New Zealand country brief
New Zealand comprises two main narrow and mountainous islands, the North Island and the South Island, separated by Cook Strait, and a number of smaller outlying islands. Its total land area is approximately 263,310 square kilometres (about the combined area of Victoria and Tasmania). New Zealand claims a maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of a little over four million square kilometres, the fifth‑largest in the world and more than 15 times its land mass. It has a cool temperate climate, strongly influenced by oceanic factors.
New Zealand's population was estimated to have surpassed five million by June 2022, following an increased number of returns encouraged by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Since 2013, New Zealand's population has grown at an average rate of 1.8 per cent per annum, boosted by immigration. Until recently, most immigrants had arrived from the United Kingdom, Australia and northern Europe. A growing number of migrants now come from the Pacific island countries, particularly Samoa, Cook Islands and Niue, and from Asia. Australia is a major destination for New Zealand migrants and tourists.
Australia and New Zealand are natural allies with a strong trans-Tasman sense of family. Migration, trade and defence ties, keen competition on the sporting field, and strong people-to-people links have helped shape a close and co-operative relationship. It is estimated that around 670,000 New Zealand citizens live in Australia (close to 15 per cent of New Zealand's population), while there are around 70,000 Australians in New Zealand. Freedom of travel is facilitated through the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements (TTTA) of 1973, which allow Australians and New Zealanders to visit, live and work in either country without restrictions. From 1 July 2023, New Zealanders who reside in Australia and meet eligibility requirements will be able to apply for a new direct pathway to citizenship. For more information on the TTTA, see New Zealand citizens. Information on access to benefits can be found at New Zealand citizens claiming payments in Australia.
At a government-to-government level, Australia's relationship with New Zealand is the closest and most comprehensive of all our bilateral relationships. Prime Ministers hold annual formal talks and foreign, trade and defence ministers meet regularly. At the 2022 annual Leaders Meeting, Prime Minister Albanese and then-Prime Minister Ardern announced the establishment of two new annual ministerial dialogues: Foreign and Defence Ministers 2+2 and the Climate and Economic Ministers 2+2.
Australia and New Zealand cooperate closely in global and regional fora, including the United Nations, WTO, APEC, East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, and Pacific Islands Forum. We are both committed to supporting Pacific priorities and working together with our Pacific family to respond to our shared challenges, including climate change.
Australia and New Zealand have a proud history of joint deployments dating back to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli. Our defence relationship remains as important as ever, and includes recent operations in Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Formal expressions of our security partnership are found in the 1944 Canberra Pact and 1951 ANZUS Treaty. Our bilateral defence relationship is underpinned by the 1991 Closer Defence Relations agreement (CDR), updated in 2018, which provides a broad strategic framework for the bilateral defence relationship. In accordance with the recommendations of the 2011 Review of the Australia-New Zealand Defence Relationship, a framework for closer consultation and engagement on defence has been implemented since 2012.
The 1983 Australia‑New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA or CER) is one of the worlds most open and successful free‑trade agreements. The Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN free‑trade agreement (AANZFTA) entered into force on 1 January 2010 and has recently been through a process of upgrade negotiations. Both Australia and New Zealand cooperate closely in pursuing WTO goals, notably through participation in the Cairns Group, a coalition of 19 agriculture‑exporting countries promoting the liberalisation of trade in agriculture.
The Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), established in 2004, is a private sector-led forum which brings together Australian and New Zealand business and government leaders to reinforce and develop the trans-Tasman economy and business environment. The ANZLF, is supported by DFAT and its New Zealand counterpart, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
At their annual Leaders' Meeting, held in Wellington on 26 July 2023, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and then-Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Trans-Tasman Roadmap to 2035, aimed at lifting shared ambition to improve the lives of the people living in our nations and our region including through building sustainable, inclusive economies and actively supporting Pacific priorities.Prime Ministers also discussed collaboration toward the net zero transition and supporting Pacific responses to climate change.
Foreign Minister Wong and Deputy Prime Minister Marles met their New Zealand colleagues, Deputy Prime Minister Peters and Defence Minister Collins for the inaugural Australian New Zealand Ministerial Consultations (ANZMIN) in Melbourne on 1 February 2024. This was New Zealand’s first 2+2 meeting and an important step to strengthen the Australia-New Zealand alliance to address evolving geostrategic challenges. (ANZMIN Joint Statement ). ANZMIN was preceded by the biannual trans-Tasman Foreign Minister Consultations (FMCs) meeting and a Defence Ministers Meeting.
Trade Minister Don Farrell met his New Zealand counterpart, then-Trade Minister Damien O'Connor, for annual Closer Economic Relations trade talks in Adelaide in August 2023. Ministers acknowledged the extraordinary integration and depth of our economic relationship, while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA or CER). They discussed the future of the trade and economic relationship, including agreeing and signing the Australia-New Zealand Sustainable and Inclusive Trade Declaration.
HM King Charles III is the Head of State, represented by the Governor-General, currently Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, who may summon, prorogue or dissolve parliament. The Prime Minister, currently Rt Hon Christopher Luxon, is Head of Government and requires the confidence of the House to govern.
New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy in the Westminster tradition, but with several significant differences. Its executive arm of government is drawn from its legislature, which notionally has 120 members, although this may temporarily increase between elections to account for voting equities ('overhang seats') under its Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system, introduced in 1997. With the abolition of its Legislative Council (upper house) in 1951, New Zealand's parliament became unicameral.
Under the MMP electoral system, voters are given two votes – one for a local MP (an electorate vote) and one for a political party (a party list vote). Māori voters may choose to be on either the General or Māori electoral roll.
With the introduction of MMP the opportunity for minor parties to gain parliamentary representation increased. As a result, coalition and minority governments have become commonplace.
In 2023, Nationals won 49 seats in what was eventually a 123-seat parliament (as a result of overhang seats and a byelection), with the Labour Party winning 34 seats. The Nationals Government negotiated a coalition with minor parties ACT New Zealand and New Zealand First to reach a majority of 68 seats.
Former Prime Minister Rt Hon Chris Hipkins was elected by the Labour Party as opposition leader.
New Zealand general elections are held every three years. It is compulsory to enrol to vote, but voting is not compulsory.
Following a comprehensive reform program that began in the mid-1980s, the New Zealand economy is now largely deregulated, and more internationally competitive. The production base has diversified while maintaining a large agricultural sector. For detailed information on primary industries, see the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries.
New Zealand’s two-way trade increased by nine per cent to $205.75 billion for the year ending September 2023. New Zealand’s total exports increased by eleven per cent for the year ending September 2023, with strong growth in services exports (up sixty per cent to $24.87 billion) and goods exports remaining steady at $70.3 billion. For detailed information on New Zealand's trade, see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
The bilateral economic and trade relationship is shaped by the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER or ANZCERTA), which came into effect on 1 January 1983. ANZCERTA is one of the world's most open and successful free trade agreements. Two-way trans-Tasman merchandise trade has increased at an average annual rate of around eight per cent following its adoption. For detailed information see Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement and the New Zealand country/economy fact sheet [PDF].
Australia and New Zealand are also parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Single Economic Market (SEM)
In August 2004, Australia and New Zealand committed to establishing a process called the Single Economic Market (SEM) agenda, designed to create a seamless trans-Tasman business environment. The SEM agenda builds on ANZCERTA by identifying innovative, low-cost actions to reduce discrimination and costs arising from different, conflicting or duplicate regulations or institutions in either country. The SEM agenda has brought significant economic benefits to both countries by lowering business costs and increasing the ease with which both businesses and people can operate across the Tasman.
During their meeting in Wellington, on 26 July 2023, the Prime Ministers recognised the successful impact of the SEM under CER on trans-Tasman integration in areas such as trade and tourism, research and development, investment and promoting innovation.