New Zealand is a British Commonwealth country of five million people in the South Pacific Ocean, originally inhabited by the Maori. Both the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit film trilogy, both directed by Peter Jackson, were shot in New Zealand, with a majority of its cast being New Zealanders, and many others British. The country's three official languages are English, sign language, and Māori.
Peter Jackson grew up and remains based in the region around the capital city Wellington, which provided a number of locations for the trilogy, and his associated Weta Workshop (in eastern suburb Miramar) produced many of the props and effects and did much of the post-production. The effects company then turned their attention to a live-action movie version of King Kong, also directed by Peter Jackson.
Before Europeans arrived in the late eighteenth century, its lands were dominated by the Māori, who arrived from Pacific Islands in the eleventh century. Its two main cities are Auckland and Wellington, which are both coastal cities. Its national animal, one of its biggest national icons, is the Kiwi. The popular sports include rugby and softball- football and cricket are more secondary sports.
Elizabeth II, as the Queen of New Zealand, is the country's head of state and is represented by a ceremonial Governor-General who holds reserve powers. The Queen 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 the government.
The population of New Zealand is mostly of European descent; the original Māori people are the largest minority. Asians and non-Māori Polynesians are also significant minority groups, especially in urban areas. The most commonly spoken language is English.
New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation: it is 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 (there are, in fact, only two native mammals in New Zealand), a few of which (including the Moa and the enormous Haast Eagle) became extinct after the arrival of humans and the mammals they introduced.