New Zealand is an island nation in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. The indigenous Māori named New Zealand Aotearoa, which is commonly translated into English as The Land of the Long White Cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands and Niue, which are self-governing but in free association; Tokelau; and the Ross Dependency (New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica).
New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation, situated about 2000 km (1250 miles) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga. During its long isolation New Zealand developed a distinctive fauna dominated by birds, many of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and the mammals they introduced.
The population is mostly of European descent, with the indigenous Māori being the largest minority. Asians and non-Maori Polynesians are also significant minorities, especially in the cities. Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the Head of State and, in her absence, is represented by a non-partisan Governor-General. The Queen 'reigns but does not rule.' She has no real political influence, and her position is essentially symbolic. Political power is held by the democratically elected Parliament of New Zealand under the leadership of the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government.