Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.
Polynesians settled New Zealand in 1250–1300 CE and developed a distinctive Maori culture. Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, was the first European to sight New Zealand in 1642 CE. In 1840, the British Crown and Maori signed the Treaty of Waitangi, making New Zealand a British colony. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.5 million is of European descent; the indigenous Maori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Maori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominant.