U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: New Zealand, November 1997
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific 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: 3.6 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 (1996): $59.4 billion.
Real annual GDP growth rate (1996): 2.8%.
Per capita income (1996): $16,281.
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 (1996): Exports--$13.6 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 1996 was $3.5 billion (with a $300-million surplus in favor of the
U.S.). U.S. merchandise exports to New Zealand were $1.9 billion, with
New Zealand exports to the U.S. totaling $1.6 billion. U.S. direct
foreign investment in New Zealand (as of 1996) totals $4.8 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--Karen Krueger
Agricultural Attache--Gary Myers
Defense Attache--Capt. John Langer, USN
Public Affairs Officer--Frank Huffman
Administrative Officer--Boyd Doty
Consul (Auckland)--Michael Thurston
Senior Commercial Officer (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
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, 4 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 3 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 1 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 October 1996 elections were the first under the new system,
but no political party won enough votes to control Parliament.
In December 1996, Prime Minister Jim Bolger's National Party (44 seats)
formed a 61-seat majority coalition with Winston Peters' New Zealand
First Party (17 seats). Helen Clark's Labor Party (37 seats) leads the
opposition. In response to a steep drop in the popularity of the
coalition and its policies, Transport Minister Jenny Shipley led a
successful challenge within the National Party, and Bolger agreed to
resign as Prime Minister and National Party leader. Bolger will step
down by the end of November 1997, but it remains to be seen whether
coalition partner New Zealand First will continue the coalition or
whether new Prime Minister Shipley will lead a minority National Party
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State--Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General--His Excellency Sir Michael Hardie Boys Prime Minister-
Ambassador to the United States--John Wood
Ambassador to the United Nations--Michael Powles
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 when the State Department recommends
that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular
Information Sheets exist for all countries and
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 country.
Public Announcements are issued as a means to
disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other
relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant
risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this
information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs
at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000.
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available
on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program
to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation
to VT100. The login is travel and the
password is info (Note: Lower case is required).
The CABB also carries international security information from
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau
of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning
a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh,
PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling
abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services
at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays,
Passport Services information can be obtained
by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per
minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday
($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778).
Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-
8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can 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-95-8280) is available from the U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency
and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest
to travelers also may be obtained before your departure
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 who are long-term visitors or traveling
in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy
upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy
Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family
members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
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
magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; Country
Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published
on a semi-annual 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. Contact the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh,
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat- usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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