The Land of the Long White Cloud is a translation of the Polynesian name for New Zealand. In the 12th century, bands of Polynesian adventurers voyaged thousands of miles from their Pacific islands and made landfall in the country they named Ao-tea-roa.
The descendants of those adventurers are the friendly and highly intelligent people we know as the Maoris, the original settlers of New Zealand. The land and its people were discovered and named by the Dutch navigator Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642, although he never landed.
It was not until 1769 that a European set foot in the country. Captain James Cook, the English explorer, landed in New Zealand and then sailed on to Australia. In the next eight years he came back three times.
The first settlers were sealers, whalers and traders. In 1814 a British missionary, the Rev. Samuel Marsden, began work among the Maoris. Within six years he had been joined by a number of British emigrants, and New Zealand was made a British colony. It became a dominion in 1907.
New Zealand consists of two main islands. From the top of North Island to the bottom of South Island the country is scarcely 1,000 miles long. Nowhere is it wider than 280 miles, and usually it is much narrower. But within this compass it is a land of strange and beautiful contrasts.
New Zealand's 3,000,000 inhabitants live a life where poverty is unknown and serious crime is rare. The climate is temperate and the scenery spectacular.
It is a curious fact that New Zealand has no native land animals. The ancestors of the pigs, goats, rabbits, opossums, weasels, and ferrets were imported. Some of the animals like rabbits for example, have since become pets. In compensation, New Zealand has a huge variety of fish and birds.
In spite of its small population, the country has produced many outstanding writers, artists, musicians and scientists and has given support and encouragement to the revival and development of Maori arts and crafts.