New Zealand is a young nation, growing and changing rapidly, but like the rest of the world, we too are affected by global changes; we too have issues with urban drift, city infrastructure and housing. We have cleared old-growth forests, extracted coal and gold, and too often shown little respect for our unique-ness. We think differently now.

Multiculturalism is changing the way we live. In 1987 when the concern was biculturism, a tribunal was set up to address Maori issues dating from the settlement years (1839–43). A balance of that land was returned to Maori ownership, and many tribes have established lucrative business and corporate entities in the seafood, forestry, farming, and tourism industries. Since that time we have welcomed immigrants from the wider Pacific, predominately Samoa and Tonga and more recently Korea, Thailand, India, and China. Each immigrant enriches and adds to our nation—be it in education, music, hospitality, or agriculture.

Our cultural heart beats strongly, adding vibrancy to daily life. New Zealand artists, writers, musicians, actors, and filmmakers have developed an enthusiastic international audience.

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Today, a combination of farming practices, growing populations, urban spread, and increasing tourism numbers are putting pressure on the land. New Zealanders have always taken pride in their "clean, green" image, but as evidence suggests we may not be as clean and green as we had hoped, there are strong moves to take better care of our natural assets. Sustainability is a big issue, especially in industry and tourism.

In face of our passion for the great outdoors and our reputation for being crazy adventurers, you could be forgiven for thinking that the arts have been overlooked. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main cities - Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin - all have vibrant cultural hearts; and New Zealand has given the world more than its fair share of talented artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, and designers.

We've carved out an international reputation for much more than those hefty rugby players I mentioned earlier. Maybe it's because we have always been isolated. Maybe it's because, as a young country, we are still finding our way, still striving to prove we can foot it with the best of the Northern Hemisphere. Whatever the reason, New Zealanders are fiercely proud of their patch. Wherever else they go in the world, they invariably prove themselves as innovative, hardworking, passionate people, making their way in the wider world but always, somehow, still attached to their island roots.

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A Word on Cultural Protocol -- If you want to visit a Maori marae, always make sure you ask permission first, but be aware that unless you are staying with a Maori family, or participating in a commercially run tour, you are unlikely to gain access. You must never eat, chew gum, or take food onto the premises. Some Maori will request that you take off your shoes, and some may have particular rules about visits by women during certain ceremonies. And never take photographs inside a meetinghouse. If you are uncertain about whether or not photographs are appropriate, just ask. In short, behavior on the marae is governed by strict protocol and you WILL be challenged if you ignore these rules. To save yourself and others a great deal of embarrassment, please do not offend. But don't panic; you will be instructed on the proper behavior.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.