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It is known that New Zealand was
discovered and settled by Polynesians
before 1000 AD. Over a period of time,
these colonisers of the south-west
Pacific settled and gradually emerged
as a distinctive people - the Maoris.
A notable feature of Maori culture is
a lifestyle attuned to the ecology
and environment of New Zealand.
By the time the first Europeans
arrived there was a population of
1,000,000, most of them living in
the North Island.
Today the total population numbers around 3.5 million - 2.6 million live on the North Island and the remainder on the South Island but are still somewhat eclipsed by the 60,000,000 sheep.
Almost 80% are of European origin and the majority came by choice to escape from poverty or oppression. As a result of intermarriage, there are few full-blooded Maoris; for census purpose, anyone with half or more Maori blood is counted as a Maori (9.6% of the population). Most live in the northern part of the North Island. Many Pacific Islanders have settled in recent years and now make up under 5% of the population.
Population density is less then 13 per square kilometre. Eighty five per cent of the population live in urban areas, with more than 1.5 million in the four main settlements of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
The culture and way of life is noticeably British in origin, although its expression has a distinctly New Zealand flavour and society is virtually classless. Indeed, the people are noticeably egalitarian; personal qualities rather than wealth and position are what command liking and respect. New Zealanders are generally very relaxed and informal with first names being used after a very short acquaintance. They are also very hospitable and will readily invite people to their homes for a drink or a meal.
The Dutchman Abel Tasman visited New Zealand in 1642 but found the residents hostile, and it was not until after Captains Cook's voyage in 1769 that sealers and traders from Sydney, Australia and whalers from America, Britain and France founded trading posts. Missionaries from Britain were followed by settlers from South Wales during the slump in 1830.
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by Captain William Hobson and the Maori chiefs who thereby recognised Queen Victoria. The treaty was also recognition of the rights of the Maori to maintain peaceful possession of their land under the British Crown. In 1840 New Zealand was declared a separate colony.