New Zealand, island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, located south of the equator in the Southern Hemisphere, and marking the eastern boundary of the Tasman Sea, a portion of the Pacific Ocean that separates New Zealand and the nearest large landmass, Australia, by a distance of about 1,600 km (1,000 mi). New Zealand includes two large islands that constitute most of its landmass, as well as numerous small islands. New Zealand administers two overseas territories, Tokelau and Ross Dependency (in Antarctica). The self-governing entities of Niue and the Cook Islands are in free association with New Zealand, which handles their foreign affairs and defense as requested.
New Zealand is known for its scenic landscapes of snowcapped mountains and rolling green pastures. Its image as a farming outpost stems from the traditional importance of agriculture to the economy as well as the low population density in most areas. However, the majority of New Zealanders live in urban areas, and many now earn a living in service industries such as tourism. The capital of New Zealand is Wellington. The largest and most cosmopolitan city is Auckland.
Polynesians first settled the islands of New Zealand about 800 to 1,000 years ago, naming the islands Aotearoa ("Land of the Long White Cloud"). Their descendants are the Maori. The first European settlers came from the United Kingdom, arriving in increasing numbers after New Zealand became a colony of the British Empire in 1840. Until the mid-20th century the non-Maori population of New Zealand was predominantly European in origin. Since then many people have migrated from the Pacific Islands and Asia, and the ethnic composition of the country is becoming more diverse. In 1907 New Zealand became a self-governing dominion within the British Empire. Now an independent nation, New Zealand maintains close ties with the United Kingdom as a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations, but increasingly it sees its identity as a nation in the Pacific and Asia.