New Zealand Overview
New Zealand is a country made up of vast mountain ranges, steaming volcanoes, and sweeping coastlines. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, east of Australia, and south of other Pacific Island nations. The country is primarily made up of two major land masses, called North Island and South Island, which are divided by a channel of water called the Cook Strait. The population lives primarily in the nation’s cities and is of European origin, though the indigenous Maori peoples form a sizable minority. The interactions between these two groups have formed the basis of Kiwi culture.
A Brief History of New Zealand
New Zealand was first discovered by the ancestors of the Maori people between 1200 and 1300 AD. Europeans discovered the island in 1642 but did not visit it until 1762 when Captain James Cook stopped there on a voyage. After this whalers, sealers, and traders began to visit regularly. This pressured the British to reduce lawlessness in the country and properly settle it before the French could. New Zealand became a British colony when William Hobson, the first Governor of the island, led the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between 500 island chiefs and the British Crown. Over time the Maori came under increasing pressure from Europeans to sell their land, a conflict which escalated into a war on North Island in the 1860s. Following the war, much of this land was either bought or outright taken by the government. Meanwhile, the South Island was prospering as successful sheep farms and the discovery of gold led to the development of larger towns.
In 1899, New Zealand sent soldiers overseas for the first time to support Britain in the South African war. After this the country became increasingly conscious of its nationalism, becoming independent in 1907. New Zealand supported the Allies in both World Wars. In WWI this helped to establish the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and fostered national pride in their armed forces. In WWII, this strengthened relations with the United States for helping to defend the island from Japan. As a sign of friendship, New Zealand supported the US in its wars against Korea and Vietnam in the 50s and 60s.
In the 70s and 80s, the country faced major economic hardships. This was due to a combination of increased energy prices and Great Britain, a major market for New Zealand farm products, entering the European Economic Community. As inflation and unemployment skyrocketed, thousands migrated to Australia. The government responded to the crisis by borrowing funds from overseas to finance industrial development, freezing wages, and by regulating interest rates. The country has since begun to expand its economy and now provides minimum wage and income support for families.
New Zealand Family Dynamics
Marriage in New Zealand is between consenting adults over twenty years of age. They can only divorce through irreconcilable breakdown, which is signaled by them living separately for over two years. In addition to marriages, de facto relationships are also recognized for purposes of inheritance and benefits.
A person’s living place is largely decided by job availability. Households are typically shared between two parents and their children, though there is an increasing trend toward single-parent homes. This trend is contrasted by Maori communities where extended families tend to live in mixed households or as neighbors. This difference is due to them believing the larger family to be central to the household and is also seen in them having pictures of significant ancestors.
New Zealand Societal Values
People in New Zealand typically view themselves as open-minded toward new ideas, differences, and change. This is rooted in a deep history of liberal social attitudes, such as them being the first country to extend the right to vote fully to women. Society today is built upon the underlying belief that everyone should have an equal opportunity regardless of background. For this reason, there is a lack of any formal class structure despite social stratifications existing. This attitude is expressed in New Zealanders being modest about their success and it typically being considered rude to discuss one’s wealth.
New Zealanders are united by their love of nature, which leads them to spend much of their time outdoors. This has earned them a reputation as inveterate trampers and campers. New Zealanders try to have a hideaway cabin by the lake, the sea, or the stream. There is usually no running water or electricity due to them being built to get away from society and spend time with nature. For these reasons, the Department of Conservation and local enthusiasts maintain countless tracks across the country. The effect of this can be seen in the country developing a unique style of painting emphasizing the geometry of the landscape and the sense that it is very different from the city.
New Zealand Culture: Conclusion
New Zealand is a country defined by European and Maori cultures. While the two have been at tension historically, they began to coalesce into a singular nation over the course of the twentieth century as they faced major conflicts. The two are at odds regarding family dynamics as Maori tend to live in tribal rather than nuclear families. They are, however, united by their openness towards others and love of nature.