Area: 270,500 sq. km.; about the size of
Cities (as of June 30, 2004): Capital--Wellington
(367,600). Other cities--Auckland
(1,223,200), Christchurch (363,700), Hamilton
Terrain: Highly varied, from snowcapped
mountains to lowland plains.
Climate: Temperate to subtropical.
Nationality: Noun--New Zealander(s).
Population (2005): 4,098,200.
Annual growth rate (as of June 30, 2005): 0.91%.
Ethnic groups: European 75%, Maori 15%, other
Religions: Anglican 15.22%, Roman Catholic
12.65%, Presbyterian 10.87%.
Languages: English, Maori.
Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-16.
Health: Infant mortality rate (June
2005)--5.48/1,000. Life expectancy
(2000-2002)--males 76.3 yrs., females 81.1 yrs.
Work force (March 2005, 1.1 million):
Services and government--59%;
manufacturing and construction--32%;
agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and mining--8.9%.
Constitution: No formal, written constitution.
Independence: Declared a dominion in 1907.
Branches: Executive--Queen Elizabeth II
(chief of state, represented by a governor
general), prime minister (head of government),
cabinet. Legislative--unicameral House of
Representatives, commonly called parliament.
Judicial--four-level system: District
Courts, High Courts, the Court of Appeal, and
the Supreme Court, which in 2004 replaced the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in
London as New Zealand's highest court of appeal.
There also are specialized courts, such as
employment court, family courts, youth courts,
and the Maori Land Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 12 regions with
directly elected councils and 74 districts (15
of which are designated as cities) with elected
councils. There also are a number of community
boards and special-purpose bodies with partially
elected, partially appointed memberships.
Political parties: Labour, National, Progressive
Coalition Party, New Zealand Green Party, New
Zealand First, ACT, United Future, and several
smaller parties not represented in Parliament.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (March 2005): U.S. $99.69 billion.
Real annual GDP growth rate (December 2004):
Per capita income (2004): U.S. $23,900.
Natural resources: Timber, natural gas, iron
Agriculture (8.2% of GDP): Products--dairy
products, meat, forestry products.
Industry (15.4% of GDP): Types--food
processing; petroleum, coal and chemical
products; wood and paper products; metal
Trade (March 2004): Exports--U.S. $21.6
billion: dairy products, meat, forest/wood/paper
products, machinery and equipment, fruit, fish.
Major markets--Australia, U.S., Japan,
China. Imports--U.S. $23 billion:
vehicles, machinery and equipment, petroleum,
textiles, plastics, iron and steel, medical
equipment. Major suppliers--Australia,
U.S., Japan, China.
Most of the 4 million New Zealanders are of
British origin. About 15% claim descent from the
indigenous Maori population, which is of
Polynesian origin. Nearly 75% of the people,
including a large majority of Maori, live on the
North Island. In addition, 231,800 Pacific
Islanders live in New Zealand. During the late
1870s, natural increase permanently replaced
immigration as the chief contributor to
population growth and accounted for more than
75% of population growth in the 20th century.
Nearly 85% of New Zealand's population lives in
urban areas (with almost one-third in Auckland
alone), where the service and manufacturing
industries are growing rapidly. New Zealanders
colloquially refer to themselves as "Kiwis,"
after the country's native bird.
Archaeological evidence indicates that New
Zealand was populated by fishing and hunting
people of East Polynesian ancestry perhaps 1,000
years before Europeans arrived. Known to some
scholars as the Moa-hunters, they may have
merged with later waves of Polynesians who,
according to Maori tradition, arrived between
952 and 1150. Some of the Maoris called their
new homeland "Aotearoa," usually translated as
"land of the long white cloud."
In 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, made
the first recorded European sighting of New
Zealand and sketched sections of the two main
islands' west coasts. English Captain James Cook
thoroughly explored the coastline during three
South Pacific voyages beginning in 1769. In the
late 18th and early 19th centuries, lumbering,
seal hunting, and whaling attracted a few
European settlers to New Zealand. In 1840, the
United Kingdom established British sovereignty
through the Treaty of Waitangi signed that year
with Maori chiefs.
In the same year, selected groups from the
United Kingdom began the colonization process.
Expanding European settlement led to conflict
with Maori, most notably in the Maori land wars
of the 1860s. British and colonial forces
eventually overcame determined Maori resistance.
During this period, many Maori died from disease
and warfare, much of it intertribal.
Constitutional government began to develop in
the 1850s. In 1867, the Maori won the right to a
certain number of reserved seats in parliament.
During this period, the livestock industry began
to expand, and the foundations of New Zealand's
modern economy took shape. By the end of the
19th century, improved transportation facilities
made possible a great overseas trade in wool,
meat, and dairy products.
By the 1890s, parliamentary government along
democratic lines was well-established, and New
Zealand's social institutions assumed their
present form. Women received the right to vote
in national elections in 1893. The turn of the
century brought sweeping social reforms that
built the foundation for New Zealand's version
of the welfare state.
The Maori gradually recovered from population
decline and, through interaction and
intermarriage with settlers and missionaries,
adopted much of European culture. In recent
decades, Maori have become increasingly
urbanized and have become more politically
active and culturally assertive.
New Zealand was declared a dominion by a
royal proclamation in 1907. It achieved full
internal and external autonomy by the Statute of
Westminster Adoption Act in 1947, although this
merely formalized a situation that had existed
for many years.
New Zealand has a parliamentary system of
government closely patterned on that of the
United Kingdom and is a fully independent member
of the Commonwealth. It has no written
constitution. Executive authority is vested in a
cabinet led by the prime minister, who is the
leader of the political party or coalition of
parties holding the majority of seats in
parliament. All cabinet ministers must be
members of parliament and are collectively
responsible to it.
The unicameral parliament (House of
Representatives) usually has 122 seats, seven of
which currently are reserved for Maori elected
on a separate Maori roll. However, Maori also
may run for, and have been elected to,
non-reserved seats. Parliaments are elected for
a maximum term of 3 years, although elections
can be called sooner.
The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court,
Court of Appeal, High Courts, and District
Courts. New Zealand law has three principal
sources--English common law, certain statutes of
the UK Parliament enacted before 1947, and
statutes of the New Zealand Parliament. In
interpreting common law, the courts have been
concerned with preserving uniformity with common
law as interpreted in the United Kingdom.
Local government in New Zealand has only the
powers conferred upon it by parliament. The
country's 12 regional councils are directly
elected, set their own tax rates, and have a
chairperson elected by their members. Regional
council responsibilities include environmental
management, regional aspects of civil defense,
and transportation planning. The 74 "territorial
authorities"--15 city councils, 58 district
councils in rural areas, and one county council
for the Chatham Islands--are directly elected,
raise local taxes at rates they themselves set,
and are headed by popularly elected mayors. The
territorial authorities may delegate powers to
local community boards. These boards, instituted
at the behest either local citizens or
territorial authorities, advocate community
views but cannot levy taxes, appoint staff, or
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Her Excellency the Honorable
Dame Silvia Cartwright
Prime Minister--Helen Clark
Foreign Minister--Phil Goff
Ambassador to the United States--John Wood
Ambassador to the United Nations--Rosemary Banks
New Zealand maintains an
embassy in the United States at 37
Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008
(tel. 202-328-4800, fax 202-667-5227). A
consulate general is located in Los Angeles
(tel. 310-207-1605, fax 310-207-3605). Tourism
information is available through the New Zealand
Tourism Board office in Santa Monica, California
(toll-free tel. 800-388-5494) or through the
The conservative National Party and left-leaning
Labour Party have dominated New Zealand
political life since a Labour government came to
power in 1935. During 14 years in office, the
Labour Party implemented a broad array of social
and economic legislation, including
comprehensive social security, a large-scale
public works program, a 40-hour workweek, a
minimum basic wage, and compulsory unionism. The
National Party won control of the government in
1949 and adopted many welfare measures
instituted by the Labour Party. Except for two
brief periods of Labour governments in 1957-60
and 1972-75, National held power until 1984.
After regaining control in 1984, the Labour
government instituted a series of radical
market-oriented reforms in response to New
Zealand's mounting external debt. It also
enacted anti-nuclear legislation that
effectively brought about New Zealand's
suspension from the ANZUS security alliance with
the United States and Australia.
In October 1990, the National Party again
formed the government, for the first of three
3-year terms. In 1996, New Zealand inaugurated a
mixed-member proportional (MMP) system to elect
its parliament. The system was designed to
increase representation of smaller parties in
parliament and appears to have done so in the
MMP elections to date. Since 1996, neither the
National nor the Labour Party has had an
absolute majority in parliament, and for all but
one of those years, the government has been a
minority one. The Labour Party won elections in
November 1999 and again in July 2002. In 2002
Labour formed a coalition, minority government
with the Progressive Coalition, a left-wing
party holding two seats in parliament. The
government relied on support from the centrist
United Future Party to pass legislation.
Following September 2005 elections, the
government has been operating in a caretaker
role while awaiting official results due October
1. In preliminary results, Labour narrowly
outpolled National 40.7% to 39.6%. With 10% of
the vote still outstanding, Labour’s victory and
the election outcomes of its coalition allies
remain unclear. The 2005 elections saw the
emergence of the Maori Party, which won four out
of the seven reserved Maori seats.
New Zealand's economy has been based on a
foundation of exports from its very efficient
agricultural system. Leading agricultural
exports include dairy products, meat, forest
products, fruit and vegetables, fish, and wool.
New Zealand was a direct beneficiary of many of
the reforms achieved under the Uruguay Round of
trade negotiations, with agriculture in general
and the dairy sector in particular enjoying many
new trade opportunities. The country has
substantial hydroelectric power and reserves of
natural gas, although the largest gas field --
supplying 84% of New Zealand's natural gas -- is
expected to be tapped out by 2009. Leading
manufacturing sectors are food processing, wood
and paper products, and metal fabrication.
Since 1984, government subsidies including
for agriculture were eliminated; import
regulations liberalized; tariffs unilaterally
slashed; exchange rates freely floated; controls
on interest rates, wages, and prices removed;
and marginal rates of taxation reduced. Tight
monetary policy and major efforts to reduce the
government budget deficit brought the inflation
rate down from an annual rate of more than 18%
in 1987. The restructuring and sale of
government-owned enterprises in the 1990s
reduced government's role in the economy and
permitted the retirement of some public debt. As
a result, New Zealand is now one of the most
open economies in the world.
Economic growth has remained relatively
robust in recent years (i.e., around 4%),
benefiting from a net gain in immigration,
rising housing prices, strong consumer spending
and favorable international prices for the
country's exported commodities. New Zealand did
not experience the slowdown in growth seen in
many other countries following the events of
September 11, 2001, and the subsequent fall in
overseas share markets. The prolonged period of
good economic growth led the unemployment rate
to drop from 7.8% in 1999 to a 17-year low of
3.3% in late 2004.
New Zealand's economy has been helped by
strong economic relations with Australia. New
Zealand and Australia are partners in "Closer
Economic Relations" (CER), which allows for free
trade in goods and most services. Since 1990,
CER has created a single market of more than 22
million people, and this has provided new
opportunities for New Zealand exporters.
Australia is now the destination of 21% of New
Zealand's exports, compared to 14% in 1983. Both
sides also have agreed to consider extending CER
to product standardization and taxation policy.
New Zealand has had a free trade agreement with
Singapore since 2001. In July 2005, both
countries joined with Chile and Brunei to form a
Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership,
liberalizing trade in goods and services between
them. In April 2005, New Zealand initialed a
free-trade deal with Thailand.
U.S. goods and services have been competitive
in New Zealand, with the strong New Zealand
dollar creating opportunities for U.S. exporters
in 2004-2005. The market-led economy offers many
benefits for U.S. exporters and investors.
Investment opportunities exist in chemicals,
food preparation, finance, tourism, and forest
products, as well as in franchising. The best
sales and investment prospects are for
information technology, hotel and restaurant
equipment, telecommunications, tourism,
franchising, food processing and packaging, and
medical equipment. On the agricultural side, the
best prospects are for fresh fruit, snack foods,
and soybean meal.
New Zealand welcomes and encourages foreign
investment without discrimination. The Overseas
Investment Office (OIO) must give consent to
foreign investments that would control 25% or
more of businesses or property worth more than
NZ$100 million. Restrictions and approval
requirements also apply to certain investments
in land and in the commercial fishing industry.
OIO consent is based on a national interest
determination. Foreign buyers of land can be
required to report periodically on their
compliance with the terms of the government’s
consent to their purchase. The OIO, part of Land
Information New Zealand, took over the functions
of the Overseas Investment Commission in August
2005. Full remittance of profits and capital is
permitted through normal banking channels.
A number of U.S. companies have subsidiary
branches in New Zealand. Many operate through
local agents, and some are in association in
joint ventures. The American Chamber of Commerce
is active in New Zealand, with its main office
New Zealand has three defense policy
objectives--defend New Zealand against low-level
threats, contribute to regional security, and
play a part in global security efforts. New
Zealand has considered its own national defense
needs to be modest. Its defense budget generally
has provided for selected upgrades in equipment,
most of which have been devoted to the army.
Shortly after winning the 1999 election, the
Labour government canceled a lease-to-buy
agreement with the U.S. for 28 F-16 aircraft. In
2001, the government contracted to purchase 105
LAVIIIs for U.S. $300 million, with initial
delivery in 2003. In 2002, it announced planned
upgrades of its P3 and C-130 Hercules aircraft,
and committed to spend U.S. $250 million to
purchase a multi-role vessel and several
offshore patrol vessels, and U.S. $100 million
for two used Boeing 757s as replacement VIP jet
In May 2001, the government announced it was
scrapping its combat air force. New Zealand
states it maintains a "credible minimum force,"
although critics maintain that the country's
defense forces have fallen below this standard.
With a claimed area of direct strategic
concern that extends from Australia to Southeast
Asia to the South Pacific, New Zealand
necessarily places substantial reliance on its
defense relationship with other countries, in
particular Australia. However, acknowledging the
need to improve its defense capabilities, the
government in 2005 allocated an additional
NZ$4.6 billion (U.S. $3.19 billion) over 10
years to modernize the country’s defense
equipment and infrastructure and increase its
military personnel. The funding represented a
51% increase in defense spending since the
Labour government took office in 1999.
New Zealand is an active participant in
multilateral peacekeeping. It has taken a
leading role in trying to bring peace,
reconciliation, and reconstruction to the
Solomon Islands and the neighboring island of
Bougainville. New Zealand maintains a contingent
in the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers
and has contributed to UN peacekeeping
operations in Angola, Cambodia, Somalia, and the
former Yugoslavia. It also participated in the
Multilateral Interception Force in the Persian
Gulf. New Zealand's most recent PKO experience
has been in East Timor, where it initially
dispatched almost 10% of its entire defense
force. New Zealand participated in Operation
Enduring Freedom and has fielded a Provincial
Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, as well as
having deployed a frigate to the Gulf of Oman.
In support of the effort to reconstruct Iraq,
New Zealand deployed an engineering team to the
New Zealand participates in sharing training
facilities, personnel exchanges, and joint
exercises with the Philippines, Thailand,
Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, Tonga, and
South Pacific states. It also exercises with its
Five-Power Defense Arrangement
partners--Australia, the United Kingdom,
Malaysia, and Singapore. Due to New Zealand's
antinuclear policy, defense cooperation with the
U.S., including training exercises, has been
significantly restricted since 1986.
New Zealand's foreign policy is oriented chiefly
toward developed democratic nations and emerging
Pacific economies. The country's major political
parties have generally agreed on the broad
outlines of foreign policy, and the current
coalition government has been active in
multilateral fora on issues of recurring
interest to New Zealand--trade liberalization,
environment, and arms control. New Zealand
values the United Nations and its participation
in that organization.
It also values its participation in the World
Trade Organization (WTO); World Bank;
International Monetary Fund (IMF); Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD);
International Energy Agency; Asian Development
Bank; South Pacific Forum; The Pacific
Community; Colombo Plan; Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC); and the International
Whaling Commission. New Zealand also is an
active member of the Commonwealth. Despite the
1985 rupture in the ANZUS alliance, New Zealand
has maintained good working relations with the
United States and Australia on a broad array of
In the past, New Zealand's geographic
isolation and its agricultural economy's general
prosperity tended to minimize public interest in
world affairs. However, growing global trade and
other international economic events have made
New Zealanders increasingly aware of their
country's dependence on stable overseas markets.
New Zealand's economic involvement with Asia
has been increasingly important through
expanding trade with the growing economies of
Asia. New Zealand is a "dialogue partner" with
the Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN) and an active participant in APEC.
As a charter member of the Colombo Plan, New
Zealand has provided Asian countries with
technical assistance and capital. It also
contributes through the Asian Development Bank
and through UN programs and is a member of the
UN Economic and Social Council for Asia and the
New Zealand has focused its bilateral
economic assistance resources on projects in the
South Pacific island states, especially on
Bougainville. The country's long association
with Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa),
reflected in a treaty of friendship signed in
1962, and its close association with Tonga have
resulted in a flow of immigrants and visitors
under work permit schemes from both countries.
New Zealand administers the Tokelau Islands and
provides foreign policy and economic support
when requested for the freely associated
self-governing states of the Cook Islands and
Niue. Inhabitants of these areas hold New
In 1947, New Zealand joined Australia,
France, the United Kingdom, and the United
States to form the South Pacific Commission, a
regional body to promote the welfare of the
Pacific region. New Zealand has been a leader in
the organization. In 1971, New Zealand joined
the other independent and self-governing states
of the South Pacific to establish the South
Pacific Forum (now known as the Pacific Islands
Forum), which meets annually at the "heads of
U.S.-NEW ZEALAND RELATIONS
Bilateral relations are excellent. The United
States and New Zealand share common elements of
history and culture and a commitment to
democratic principles. Senior-level officials
regularly consult with each on issues of mutual
The United States established consular
representation in New Zealand in 1839 to
represent and protect American shipping and
whaling interests. Since the U.K. was
responsible for New Zealand's foreign affairs,
direct U.S.-New Zealand diplomatic ties were not
established until 1942, when the Japanese threat
encouraged close U.S.-New Zealand cooperation in
the Pacific campaign. During the war, more than
400,000 American military personnel were
stationed in New Zealand to prepare for crucial
battles such as Tarawa and Guadalcanal.
New Zealand's relationship with the United
States in the post-World War II period was
closely associated with the Australian, New
Zealand, United States (ANZUS) security treaty
of 1951, under which signatories agreed to
consult in case of an attack in the Pacific and
to "act to meet the common danger." During the
postwar period, access to New Zealand ports by
U.S. vessels contributed to the flexibility and
effectiveness of U.S. naval forces in the
Growing concern about nuclear testing in the
South Pacific and arms control issues
contributed to the 1984 election of a Labour
government committed to barring nuclear-armed
and nuclear-powered warships from New Zealand
ports. The government's anti-nuclear policy
proved incompatible with long-standing,
worldwide U.S. policy of neither confirming nor
denying the presence or absence of nuclear
weapons onboard U.S. vessels.
Implementation of New Zealand's policy
effectively prevented practical alliance
cooperation under ANZUS, and after extensive
efforts to resolve the issue proved
unsuccessful, in August 1986 the United States
suspended its ANZUS security obligations to New
Zealand. Even after President Bush's 1991
announcement that U.S. surface ships do not
normally carry nuclear weapons, New Zealand's
legislation prohibiting visits of
nuclear-powered ships continues to preclude a
bilateral security alliance with the U.S. The
United States would welcome New Zealand's
reassessment of its legislation to permit that
country's return to full ANZUS cooperation.
Despite suspension of U.S. security
obligations, the New Zealand Government has
reaffirmed the importance it attaches to
continued close political, economic, and social
ties with the United States and Australia. New
Zealand is an active member of the global
coalition in the War against Terrorism, and
deployed SAS troops to Afghanistan, and naval
and air assets to the Persian Gulf.
The United States is New Zealand's
second-largest trading partner after Australia.
Total bilateral trade for 2004 was $5
billion--with a $892 million surplus in favor of
New Zealand--and U.S. merchandise exports to New
Zealand were $2.1 billion. U.S. direct foreign
investment in New Zealand in 2003 totaled $3.8
billion, largely concentrated in finance,
wholesale, telecommunications services and
manufacturing sectors. New Zealand has worked
closely with the U.S. to promote free trade in
the WTO, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
group, and other multilateral fora.
The U.S. and New Zealand work together
closely on scientific research in the Antarctic.
Christchurch is the staging area for joint
logistical support operations serving U.S.
permanent bases at McMurdo Station and South
Pole, and New Zealand's Scott base, (located
just three kilometers from McMurdo Station in
the Ross Sea region).
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--David R. Burnett
Public Affairs Counselor--Roy A. Glover
Political and Economic Counselor--Katherine B.
Agricultural Attache--David Rosenbloom
Defense Attache--Capt. R. Martinez, USN
Management Officer--Ronna S. Pazdral
Consular Affairs (Auckland)--Richard Adams
Senior Commercial Officer (Sydney)--Beryl
Embassy in New Zealand is located at 29
Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington (tel.
64-4-472-2068, fax 64-4-471-2380). The Embassy
http://wellington.usembassy.gov/. The U.S.
Consulate General is located on the 3rd Floor,
Citibank Building, 23 Customs Street East,
Auckland (tel. 64-9-303-2724, fax