About New Zealand
New Zealand, like nearby Australia, is perceived by many as being a relatively young country – compared to the Far East nations (which boast civilizations going back thousands of years). Historians suggest that New Zealand was first settled by the Maoris (an eastern Polynesian ethnic group) in the 13th century A.D. The first European encounter with this country was in 1642 – when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman first came across it, in a brief and hostile encounter with locals. The country got its present name from Dutch cartographers, who just a few years after Tasman’s voyage, recorded its existence as “Nova Zeelandia” (naming it after the Dutch province of Zeelandia).
Since then, Europeans were not known to have explored New Zealand until British explorer James Cook mapped virtually the entire coastline of the country during his voyage there in 1769 – and anglicized its name to New Zealand. With Australia (New South Wales)’s Governor declaring New Zealand a part of his domain in 1788, the British Crown eventually declared sovereignty over all of New Zealand in 1840. By 1853, the British Parliament granted self-governance to the country. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, as British settlements grew, the indigenous Maori population was disenfranchised with the confiscation of most of their lands.
With New Zealand being part of the British Commonwealth, its economy went through both periods of growth (especially during the 1950s & 1960s) and recession in more recent decades. Nevertheless, because New Zealand is still an advanced western economy, it still attracts its share of immigrants from the Far East and other Pacific islands.
Since agriculture and extractive industries have played traditional roles in the country’s economy, tourism is becoming a growing factor as well (with both direct and indirect contributions to New Zealand’s GDP being 8.7%). At present, tourism is the country’s second-largest export sector – behind dairy. Interestingly, the “Lord of the Rings” movie series (which was filmed in New Zealand) has been a major tourism draw over the years. In 2004, for example, 6% of tourists traveling to New Zealand cited the film series as being a major factor in their decision to visit that country (between 120,000 and 150,000 visitors). Since that year, an average of 47,000 international tourists has visited a “Lord of the Rings” film location each year.