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, 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 annual ministerial dialogues of Foreign and Defence Ministers and Finance/Economic and Climate Change Ministers.
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 helping build a stronger Pacific family through our long-standing collaboration with Pacific island partners.
Australia and New Zealand have a proud history of joint deployments dating back to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps 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 world's most open and successful free‑trade agreements. The Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN free‑trade agreement (AANZFTA) entered into force on 1 January 2010. 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, which is supported by DFAT (and its New Zealand counterpart, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) is co-chaired on the Australian side by Pip Marlow, and on the New Zealand side by Greg Lowe.
Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers hold an annual Leaders' Meeting. During their meeting in Sydney on 8 July 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emphasised the unique closeness of the trans‑Tasman relationship and that Australia and New Zealand stand together in facing a challenging global environment. They discussed people-to-people issues, extending access to services and benefits for citizens across the Tasman, Pacific partnerships, climate change policy, Australia and New Zealand's engagement in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and responses to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They emphasised the importance of the CER and welcomed its 40th anniversary in 2023.
Foreign ministers meet biannually for trans-Tasman Foreign Minister Consultations, the most recent of which were held in in Canberra in December 2022 between Foreign Minister Penny Wong and New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Ministers agreed to work in close partnership to support peace, stability, prosperity, and resilience in our region, and affirmed their shared commitment to uphold international law and norms.
Trade Minister Don Farrell met his New Zealand counterpart Trade Minister Damien O'Connor for annual Closer Economic Relations trade talks in Queenstown, New Zealand in October 2022. Ministers acknowledged the extraordinary integration and depth of our economic relationship. They discussed ongoing collaboration on Indigenous cultural and economic connections; clean energy and climate change policy; and emerging technologies.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles met New Zealand Defence Minister Chris Little in Geelong in April 2023, where they discussed a shared commitment to cooperate and collaborate in the Pacific and beyond.
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 Chris Hipkins, 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 2020, Labour won 65 seats in the 120‑seat parliament, with the main opposition National Party winning 33 seats, down from 56. The Labour Government includes two Green Party ministers outside Cabinet as part of a cooperation agreement between Labour and the Greens (the latter having increased their parliamentary representation from eight seats to ten).
Christopher Luxon became the opposition National Party's fifth leader since the 2017 election when he replaced Judith Collins, who had led the party into the 2020 polls.
The next election is scheduled for 14 October 2023. 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 eight per cent to $163.6 billion for the year ending December 2021. New Zealand's total exports declined by one per cent for the year ending December 2021, with strong growth in goods exports (up six per cent to $63.3 billion), offset by a 25 per cent decline in services exports to $13.9 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.
Australia and New Zealand are also parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
Single Economic Market (SEM)
In August 2009, Australia and New Zealand committed to 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 Sydney, on 8 July 2022, the Prime Ministers noted the successful impact of the SEM under CER on trans-Tasman integration in areas such as mutual recognition of digital identity, circular economy and seamless movement of goods and people.