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New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa), officially the Realm of New Zealand and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is an island nation located in the South Pacific that comprises the entirety of the Zealandia microcontinent. It shares no borders, land or maritime, with any nation or territory; the closest is French Polynesia to the north across the Norfolk Strait and Australia to the west across the Tasman Sea.
Being one of the most remote regions in the world, modern-day New Zealand was the last major landmass to be settled by humans, specifically by groups of Polynesians roughly 700 years ago (c. 1250-1300 AD), who developed into the island's unique Māori culture over the course of several hundred years. A Dutch explorer named Abel Tasman was the first European to lay eyes on New Zealand, in 1642; just under 200 years later, in 1840, the island became a colony of the British Empire. New Zealand would receive increasing responsibility for its own affairs from the British government throughout the remainder of the 19th and early 20th centuries; New Zealander women, for example, received the right to vote in 1890, nearly thirty years before the 19th Amendment was instituted in the United States. By the time of World War II, New Zealand was more or less self-reliant, especially with Britain largely occupied in Europe, and mustered army, air, and naval units for defense against the marauding Japanese (who, even with their conquests in New Guinea, had overextended themselves, and thus were in no position to strike at New Zealand).
In the early postwar era, New Zealand signed the Australia-New Zealand-United States Treaty (ANZUS), a mutual economic and regional defense pact, and enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world, a standard that continues to this day. It was during this period that the government ordered the construction of what would become today's NZ Coastal Highway, a motorway that follows the coastline of the entire island in a circuitous route, an analogue to the United States' Interstate project; in the mid-1980s, it was expanded and a maglev monorail was established to parallel the roadway, initially becoming operational in 1984 and fully complete by 1992. In 1986, New Zealand severed Parliamentary ties with Great Britain to officially establish its independence.
British rule established (1840)
Growth and responsibility (1852-1907)
The Dominion (1907-1953)
World War II (1938-1945)
Main Article: World War II (1938-1945)
Postwar growth (1946-1980)
Beginning of ANZUS (1951)
Tasman Sea Incident (1959)
Main Article: Tasman Sea Incident (1959)
Lake Campbell insurgency (1965-1967)
Main Article: Lake Campbell insurgency (1965-67)
Tensions with France (1978-1990)
Anti-nuclear stance; strained ANZUS relations (1983-present)
Independence as Realm (1986)
Modern Times (1986-present)
Main Article: Armed Forces of New Zealand
New Zealand is endemic to many unique bird species, including the Moa - one of the world's largest of flightless birds - and its only natural predator, the Haast's Eagle, the largest known eagle in existence.