- an island country in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,200 miles (1,900 km) east of Australia; population 4,213,400 (est. 2009); capital, Wellington; languages, English (official) and Maori. Maori name Aotearoa.
New Zealand consists of two major islands (North and South Islands), separated by Cook Strait, and several smaller ones. The first European to sight New Zealand was Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1642; the islands were circumnavigated by Captain James Cook in 1769–70 and came under British sovereignty in 1840. Full dominion status was granted in 1907, and independence within the Commonwealth of Nations came in 1931