U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: New Zealand, February 1996
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: New Zealand
Area: 270,534 sq. km. (104,440 sq. mi.); about the size of Colorado.
Cities: Capital--Wellington (326,900). Other cities--Auckland (910,200),
Terrain: Highly varied, from snow-capped mountains to lowland plains.
Climate: Temperate to subtropical.
Nationality: Noun--New Zealander(s). Adjective--New Zealand.
Population: 3.5 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.1%.
Ethnic groups: European 80%, Maori 10%, other Polynesian 4%.
Religions: Anglican 22%, Presbyterian 16%, Roman Catholic 15%.
Languages: English, Maori.
Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-16. Attendance--100%. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8.3/1,000. Life expectancy--males 73
yrs., females 79 yrs.
Work force (1.6 million): Services and government--45%. Industry and
commerce--44%. Agriculture and mining--11%.
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--three-level system: District Courts, the High
Court, and the Court of Appeals, with further appeal possible to the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. There are also 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 are also a number of community boards and special-
purpose bodies with partially elected, partially appointed memberships.
Political parties: National, Labor, the Alliance, New Zealand First, and
several smaller parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (1994): $44.7 billion.
Real annual GDP growth rate (1995): 3.7%.
Per capita income (1995): $15,000.
Natural resources: Natural gas, iron sand, coal, timber.
Agriculture (10% of GDP): Products--wool, meat, dairy products, forestry
Industry (38% of GDP): Types--food processing, textiles, machinery,
transport equipment, fish, forestry products.
Trade (1995): Exports--$12.9 billion: meat, dairy products, manufactured
products, forest products, fish, fruit and vegetables, wool. Major
markets--Australia, Japan, U.S., U.K. Imports--$13 billion: machinery,
manufactured goods, transportation equipment, chemicals, mineral fuels.
Major suppliers--Australia, U.S., Japan, U.K.
U.S.-NEW ZEALAND RELATIONS
Bilateral relations in areas outside the security sphere are excellent.
The U.S. and New Zealand share common elements of history and culture
and a commitment to democratic principles. Senior-level officials
regularly consult with each other on issues of mutual importance. Prime
Minister Jim Bolger and President Clinton have met on several occasions,
including at the White House in March 1995.
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 significantly to the
flexibility and effectiveness of U.S. naval forces in the Pacific.
Growing concern about nuclear and arms control issues contributed to the
1984 election of a Labor government committed to barring nuclear-armed
and nuclear-powered warships from New Zealand ports. The Labor
Government's anti-nuclear policy proved incompatible with a long-
standing, worldwide U.S. policy of neither confirming nor denying the
presence or absence of nuclear weapons on board U.S. vessels. Moreover,
labor policy, subsequently enacted as legislation, also prohibits visits
by nuclear powered ships.
Implementation of New Zealand's policy effectively prevented practical
alliance cooperation under ANZUS. After extensive efforts to resolve the
issue proved unsuccessful, in August 1986 the United States suspended
its ANZUS security obligations to New Zealand. 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. In trade, the United States is New Zealand's third-largest
supplier and customer, after Australia and Japan. Total bilateral trade
for 1994 was $3.93 billion (with a $88 million surplus in favor of the
U.S.). U.S. merchandise exports to New Zealand were $1.5 billion, with
New Zealand exports to the U.S. totaling $1.4 billion. U.S. direct
foreign investment in New Zealand (as of 1994) totals $3.6 billion,
largely concentrated in manufacturing, forestry, telecommunication
services, and finance.
New Zealand has worked closely with the U.S. to promote free trade in
the GATT/WTO, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), and
other multilateral forums. The U.S. and New Zealand hold high-level
trade and investment meetings annually.
The United States maintains seven scientific bases in Antarctica. The
National Science Foundation's Antarctic Program, supported by the U.S.
Navy's Operation Deep Freeze, is headquartered in Christchurch. The New
Zealand Government has been cooperative in allowing the use of support
facilities in Christchurch as staging areas. In return, the United
States provides transport and logistical support for New Zealand's year-
round Scott Base at McMurdo Sound and its summer field research
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Josiah H. Beeman
Deputy Chief of Mission--Morton Dworken
Political and Economic Counselor--Evans J.R. Revere
Defense Attache--Capt. Robert E. Houser, USN
Public Affairs Officer--Timothy M. Randall
Consul--James E. Flynn
Administrative Officer--Steven G. Leach
Labor Attache--Karen E. Krueger
Consul (Auckland)--Alcy Frelick
Senior Commercial Officer (at Consulate, Auckland)--M. Philip Gates
The U.S. embassy in New Zealand is located at 29 Fitzherbert Terrace,
Thorndon, Wellington (tel. 64-4-472-2068, fax 64-4-471-2380); the U.S.
Consulate General is located on the 4th Floor, Yorkshire General
Building, corner of Shortland and O'Connell Streets, Auckland (tel. 64-
4-303-2724, fax 64-4-366-0870).
For information on foreign economic trends, commercial development,
production, trade regulations, and tariff rates, contact the Bureau of
Export Development, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department
of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230. This information also is available
from any Commerce Department district office.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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) has 99 seats, four
of which currently are reserved for Maoris elected on a separate Maori
roll. However, Maoris also may run for, and have been elected to,
regular seats. Parliaments are elected for a maximum term of three
years, although elections can be called sooner.
The judiciary consists of the Court of Appeals, the High Court, and the
District Courts. New Zealand law has three principal sources--English
common law, certain statutes of the U.K. 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. This uniformity is ensured by
the maintenance of the Privy Council in London as the final court of
appeal and by judges' practice of following British decisions, even
though, technically, they are not bound by them.
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 chairman 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, which currently number 155.
These boards, instituted at the initiative of either local citizens or
the territorial authorities, advocate community views but cannot levy
taxes, appoint staff, or own property.
The conservative National Party and left-leaning Labor Party have
dominated New Zealand political life since a Labor government came to
power in 1935. During 14 years in office, the Labor 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 Labor Party. Except for two brief periods of Labor
governments in 1957-60 and 1972-75, National held power until 1984.
After regaining control in 1984, the Labor government instituted a
series of radical market-oriented reforms in response to New Zealand's
mounting external debt.
In October 1990, the National Party was again elected, capturing 67 of
97 parliamentary seats in a landslide victory. To the disappointment of
some supporters, National continued the economic reforms introduced by
Labor. National was narrowly reelected in November 1993. Two seats each
were won by two new opposition parties, the Alliance and New Zealand
First. In a simultaneous referendum, New Zealanders changed their
electoral system to a form of proportional representation designed to
give smaller parties a larger voice in parliament. This ended several
years of public debate fueled by resentment over the ability of
government to take unpopular measures with only a plurality of popular
support. The next election should take place under proportional
representation and must be called by the government no later than
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--Her Excellency Dame Catherine Tizard
Prime Minister--James Bolger
Ambassador to the United States--John Wood
Ambassador to the United Nations--Colin Keating
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-
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued to help Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular
Information Sheets on all countries include information on immigration
practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of
instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the
addresses of the U.S. posts in the subject country. They can be obtained
by telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access
the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225,
via a modem with standard settings. Publications on obtaining passports
and planning a safe trip aboard are available from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 (202)
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
Check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559
gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions
and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International
Travel (HHS publication number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available
from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20420, tel.
Before your departure, seek information on travel conditions, visa
requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and
other items of interest to travelers from a country's embassy and/or
consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government
Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at U.S. embassies (see
"Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This
helps family members contact you en route in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and
a telephone line.
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc.
DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet:
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at
$80 ($100 foreign), one year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh,
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax: (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS
information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the Help-Line at (202) 482-1986
for more information.
Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department of
State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication --
Washington, DC -- Series Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner
New Zealand -- Department of State Publication 8251 -- February 1996 --
Editor: Peter A. Knecht
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without
permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402.
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