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New Zealand is a country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two large islands (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. In Maori, New Zealand has come to be known as Aotearoa, which is usually translated into English as The Land of the Long White Cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands and Niue, which are self-governing, but in free association; Tokelau; and the Ross Dependency (New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica).

New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation, being separated from Australia to the northwest by the Tasman Sea, approximately 2000 kilometres (1250 miles) across. Its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga.

The population is mostly of European descent, with the indigenous Maori being the largest minority. Non-M?ori Polynesian and Asian people are also significant minorities, especially in the cities. Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the Head of State and is represented, in her absence, by a non-partisan Governor-General; the Queen 'reigns but does not rule', so she has no real political influence. Political power is held by the democratically-elected Parliament of New Zealand under the leadership of the Prime Minister who is the Head of Government.


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