A map of New Zealand New Zealand was one of the last habitable lands on Earth to be settled by humans. The first people arrived there just 750 years ago. The country is made up of two large, mountainous islands separated by a narrow stretch of water, the Cook Strait. Lying at the heart of the North Island is a rugged, volcanic region of mountains, craters and lakes. On either side, the land slopes to rolling farmland. Running down the South Island are the high, snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps. To the east of this range lie the flat, grassy Canterbury plains, while to the west there are forests. New Zealand has a mild, wet climate. The far north has hot, humid summers; the South Island is cooler all year round.
New Zealand was first inhabited by the Maori, a people who originally came from Polynesia about 750 years ago. Today the Maori make up about 15% of the population; their mythology, language and traditions are an important part of New Zealand’s culture. By law, they have representation in the New Zealand Parliament. The haka, a Maori war dance, has been taken up by the New Zealand rugby team and is performed before their matches.
People living on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, just west of the International Date Line, are the first people to see the sun rise each morning.
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