U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes:  New Zealand, February 1996 
Bureau of Public Affairs 
 
 
February 1996 
Official Name: New Zealand 
 
PROFILE 
 
Geography 
 
Area: 270,534 sq. km. (104,440 sq. mi.); about the size of Colorado.  
Cities: Capital--Wellington (326,900). Other cities--Auckland (910,200), 
Christchurch (312,600).  
Terrain: Highly varied, from snow-capped mountains to lowland plains.  
Climate: Temperate to subtropical.  
 
People 
 
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%.  
 
Government 
 
Type: Parliamentary.  
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. 
 
Economy 
 
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 
products.  
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 
programs. 
 
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 
 
Ambassador--Josiah H. Beeman 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Morton Dworken 
Political and Economic Counselor--Evans J.R. Revere 
Agricultural Attache--vacant 
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 
November 1996. 
 
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-
388-5494). 
 
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) 
512-1800.  
 
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. 
 
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. 
(202) 512-1800.  
 
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: 
 
Gopher: dosfan.lib.uic.edu 
URL: gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ 
WWW: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html. 
 
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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