|From the modern day city of Auckland to the
stunning mountain city of Queenstown, New Zealand is truly one of the
worlds visual gems. I traveled
to New Zealand in July of 2007, first traveling to Auckland and it's environs, before
making my way via Waltomo to Rotorua, where I had the opportunity to
experience some Maori culture. After a week on the north island, I flew
to Queenstown on the south island, visiting Milford Sound and Mount
Cook and enjoying the beautiful Queenstown ski area in the heart of
winter, before traveling to Christchurch. I
would love to return to New Zealand, however I am likely to wait a few
years because the flights are brutally long.
The Maoris are believed to be the first inhabitants of New Zealand, arriving on the islands sometime around 1000. Maori oral history maintains that the Maoris came to the island in seven canoes from other parts of Polynesia. In 1642, New Zealand was explored by Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator. British captain James Cook made three voyages to the islands, beginning in 1769. Britain formally annexed the islands in 1840.
The Treaty of Waitangi (Feb. 6, 1840) between the British and several Maori tribes promised to protect Maori land if the Maoris recognized British rule. Encroachment on the land by British settlers was relentless, however, and skirmishes between the two groups intensified.
From the outset, the country has been in the forefront in instituting social welfare legislation. New Zealand was the world's first country to give women the right to vote (1893). It adopted old-age pensions (1898); a national child welfare program (1907); social security for the elderly, widows, and orphans, along with family benefit payments; minimum wages; a 40-hour workweek and unemployment and health insurance (1938); and socialized medicine (1941).
New Zealand fought with the Allies in both world wars as well as in Korea. In 1999, it became part of the UN peacekeeping force sent to East Timor.
In recent years, New Zealand has continued it's introduction of progressive social policies. In June 2003, parliament legalized prostitution and in Dec. 2004, same-sex unions were recognized.