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New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Islands Forum, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.Māori had several traditional names for the two main islands, including Te Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Māui) for the North Island and Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) or Te Waka o Aoraki (the canoe of Aoraki) for the South Island.Following Cook, New Zealand was visited by numerous European and North American whaling, sealing and trading ships.They traded European food, metal tools, weapons and other goods for timber, Māori food, artefacts and water.

Sometime between 12, Polynesians settled in the islands that later were named New Zealand and developed a distinctive Māori culture.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.The 19 Imperial Conferences decided that New Zealand should be allowed to negotiate its own political treaties and the first commercial treaty was ratified in 1928 with Japan.The House of Representatives is democratically elected and a government is formed from the party or coalition with the majority of seats.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.

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New Zealand is a developed country and ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as health, education, economic freedom and quality of life.