New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere approximately 2250 kilometres east of Australia. It comprises two large islands, the North Island and the South Island and several smaller ones – Stewart Island off the south coast of the South Island and others further out in the Pacific Ocean. Ross Dependency, a section of Antarctica, is administered by New Zealand. The area of New Zealand is 268 676 square kilometres and it extends about 1600 kilometres from north to south.
New Zealand has democratic government and, like Australia, is a former British colony with membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. New Zealand’s population is approximately 3.8 million and its official language is English. Approximately 12 per cent of the population is of Maori background and their native language is gaining increased recognition as a second official language.
Close ties exist between Australia and New Zealand based on proximity, cultural similarity and historical background. At one stage New Zealand was a dependency of the British colony of New South Wales and later, around the end of the 19th century, was engaged in discussions with a view to becoming an Australian state. This idea was rejected, and in 1907 New Zealand became an independent dominion.