whom fought as part of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). New Zealand reaffirmed its independence in 1947, signed the Australia, New Zealand, and US (ANZUS) Treaty, and militarily supported the US in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Beginning in 1984, New Zealand began to adopt nuclear-free policies, contributing to a dispute with the US over naval ship visits that led the US to suspend its defense obligations to New Zealand in 1986.
In recent years, New Zealand has explored reducing some of its ties to the UK. There in an active, minority movement about changing New Zealand to a republic, and in 2015-16, a referendum on changing the New Zealand flag to remove the Union Jack failed 57% to 43%.
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NOTE: The information regarding New Zealand on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of New Zealand 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about New Zealand 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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