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In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes.
The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica.
After a pause of 70 to 265 years, a new wave of exploration led to the discovery and settlement of New Zealand.
Over the centuries that followed, these settlers developed a distinct culture now known as Māori.
Ongoing unrest, the proposed settlement of New Zealand by the New Zealand Company (which had already sent its first ship of surveyors to buy land from Māori) and the dubious legal standing of the Declaration of Independence prompted the Colonial Office to send Captain William Hobson to claim sovereignty for the United Kingdom and negotiate a treaty with the Māori.
The House of Representatives is democratically elected and a government is formed from the party or coalition with the majority of seats.
In 1841 New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire and in 1907 it became a Dominion; it gained full independence in 1947, but the British monarch remained the head of state.
The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui), and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and around 600 smaller islands.Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration.The official languages are English, Māori and NZ Sign Language, with English being very dominant.If no majority is formed, a minority government can be formed if support from other parties during confidence and supply votes is assured. Since the 2014 election, there have been 71 electorates (which includes 7 Māori electorates), and the remaining 49 seats are assigned so that representation in parliament reflects the party vote, although a party has to win one electorate or 5% of the total party vote before it is eligible for these seats.Between March 2005 and August 2006, New Zealand became the first country in the world in which all the highest offices in the land—Head of State, Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker and Chief Justice—were occupied simultaneously by women.
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New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga.