New Zealand is a developed country in the south-western Pacific Ocean. It is comprised of two large islands (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island (or Rakiura) and the Chatham Islands. The indigenous Māori named New Zealand Aotearoa, which is usually 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, being separated from Australia to the northwest by the Tasman Sea, approximately 2000 kilometres (1250 miles) across. Its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.
The population is mostly of European descent, with the indigenous Māori being the largest minority. Non-Māori Polynesian and Asian people 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 largely 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.
Religion in New Zealand
According to the 2006 census, Christianity is the predominant religion in New Zealand, held by 56% of the population. Another 35% indicated that they were 'non-religious' and 5% were affiliated with other religions. The main Christian denominations are Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Presbyterianism and Methodism. There are also significant numbers who identify themselves with Pentecostal and Baptist churches. There are significant numbers who belong to the LDS (Mormon) church. The New Zealand-based Ratana church has adherents among Māori. According to census figures, other significant minority religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Religion does not play a major role in New Zealand public life. Overtly Christian-based political parties such as Christian Heritage and Destiny have been unsuccessful, and the religion (or lack of religion) of political leaders - while generally known - is considered by most to be a private matter.
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