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.
Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.7 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently Jacinda Ardern.
Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a governor-general, currently Dame Patsy Reddy.
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.