Sometime between 1250 and 1300 CE, Polynesians settled in the islands that would later become New Zealand, and developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, became the first European to sight New Munster. In 1948 the Dominion was granted Commonwealth status along with New Zealand the previous year. Today, the majority of New Munster's population of just over 1.0 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians. Reflecting this, New Munster's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers. The official languages are English, Māori and New Munster Sign Language, with English predominant.
New Munster is a developed country with a "cradle to the grave welfare state" economy. New Munster is a high-income economy and ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as health, education, economic freedom and quality of life. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently Bill English. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a Governor-General.