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In 1840, representatives of the United Kingdom and Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which declared British sovereignty over the islands.

During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life.It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi).New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga.Ongoing unrest, the proposed settlement of New Zealand by the New Zealand Company (which had already sent its first ship of surveyors to buy land from Māori) and the dubious legal standing of the Declaration of Independence prompted the Colonial Office to send Captain William Hobson to claim sovereignty for the United Kingdom and negotiate a treaty with the Māori.Armed conflict began between the Colonial government and Māori in 1843 with the Wairau Affray over land and disagreements over sovereignty.

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