New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand (Maori Aotearoa) is a geographically isolated island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. It consists of a North and a South Island as well as numerous smaller islands. The nearest larger land masses are located in the west with the Australian continent (the west coasts of the two main islands of New Zealand are between 1530 km and about 2100 km from the east coast of Australia and Tasmania), in the north with the French island of New Caledonia and the island states of Tonga and Fiji and in the south with the continent Antarctica.

Location of New Zealand in Oceania
Location of New Zealand in Oceania
Official language English (de facto), Māori, New Zealand Sign Language
Capital Wellington
Form of government Parliamentary monarchy
Head of state King Charles III
of New Zealand represented by
Governor-General Cindy Kiro
Head of government Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Area 269,652 (74th) km²
Population 5.1 million (122nd) (2020; Estimate)
Population density 19 inhabitants per km²
Demographic development + 2.1% (estimate for 2020)
Gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total (PPP)
  • GDP/inhab. (nom.)
  • GDP/inhab. (PPP)
  • $248 billion (50th)
  • $238 billion (64th)
  • 48,424 USD (21st)
  • 46,585 USD (32nd)
Human Development Index 0.937 (13th) (2021)
Currency New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Foundation 6 February 1840
(Treaty of Waitangi)
Independence September 26, 1907 (Dominion)
November 25, 1947 (Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947)
December 13, 1986 (Constitution Act 1986)
National anthem God Defend New Zealand God
Save the King
United States Navy Band – God Save the King
National holiday Waitangi Day (6 February)
King’s Birthday (1. Monday in June)
Time zone UTC+12 NZST
UTC+13 NZDT (October to March)
License plate NZ
ISO 3166 NZ, NZL, 554
Internet TLD .Nz
Area code +64

Neither geographically nor culturally can New Zealand be assigned to a specific large region: the country lies partly on the Australian plate, partly on the Pacific plate and is connected to both the European-influenced cultural area of Australia and the Polynesian part of Oceania.

New Zealand is a kingdom in the Commonwealth of Nations with a democratic-parliamentary constitution. The King of New Zealand is Charles III. New Zealand’s political system is based on a parliamentary monarchy modeled on the British Westminster system.

Unusual for an industrialized country, the main economic sectors are agriculture and forestry, the food industry (mainly dairy products) and tourism. New Zealand is referred to as the “green island”, thanks in part to its sparse population and natural diversity. These, as well as the unique vegetation, are also due to the relatively isolated location of the islands.


Extent and location of New Zealand

New Zealand consists of two main islands, the North and South Islands, as well as more than 700 smaller islands. The two main islands, often referred to as Mainland New German Zealand, are separated by the narrowest 23 km wide Cook Strait. Most of the smaller islands such as Stewart Island, which is sometimes still counted as part of Mainland New Zealand, the Great Barrier Island or the densely populated Waiheke Island lie within a zone of 50 km off the coast of the main islands.

Only the Kermadec Islands located 1000 km north of the North Island, the Chatham Islands 700 km east near the International Date Line and the subantarctic islands more than 200 km south of the South Island in the four uninhabited island groups of the Auckland Islands, the Antipodes Islands, the Snares Islands, the Bounty Islands and Campbell Island, do not belong to the archipelago around the two main islands. The North Island lies entirely on the Australian plate and the South Island partly on the Australian and Pacific plates. During the last ice age, the North and South Islands were connected.

New Zealand also lays claim to the Ross Dependency in Antarctica, which also includes a number of other islands; however, this claim is not internationally recognized due to the Antarctic Treaty. Furthermore, Tokelau is a dependent territory of the state of New Zealand, and the Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing territories in free association with New Zealand. These areas will not be considered further below.

The total land area of New Zealand is 269,652 km², slightly smaller than that of Italy or the Philippines, but slightly larger than that of the United Kingdom. While the main islands of the archipelago are never wider than 450 km in the east-west direction, they extend over 1600 km along the main axis in a northeasterly direction. The total coastline covers approximately 15,134 km. The territorial waters of New Zealand are very large with 167,653 km² relative to the land mass, the Exclusive Economic Zone is even one of the largest in the world with 3,931,136 km².

New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere. All New Zealand islands are isolated in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country is thus generally assigned to Oceania (especially if the term Oceania also includes Australia) or on a smaller scale as an island of Polynesia. In part, however, it is also assigned to the continent of Australia due to the cultural similarities.

As the marginal sea of the Pacific, the Tasman Sea lies west of the two main islands and separates New Zealand from Australia, which is up to 2100 km away. However, the shortest distance is 1530 km, measured between the South Island of New Zealand and Tasmania. After Australia, the Antarctic mainland, about 3000 km to the south, is the next major landmass. Other states or colonies near New Zealand are New Caledonia, Tonga and Fiji in the north. New Zealand is the country furthest away from Central Europe: parts of the country are located on the globe exactly opposite Spain, so they are its antipodes.

The extent of New Zealand from north to south is often colloquially described as “from Cape Reinga to The Bluff”, but in fact the Surville Cliffs at the North Cape (34°23’35″S, 173°0’48”E) are the northernmost point of the North Island and Slope Point in the Catlins (46°40’34”S, 169°0’22″E) is the southernmost point of the South Island. If Stewart Island is part of Mainland New Zealand, the southernmost point is the South Cape (47°17’24″S, 167°32’12″E).

Including the islands outside the archipelago, Nugent Island in the Kermadec Islands group is the northernmost (29°14’S, 177°52’E) is the southernmost point of the country. The westernmost point of the country is Cape Lovitt in the Auckland Islands, the easternmost is the Forty Fours in the Chatham Islands. Again, if you only take the two main islands, West Cape is the westernmost and East Cape the easternmost point of the country. The geographic center of the country is located in the Tararua Range on the North Island of the country and has the coordinates 41°1’5.6″S, 175°21’44.2″E.

New Zealand and its associated territories are located in four different time zones, the main islands use the NZST, which corresponds to UTC +12.

Topography and natural areas

Topography of New Zealand
Topography of New Zealand

The 113,729 km² North Island is the more densely populated island of New Zealand. About three-quarters of the population live on it, and both the capital Wellington and the country’s largest city, Auckland, are located on the North Island.

Auckland lies on an isthmus that is less than two kilometers wide at its narrowest point and separates the Pacific Ocean from the Tasman Sea. North of the isthmus is the Northland Peninsula, which in turn is divided into numerous other peninsulas up to the Aupōuri Peninsula. The west coast of the Northland Peninsula is relatively smooth. It is characterized by long sandy beaches, among which the Ninety Mile Beach is probably the most famous, as well as two large natural harbors, the Kaipara Harbour and the Hokianga Harbour.

South of Hokianga Harbour stretches the Waipoua Forest, which is home to significant kauri trees. The east coast, on the other hand, is more rugged and has numerous offshore islands, but also has some natural harbors. The best known are probably the Bay of Islands and the port of the largest city on the peninsula, Whangārei. The interior is covered by agricultural and forestry hills.

South of Auckland is the Waikato region. In the west of this region is a low mountain range, the Hakarimata Range, which merges into a gentle hilly landscape at the mouth of the River Waikato into the Tasman Sea. East of the Hakarimata Range are the Waikato Plains, a distinct lowland that extends on both sides of the Waikato. Here lies Hamilton, the fourth-largest agglomeration in the country. Further east, the Kaimai Range and the Mamaku Plateau are again two predominantly forested low mountain ranges. These separate the region from the area around the Bay of Plenty. To the north of the bay is the Coromandel Peninsula, which is characterized by the up to 900 m high Coromandel Range, whose northern spur is Great Barrier Island.

The center of the island is dominated by the Volcanic Plateau, whose volcanoes Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu form the Tongariro National Park, declared the first combined World Heritage Site and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Ruapehu is with 2797 m the highest elevation of the island. North of Ruapehu, right in the center of the North Island, lies Lake Taupo, the largest lake in the country. East of the lake are the Kaingaroa Forest and Te Urewera National Park, two vast forest areas that characterize the region up to the east coast.

This area is sparsely populated and crossed by numerous low mountain ranges. The highest point is the 1754 m high Hikurangi belonging to the Ruakumara Range near the East Cape. In the west of the central plateau, the landscape merges into a forested rugged hilly country crossed by the Whanganui River and numerous tributaries. In the middle of this lowland lies Whanganui National Park. Further west is the Taranaki region, which juts out into the Tasman Sea. This is characterized by the 2518 m high Mount Taranaki. Around the free-standing volcano is a wide rainforest belt, which is protected by the Egmont National Park. The region is very fertile and a center of New Zealand’s milk production.

South of the region around the Whanganui is the Manawatu Plain, a floodplain area around the Manawatū and Rangitīkei Rivers. This is followed by the Kapiti Coast in the further course of the coast, in the south of which lies the Wellington region, the second largest agglomeration in New Zealand around the capital. To the northeast, the region is bounded by the Tararua Range, to the east by the Remutaka Range, two low mountain ranges, to which the Ruahine Range adjoins in the north and which belong to a mountain ridge running parallel to the east coast, which also includes the aforementioned Ruakumara Range in the north.

East of the mountains is the swampy Wairarapa plain, which in turn is bordered by another mountainous area in the east. Northeast of this region is the Hawke’s Bay region around Hawke Bay. In addition to the already mentioned Ruahin, the Kaweka Range can also be found in its interior. The rest of the region consists of rolling hills and floodplains around the Wairoa River in the north and the fertile Heretaunga Plain in the south. To the north is the already described region of Gisborne.

The slightly larger South Island with 151,215 km² is dominated by the New Zealand Alps, also known as the Southern Alps, which run parallel to the west coast. The highest elevation in the mountain range is the Aoraki / Mount Cook with 3724 m, followed by the 3498 m high Mount Tasman. A total of 17 peaks are higher than 3000 m. Both the northernmost and southernmost areas of the island consist of low mountain ranges, some of which rise to over 1000 m altitude.

The West Coast region between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea is extremely narrow and is one of the wettest areas on Earth. As a result, some glaciers of the Southern Alps, such as the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, push through all vegetation altitudes to the rainforests near the coast; the extreme southwest forms richly indented fjord landscapes. Large parts of the southwest are protected as national parks; together they form the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. East of the Southern Alps is the Canterbury Plains, a large alluvial plain that lends itself well to agricultural purposes, such as cattle breeding. From this plain, the volcanically shaped Banks Peninsula juts out into the Pacific Ocean, which is part of the metropolitan area of Christchurch, the largest agglomeration in the South Island and the third largest in the country.


Until about 200 million years ago, New Zealand – like most of today’s land masses in the southern hemisphere – belonged to the supercontinent Gondwana. The exact time is not certain, but at the latest 85 million years ago, i.e. in the Upper Cretaceous, the continent fragment Zealandia separated with today’s New Zealand from the landmass that now forms Antarctica, before today’s Australia separated from this supercontinent.

Since then, New Zealand has been able to develop a flora and fauna independent of all other land areas. After this eventful period, calm returned to the geological history of the country, the continuous erosion gradually caused the formed mountain ranges to disappear, creating large, low-lying marshlands, from which today’s coal deposits emerged over time. Only less than 30 million years ago, the quiet epoch in the geology of the country ended and low-lying areas were lifted from the sea. The Pacific state only got its coastline in rough form in the Miocene epoch, before the islands received their present form in the last few million years; many of the mountains and valleys were even formed in the last 100,000 years. During the Ice Age, especially the South Island was heavily glaciated.

Today, New Zealand is located on the border between the Australian and Pacific plates. Although the two plates do not move head-on toward each other, they exert a great influence on the country. Two forces arise: one acting frontally and one laterally. The frontal force forms faults that exert pressure on various rock layers and thus steadily raise the ground. The second – laterally acting – force leads to so-called transform disturbances. The latter leads to frequent earthquakes in the country, some of which have serious effects on the landscape and also pose a constant threat to the population (see List of earthquakes in New Zealand).

New Zealand belongs – like all other countries that lie on the border to the Pacific Plate – to the Pacific Ring of Fire. This manifests itself in earthquakes, faults and increased volcanic activity. New Zealand is home to some of the most active volcanoes on Earth. These are located exclusively in the northern half of the country, much of them are concentrated in the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ), which is located in the center of the North Island.

For example, all three volcanoes of the Central Plateau are still active, the last eruption of the stratovolcano Ruapehu occurred in 2007. In the Bay of Plenty area, the earth’s crust is thinner than almost anywhere else in the world, so geothermal activity of all kinds can be found here. A well-known volcano in this area is Whakaari / White Island, whose last major eruption took place in 2019.

In addition to the volcanoes, the forces of the earth show up in the form of geothermal energy, which emerges as geysers or hot springs (a total of 67 in New Zealand). In addition to the geothermal area around the city of Taupo, there are 29 other such areas in New Zealand, but mainly on the North Island, such as Northland, the Hauraki Plains and the Bay of Plenty, but also on the South Island, a well-known example are the thermal springs in Hanmer Springs.


New Zealand is located in the subtropical and temperate latitudes of the southern hemisphere, which explains the relatively mild climate of the islands. The two main islands of the country are climatically roughly divided into two parts by the mountain ranges that run through the country in a north-south axis. The prevailing westerly winds bring the western parts of the country rather wetter and the eastern parts, however, rather drier climate.

The North Island lies in the ever-humid subtropical ecozone, which clearly applies to the northern peninsula, while the rest of the North Island is already in the transition zone to the temperate climate zone, which is fully developed on the South Island – as an ecozone of the humid mid-latitudes. Alpine weather conditions can be found along the New Zealand Alps, with the western flanks of the Alpine mountain ranges having numerous rainy days. The weather in the northern part of the South Island can also be considered temperate, while the south is rather cool throughout the year. An exception is the highlands of Otago in the south of the South Island. A locally limited rural climate prevails here, with cold snowy winters and warm, dry summers.

Most of New Zealand can expect 600 mm to 1600 mm of rainfall throughout the year, with drier periods in summer. The average annual temperatures are 10 °C in the south to 16 °C in the north. July is the coldest month of the year, while January and February are the warmest. The temperature fluctuations throughout the year are relatively small. From the coasts to the mountains, the temperature drops by an average of 0.7 °C per 100 meters of altitude.

In the east, on the windward sides of New Zealand, the sunshine duration is higher than on the rainy western coastal regions, with most regions of the country able to expect at least 2000 hours of sunshine per year. The midday UV index in summer is very high in New Zealand, especially in the northern regions and in the mountains. Snowfall in the mountains and highlands of Otago can be plentiful, but very rare on the coasts.

Vegetation forms

Potential natural vegetation of New Zealand
Potential natural vegetation of New Zealand

For several reasons, New Zealand has a high number of different vegetation formations. On the one hand, more than 1600 km of north-south extension are extremely long compared to the relatively small land area of 268,680 km² and correspondingly climatically varied. For comparison, Germany is only about 880 km long with a land area of 357,000 km². Another important reason for the large number of vegetation forms is the large differences in altitude in New Zealand (mountain climate with different altitudes). For example, while the “big neighbor” Australia covers 28 times the area, its largest elevation, Mount Kosciuszko, is only 2228 m high. On the other hand, New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook, reaches 3724 m. Finally, the uneven distribution of precipitation caused by the location of the mountains also ensures a variety of vegetation forms. In particular, the forests are rich in endemics.

The North Island was originally covered to large parts of the planar-colline plains by an ever-humid mixed forest of laurel-leaved deciduous trees of the families laurel family, Cunoniaceae, myrtle family and monimia family (among others) in the crown layer as well as conifers (podocarp family) in the upper layer above and undergrowth of ferns and tree ferns (Cyathea, Dicksonia). Due to the remoteness of the island and sufficient glacial refuges that allowed this vegetation to survive, it is probably the oldest living forest type in the world.

Due to some differences, this forest can be divided into the subtropical “Kauri rainforest” of the northern half and the laurel moist forests of the southern half. The forest structures of the rainforest – 94% of which has already been destroyed – correspond to the tropical rainforests, while the plant communities are very peculiar. The character tree of this plant region is the kauri tree, an araucaria plant. The moist forests are somewhat poorer in species, lower and have fewer lianas and epithetic plants. On the South Island, there is a very similar type of forest in humid, mild regions, which is understood there as a relic from warmer epochs.

In the highest altitudes of the North Island, there is the ever-humid temperate rainforest of the false beech type, which also characterizes the west side of the South Island. In the drier areas, a shrub-steppe (partly heath-like, fern-rich) vegetation originally grew.

The South Island is more or less divided into two parts: On the humid west coast there is – except for a “beech gap” with conifer-laurel forest – temperate beech-podocarp rainforest, which often reaches up to the tree line in the subalpine altitude. In contrast to the comparable temperate rainforests of South America, the New Zealand forest consists exclusively of evergreen (without deciduous) beech species. The alpine region has – without transition space – a completely forest-free, mountain-tundra-like shrub vegetation; to the patchy, very high altitude steppes, where there are no more woody plants. The treeless mountainous regions of New Zealand are also known as Fellmark. In the rain shadow of the Southern Alps, less moist, structurally and species-poor beech deciduous forests grow in fully humid locations (especially in the mountains), while the largest share of the plains is occupied by the somewhat drier tussock grass steppe.

The most famous glaciers are the Franz Josef, Fox and Tasman Glaciers. Intensive agriculture is practiced in the plains, while extensive grazing prevails in many other places. Not only the natural forest vegetation of the country is endangered, but also all other vegetation types.


New Zealand has a large number of large and small lakes. Lake Taupo, which is located in the center of the North Island and is fed by the Tongariro River, which rises in the central plateau, is by far the largest lake in the country. With an area of 622 km², it is larger than Lake Constance. The lake is the product of a massive eruption of the supervolcano Taupo and had formed in its caldera.

The next largest lakes are all located on the South Island and have been pushed out by glaciers. The largest of these glacial lakes is Lake Te Anau with an area of 344 km², followed by 80 km long and 291 km² Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown and 192 km² Lake Wānaka. An interesting aspect of this region known as Southern Lakes is that many of the glacial lakes are deeper than their elevation, so the bottom of each lake is below sea level.

New Zealand is also crossed by numerous rivers and streams. The longest river in the country is the Waikato River on the North Island with a length of 425 km, which is fed from Lake Taupo and flows into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato south of Auckland. The Clutha River/Mata-Au in the south of New Zealand’s South Island is the second longest river in the country at 340 km. It rises from Lake Wānaka and flows into the South Pacific Ocean about 75 km south of Dunedin. The third longest river in the country, the 290 km long Whanganui River, is located on the North Island and flows into the Cook Strait at Wanganui.

Flora and fauna in New Zealand

The flora and fauna of New Zealand is one of the most extraordinary on earth, as the archipelago has been separated from all other land masses for a very long time and the vegetation has been able to develop in isolation. Similar to Australia – where there were also hardly any large carnivores – the farms, domestic animals and rats introduced by the European colonialists multiplied invasively and significantly reduced the endemic wildlife of the islands as predators and food competitors, so that the original biodiversity is endangered today.

New Zealand has the greatest similarities in the development of flora and fauna with New Caledonia and Lord Howe Island.


About 85% of New Zealand’s plant species are endemic. Before the arrival of the Māori , about 80% of the country was covered with forests, but today indigenous forests still grow on just over 24% of the country’s surface, of which around 77% are protected. On about five percent of the land area, New Zealand’s forestry industry cultivates fast-growing, non-native tree species such as the Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).

The two most important native forest types of the country are, on the one hand, moist-subtropical “coniferous mixed forests”, for example, composed of podocarp plants (Podocarpaceae such as Kahikatea and Halocarpus ) or kauri trees (Araucariaceae); as well as deciduous forests, which consist mainly of false beech (Nothofagus). All New Zealand trees are evergreen. Especially the coniferous forests are characterized by epiphytes such as the North Island ironwood (Metrosideros robusta) in their appearance, but also a few species related to European mistletoe live hemiparasitically on southern beech.

Below the dense forest canopy, there are numerous, mostly endemic ferns. The most impressive is undoubtedly the tree ferns (Cyatheales), which grow up to over ten meters high. The best known among the ferns is the ponga or silver fern, it represents the New Zealand national plant. Furthermore, various palm species such as the Nikau palm (Rhopalostylis Sapida) have developed in New Zealand. Particularly striking are the Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), the South Island ironwood (Metrosideros Umbellata) and the so-called Cabbage Tree (Cordyline australis).

About ten percent of the country’s surface is covered with native open land vegetation. These include tussock grasslands as well as bush and heath landscapes.

Significant parts of the native vegetation (about one-third of the country’s surface) are protected and this to a large extent in National Parks, Conservation Parks and Forest Parks.


Due to its relative isolation, a unique ecosystem has developed in New Zealand, the most prominent feature of which before Polynesian colonization was the absence of any kind of land mammal, with the exception of three species of bats (the two species of New Zealand bats and ChalinolobusTuberculatus).

Many of the niches normally occupied by mammals have been occupied by birds. Flightless birds play a particularly important role here. They include the kakapo (Strigops Habroptilus), the kiwi (Apterygidae), the takahē (Porphyrio mantelli), the weka (Gallirallus australis) and the extinct moa (Dinornithiformes). The birds were hunted by birds of prey, the largest of which, the Haast Eagle (Harpagornis Moorei), had a wingspan of up to three meters and a weight of up to 14 kg. Some of the flightless species are now found only on predator-free islands off the coast of New Zealand.

The strong parrot species Kea (Nestor notabilis) and Kaka (Nestor Meridionalis) have fewer problems. In addition, there are numerous birds that fly over the vast expanses of the Pacific to spend parts of the year in New Zealand, such as the Westland Petrel (Procellaria Westlandica). Royal Albatross (Diomedea Epomophora) and Australian gannets (Morus Serrator) also nest here. The coasts are shared by various penguin species such as the thick-billed penguin (Eudyptes Pachyrhynchus), the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) and the little penguin (Eudyptula minor) with New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus Forsteri), elephant seals (Mirounga Leonina) and New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos Hookeri). Finally, dolphins and whales can be found off the coasts.

The Hector dolphin (Cephalorhynchus Hectori) and Maui dolphin (C. Hectori maui) are endangered species. Currently, there are still 55 Maui dolphins in the shallow coastal waters of the west coast of New Zealand – in the 1970s there were about 1500 animals. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Minister of Agriculture had swallows brought to New Zealand in large numbers from Europe.

Furthermore, New Zealand is home to the tuatara (Sphenodon Punctatus), an ancient reptile species, the New Zealand primordial frogs (Leiopelmatidae) and the wetas (Anostostomatidae), an insect family whose largest representatives can grow up to ten centimeters long. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where there are no terrestrial snakes (but three species of sea snakes in the surrounding sea). However, there are almost 60 species of lizards in New Zealand, mainly skinks of the genus Oligosoma, the New Zealand brown geckos (Hoplodactylus) and the green geckos (Naultinus).

New Zealand’s rivers, streams and lakes are home to only 64 species of freshwater fish, of which more than 20 were introduced by Europeans. Of the freshwater fish found before the arrival of Europeans, 22 species belong to the galaxy family (Galaxiidae), 7 to the family of sleeper gobies (Eleotridae) and 3 to the family of New Zealand salmon (Retropinnidae).

The arrival first of the Māori and later also of the Europeans has led to two spectacular waves of extinction due to human intervention in nature and because of animals (neozoa), especially rats, but also dogs, cats, hedgehogs, ermines and other weasel species as well as the Australian fox cusu. In total, the arrival of humans has led to the extinction of about 70 species of birds, one mammal (Great New Zealand bat), one species of lizard (Kawekaweau gecko), three species of frogs and one species of freshwater fish (New Zealand trout pike).

The New Zealand government is taking various measures to prevent the existence of endemic species, especially the many different birds, from extinction. On the one hand, castration, for example of cats, prevents their reproduction and, on the other hand, New Zealand is a world leader in the eradication of introduced animals and has begun to restore smaller islands off the coast to their pre-colonization state and to reintroduce native species there, in order to expand the project to the two main islands in the next stage.

In 1907, three pairs of chamois came to New Zealand as a gift from the Austrian Emperor at the request of New Zealand Prime Minister Richard Seddon. They were released on the Hooker River near Aoraki/Mount Cook and are said to have settled and multiplied by 1909.

In 1910, ten moose were released on the banks of Tamatea / Dusky Sound in Fiordland. The last confirmed sighting of a moose in Fiordland was in 1952, the population is now considered extinct.

Environmental issues

According to a 2019 report by New Zealand’s Environment and Statistics Bureau, the country is exploiting its nature more and more mercilessly. Agriculture and gradually also tourism are now endangering entire ecosystems. Numerous species are threatened with extinction, and humans are advancing further and further into previously untouched landscapes. The natural paradise is on the verge of collapse. According to the report, rivers and lakes are particularly at risk. 95 percent of all rivers in the lowlands are polluted, the water quality there is so bad that bathing is not allowed in most of them. In every second watercourse, the contamination with bacteria is five times higher than the guidelines of the Ministry of Health.

Population in New Zealand


In 2020, New Zealand had 5.1 million inhabitants. 25.2% of the population were not born in New Zealand.  About two-thirds of the population growth over the last five years is due to immigration. The population density per km² is 19 (Germany: 231 per km²). This makes New Zealand one of the more sparsely populated countries in the world, although it is many times more densely populated than its neighbor Australia (2.6 inhabitants per km²). The population is unevenly distributed among the different parts of the country. While only about one million people live on the larger South Island and large parts of the country – such as Fiordland – are virtually uninhabited, about 1.3 million people live in the metropolitan area of Auckland, the country’s largest city, alone. In total, over three million people live on the smaller North Island.

The median age of the population in 2020 was 38 years. New Zealand was thus one of the youngest countries in the Western world. The number of births per woman in 2020 was statistically 1.6. In 2016, there were 7.4 deaths per 1000 people. Due to immigration, the population grew by a further 2.2 persons per 1000 inhabitants. The infant mortality rate was 4.5 per 1000 live births in 2016. The life expectancy of New Zealanders from birth in 2020 was 82.1 years (women: 83.9, men: 80.3).

In 2020, 87 percent of New Zealand’s residents lived in cities. The city of Auckland alone is home to almost a third (32%) of the country’s total population.

Ethnic composition of New Zealand

Most of the population are New Zealanders of European descent, called Pākehā. This ethnic group comes mainly from the British Isles, but also from Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and numerous other European countries. A special German-speaking group are the immigrants from Bohemia from 1860 to 1876, who settled in Puhoi, Ohaupo and Te Rore on the North Island. Overall, New Zealanders of European origin make up about 67.6% of the total population.

The second largest population group is the Polynesian indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, the Māori, to whom 14.6% of the population belong. Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of Asians became the third largest ethnic group with a total of 9.6%. The Chinese form the largest group with 2.8%, followed by Indians with 1.7%. By 2001, the Asian population had overtaken the group of people from the Pacific Islands, who made up about 6.9% of the country’s population in 2006. Most of the Pacific islanders come from Samoa, followed by the Cook Islands and Tonga. In 2017, 22.7% of the population were migrants. The most frequent countries of origin were the United Kingdom (270,000 people), the People’s Republic of China (100,000), India and Australia (70,000 each). About 10,000 Germans live in New Zealand.

(As of the 2006 census, note: These figures should be noted that in New Zealand it is possible for a person to belong to several ethnic groups, and in 2006 for the first time the possibility was offered not to assign a specific ethnicity, which 11.1% took advantage of).


In New Zealand live comparatively many non-denominational. In the 2013 census, 55% of the total population professed (at least) one religion – including 48.9% Christians – while 42% said they did not belong to any religion. The most common Christian denominations are the Roman Catholic (12.6%), Anglican (11.8%) and Presbyterian churches (8.5%); another 5.5% described themselves as Christians, without specifying a specific denomination. The Ringatū Church and the Ratana movement, founded by Māori, are also Christianity (1.4%). Other notable religions are Hinduism (2.3%), Buddhism (1.5%) and Islam (1.2%).

While the Anglican and Presbyterian churches have suffered from a decline in membership in recent years (21% and 23% respectively declines between 2001 and 2013), most other religious communities are experiencing membership increases, mostly due to immigrants. The Catholic Church is already the largest denomination in the major cities of the North Island. The numbers of Hindus and Muslims roughly doubled between 2001 and 2013.

Due to the pronounced proportion of Presbyterians in the south of the South Island, it can still be seen today that this area was mainly settled by Scottish immigrants. The Catholic majority in some rural districts, for example, in Waitakere City is due to the immigration of Croats from the Kingdom of Dalmatia. The Italian Catholic community represents the largest group within New Zealand Catholics due to very strong immigration.


New Zealand has two official languages: Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language. The English language is not an official language, but is simply referred to as the de facto official language, despite the fact that English is spoken by around 96% of New Zealand’s population. English is also the language used by officials and in administration and legal texts since the beginning of the colonization of New Zealand. In August 2015, a citizen of the country started a petition to introduce English as an official language in New Zealand. The exit is still open.

While both Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are understood or actively used by a relatively small proportion of the population, New Zealand English is the most important colloquial language. This variety of English is related to Australian English, but differs from it by the fundamentally different stress of some vowels and words, so misunderstandings between speakers of New Zealand and Australian English are not excluded. Other distinctive features of New Zealand English are words borrowed from the Māori language. Their use is particularly widespread among the Māori population.

Māori (proper name: Te Reo Māori) declined in importance until the 1970s, and the number of Māori speakers declined steadily. On 1 August 1987, however, Māori became an official language and since then Māori has been taught as an optional subject in more and more schools, both public and private, so that New Zealanders of European descent also have access to this language. Since then, the number of people who speak and understand Māori has increased, especially in the 3-25 age group. Overall, 4.2% of the population reported speaking Māori in 2006.

New Zealand Sign Language (New Zealand Sign Language; NZSL) has also been an official language since 10 April 2006, making it the world’s first language for deaf people to have this status. Although it has been taught in special schools since 1994 and the first dictionary for the language was published in 1998, in 2006 the number of people who spoke sign language was just 0.6%. The number of deaf or hearing-impaired people in New Zealand is approximately twice as high.

In addition to the three official languages, many other languages are spoken in New Zealand brought into the country by the many immigrants, including the six most widely spoken languages in 2013, such as English (96.1%), Māori (3.7%), Samoan (2.2%), Hindi (1.7%), Chinese including Mandarin (1.3%) and French (1.2%) spoken in northern China. German is spoken in significant numbers only in the Wellington (fifth most common) and Canterbury (fourth most common) regions.

There is no compulsory teaching of foreign languages in New Zealand, they are taught on an as-needed basis. The most popular foreign languages since 2015 are Chinese, followed by French, which was previously the most widely learned foreign language in New Zealand.

Personalities with a German connection

German-speaking personalities in New Zealand

The development of New Zealand has always been decisively shaped by German-speaking or German-born people. Already in the course of the settlement of New Zealand by Europeans, numerous Germans, Austrians and Swiss reached the other end of the world. The emigrants were recruited by the New Zealand Company, especially in northern Germany. During the 19th century, people of German origin formed the second largest ethnic group after the British to immigrate to the Pacific state. They first settled in the region around Russell in northern New Zealand, on the Banks Peninsula (“German Bay”) in the southeast of the country, later also near Nelson in the center of the state. Many place names still bear witness to the time of early German immigration to New Zealand, e.g. “Neudorf”, a world-renowned winery northwest of Nelson.

Despite a restrictive immigration policy, between 1933 and the outbreak of World War II, about 1100 refugees from Central and Eastern Europe were able to enter New Zealand, including about 900 from Germany and Austria. Most of them were declared Enemy Aliens during the war years. In addition to some xenophobic tendencies within New Zealand society and the fear that the refugees might turn out to be the fifth column of their countries of origin, the Aliens Energency Regulations passed in 1940 created the conditions for the government to control, intern or expel foreigners.

“These regulations restricted the possession of items such as weapons, maps, shortwave radios, cameras and X-ray machines. Certain places of residence were also forbidden to the “enemy aliens”. They were required to report to the police, and foreigners in a restricted category had to obtain a permit if they wished to move more than twenty-four miles from their usual place of residence or expected to be absent from there
for more than twenty-four hours. Refugees were also excluded from certain professions and, above all, from the armed forces”.

–Ann Beaglehole: Refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria 1933-1945, p. 51

Beaglehole assumes that these restrictions did not cause any major problems for most refugees, but that they nevertheless suffered harassment and spying from their professional and private environment. For some refugees, New Zealand became “an uneasy haven, reminiscent of Nazism they had sought to escape”.

Persons of German-speaking origin include:

  • Paul Binswanger (1896–1961), a German literary scholar, and his wife Otti Binswanger (1896–1971), German writer, lived in exile in New Zealand from 1939 to 1948.
  • Ernst Dieffenbach (1811–1855), first European climber of Mount Taranaki.
  • Minnie Maria Dronke (1904–1987) was a German actress and New Zealand theatre teacher and director who emigrated via England to New Zealand in 1938.
  • Gerda Eichbaum (1903–1992), a german-New Zealand Germanist, university teacher and art critic, who came to New Zealand as a Jewish emigrant in 1936; In 1959 she changed her name to Gerda Bell.
  • Julius von Haast (1822–1887), mineralogist and geologist, mapped large parts of the country as a government geologist; In 1865, Franz Joseph Glacier was named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. The Haast Pass/Tioripatea, the southernmost crossing of the Southern Alps, is named after him, as are the Haastadler and the town of Haast.
  • Benedix Hallenstein (1835–1905), merchant, manufacturer and politician of German descent.
  • Ferdinand von Hochstetter (1829–1884), geologist and naturalist, produced the first geological map of the country; Leiopelma Hochstetteri and Hochstetter Peak are named after him.
  • Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928–2000), spent the last years of his life in Northland, in Kawakawa there is a public toilet facility in the Hundertwasser style.
  • Gottfried Lindauer (1839–1926), Austrian-born painter.
  • Ernst Plischke (1903–1992), Austrian architect, came to New Zealand as an emigrant in 1939; In 1963 he returned to Vienna.
  • Karl Popper, Austrian-British philosopher (in New Zealand 1937–1945).
  • Herbert Otto Roth (1917–1994), Austrian-born socialist, historian and librarian at the University of Auckland.
  • Margot Ruben (1908–1980) was not only Karl Wolfskehl’s secretary and confidant, but also his executor and editor of his exile writings. She came to New Zealand with Wolfskehl in 1938 and returned to Europe in 1956.
  • Caesar Steinhof (1909–1954) was a Jewish theologian from Hamburg, who worked as a religion teacher in Dunedin from 1940. He was one of Karl Wolfskehl’s closest confidants in New Zealand.
  • Gustav von Tempsky (1828–1868), former Prussian officer; British Major of the Forest Ranger and one of the most ruthless pursuers of the Māori.
  • Karl Wolfskehl (1869–1948), poet of German origin who had to emigrate from Germany because of his Jewish ancestry.
  • Georg Wilhelm von Zedlitz (1871–1949), first professor of modern languages at Victoria University of Wellington; today a building there is named after him.

Personalities of German descent

  • David Lange (1942–2005), former Prime Minister (1984–1989)
  • Arnold Nordmeyer (1901–1989), clergyman, politician, minister and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party

The New Zealand history

Discovery and settlement by Polynesians

New Zealand was discovered by Polynesians towards the end of the 13th century, but no later than the first half of the 14th century, and settled in several waves of immigration. The dating of Pacific rat bones and introduced seeds using the radiocarbon method dates the earliest arrival of Polynesians to around 1280.

The descendants of the first immigrants established Māori culture. From the settlement of the Chatham Islands east of New Zealand emerged the Moriori culture. Whether this settlement took place from New Zealand is disputed, but linguistic similarities are signs of settlement from the mainland. Many of the immigrant Māori – especially in the North Island – gave the country the name Aotearoa, which generally translates as “land of the long white cloud”.

The first Māori to reach the country found no mammals. To feed themselves, they first hunted the moa, a flightless bird distantly similar to the African ostrich, which became extinct 90 years later due to intensive hunting. Likewise, the Haastadler, the largest bird of prey on modern earth, disappeared; the last of its kind probably died around 1700. The first humane settlement by the Māori meant the rapid extinction of numerous animal species on the archipelago. Later, Māori supplemented their diet by cultivating the kumara (sweet potato).

Discovery and early settlement by Europeans

The first European to see New Zealand was the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman. His task was to find the “Great Southern Land”, because valuable raw materials were suspected there. On his journey in 1642, he discovered a “large, high-altitude country” on the South Island, today’s West Coast region. He was not sure and suspected that he had discovered another piece of the coast from Staten Landt.

When he wanted to explore the country up close in Golden Bay / Mohua in today’s Tasman region, there was a first bloody encounter with the “natives”, in which four Dutch sailors were killed. The “discoverer of New Zealand” never set foot on New Zealand soil. When an expedition under Hendrik Brouwer discovered a year later that the coastal strip found by Tasman did not belong to Staten Landt, the country was called Nova Zeelandia (Latin) or Nieuw Zeeland (Dutch) (like the province of Zeeland), in reference to Australia, which had been called Nova Hollandia or Nieuw Holland.

It was not until 1769/70 that expeditions were launched again into the waters around the islands called New Zealand. The British captain James Cook, like Tasman, was supposed to find a presumed southern continent. In October 1769, Cook’s ship Endeavour from Tahiti made landfall in New Zealand at the southwestern point of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa / Poverty Bay. After first hostile encounters, but then also successful approaches with Māori, Cook first sailed around the North Island and after a longer stay in the Marlborough Sounds the South Island and was thus able to prove that New Zealand was an island and not part of a continent. Cook and the scientists accompanying him began to map the country thoroughly, they explored flora and fauna extensively and collected information on the Māori.

Only a few weeks after Cook, Jean François Marie de Surville also reached the islands. In the following years, mainly whalers, sealers and later missionaries immigrated to New Zealand. They maintained strong contact with the Māori. The two parties traded briskly with each other, and some Europeans also lived with the Māori.

The Birth of the Nation

The flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand
The flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand

The firearms acquired by Europeans through Māori bartering since the end of the 18th century facilitated violent clashes, culminating in the Musket Wars from 1829 to 1835, in which numerous tribes fought each other and – according to government estimates – about 20,000 people died. The diseases introduced by Europeans, to whose pathogens the Māori were not resistant, decimated their numbers permanently. The 1820s also saw the first armed clashes between Māori and whites. In 1832, the British government sent envoy James Busby to New Zealand and appointed him a resident. He was supposed to supervise and control British trade and mediate between warring whites and Māori, but he was largely on his own.

After a New Zealand merchant ship was seized in Sydney Harbour because of the lack of a symbol of origin and was not allowed to sail under the British flag because New Zealand was not yet part of Great Britain, several dozen Māori leaders under his supervision selected an official flag on 20 March 1834, which later became the official flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (german: United Tribes of New Zealand) became. Since there was no legislation in New Zealand and fears arose that France might establish its own colony on the Banks Peninsula, Busby drew up a treaty that was signed by over 30 Māori leaders on 28 October 1835 and went down in history as the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand and thus as the founding of the “United Tribes”.

However, the country’s sovereignty came to an abrupt end just a few years later. At that time, there were indeed efforts in France to found a colony on the south island of the country, which the British crown wanted to prevent at all costs. Since the “United Tribes” were deemed too weak to defend their own interests, the country was officially annexed by the British Empire in January 1840. In order to declare the action lawful, the then Governor-General William Hobson rushed to gather numerous Māori chiefs near the town of Waitangi so that they could sign the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February of the same year.

This document is considered the “birth” of modern New Zealand; the treaty linked the country to the British Crown. At the same time, the Māori gave up their sovereignty and were guaranteed civil rights in return. They were allowed to keep the lands that were in their possession before the treaty was signed. Finally, in 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was set up, which regulates disagreements and infringements and also advocates for redress.

On the South Island of New Zealand, colonization by France narrowly failed. In 1840, Jean Langlois had set out for the Banks Peninsula to take possession of it for France. When the plan became known, the British sent an expedition to secure the peninsula for the crown. Langlois was the first to reach the waters off today’s Akaroa, but could not go ashore due to adverse winds. When the weather allowed the landing, he had to realize that the British had preceded him. The French settlers were nevertheless allowed to settle in Akaroa, which is also visible today in the French street names.

Colonial era

The New Zealand Company, founded in 1839, courted new immigrants. These built numerous towns and villages and settled large parts of the country. They often lived as farmers in peace with the Māori and cultivated the landscape. However, as more and more immigrants reached the land and larger areas of land were needed, disputes arose between settlers and Māori. Over time, the grievances became ever greater, and so it finally came to open armed conflicts, which grew into a military conflict in Northland as early as 1840. By 1860, the fighting that went down in history as the New Zealand Wars had spread throughout the country. After these conflicts, the number of Māori in 1891 was only 44,000 compared to over 120,000 before 1820.

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand was administered as part of New South Wales until the country formed its own colony on 31 May 1841. Also, in the following decades, the Europeans settled almost the entire country and founded a total of nine provinces.

In 1861, large deposits of gold were discovered in the South Island, leading to the gold rush in Otago. In order to prevent separatist movements on the emerging South Island, the capital, originally located in Russell, was moved from Auckland in the far north to Wellington in the middle of the country.

Even before the turn of the century, New Zealand set standards in dealing with previously disadvantaged groups of people, which seemed impossible for the rest of the world at the time. When the country had been relatively independent since 1852 under the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, male Māori were also given the right to vote and seats in parliament from 1867. On 8 September 1893, the law granting New Zealanders with British citizenship from the age of 21 the active right to vote for women was passed by a majority of two votes. Maori women were trapped. On 19 September, it was signed by Governor Lord Glasgow, bringing the law into force. However, some groups of women were still excluded; as in some other countries, prisoners and women in psychiatric institutions were among them.

Modern New Zealand

The country decided not to join the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 and remained a colony until 1907, when New Zealand was granted dominion status and consequently became almost independent of Great Britain. Throughout the colonial period up to the present day, the country proved to be a particularly loyal ally of Great Britain. New Zealand sent troops for the Second Boer War, the First and Second World Wars, and the Suez Crisis.

The question of when New Zealand has been an independent state is not easy to clarify, as the country has no written constitution according to Anglo-Saxon tradition. In addition to 1840 (Treaty of Waitangi) and 1907 (formation of the Dominion), there are other dates on New Zealand’s path to independence: In 1931, the British government passed the Statute of Westminster Act, which gave the Dominions the opportunity for independence. In 1947, with the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947, the New Zealand Parliament accepted the full sovereignty offered by membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. On 25 December 1947, the law became legal when it was signed by the British Crown. On the other hand, New Zealand did not adopt a constitution approved by the New Zealand Parliament until 1986, until then the constitution of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which was still passed by the British Parliament, applied.

Women’s passive suffrage for elections to the House of Commons was not achieved until 29 October 1919 with the Women’s Parliamentary Rights Act. It was not until 1941 that women gained the right to stand for election to the House of Lords.

The Great Depression heralded on Black Friday 1929 hit the country, which was economically dependent on Britain, very hard and led to the first formation of a government by the Labour Party, which established the New Zealand welfare state and largely controlled trade. This policy was successfully practiced for decades, until changing conditions led to another radical change of course. Already at the end of the 1960s, the country’s highly subsidized state and economy weakened and largely collapsed with the accession of Great Britain to the EC.

The proven close economic ties to the former motherland suddenly no longer existed. The country suffered from high inflation rates, excessive bureaucracy and excessive government spending. Only a radical liberalization begun by the Labour government under David Lange in 1984 and continued under his Conservative successors brought about a turnaround in the longer term, with unemployment figures causing the most protracted problems. But by the mid-1990s, the upswing had already catapulted the entire country to the top of the industrial nations. Since the Labour Party came to power under Helen Clark in 1999, this economic policy has again been partially revised, privatized state-owned enterprises have been bought back and social balance, especially between the economic center of Auckland and rural areas, has come to the fore again.

In 1951, the three states of Australia, the USA and New Zealand joined forces to form the ANZUS Security Pact in order to jointly prevent future conflicts in view of the recently passed Second World War. Due to differences over New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy, the pact was suspended by the US in 1984. In connection with the resistance against the French nuclear weapons program in French Polynesia, the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior was sunk in 1985 in the port of Auckland by French secret agents. Two years later, New Zealand declared itself a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

The language and culture of the Māori indigenous people, who were socially marginalized until the 1970s, are particularly promoted today – in stark contrast to the policies of neighboring Australia; there is radio, television and newspapers in the Māori language, MPs of the parliamentary seats reserved for Māori are elected in separate constituencies, and traditional Māori culture is also marketed for tourism.

In 2014, the removal of the Union Jack as a former colonial sign from the state flag was discussed.  Citizens were invited in 2016 to vote on maintaining or redesigning. The decision finally led to the retention of the old national flag in March 2016.


State organization

New Zealand is an independent parliamentary monarchy, modeled on the British model, but has only one chamber, so there is no upper house. It is one of three states in the world, along with the United Kingdom and Israel, without a codified constitution. Under the Constitution Act 1986, the monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the head of state in his office as King or Queen of New Zealand. A Governor-General represents the head of state, as in any Commonwealth realm, but he cannot exercise power over Parliament. The seat of government and parliament is Wellington.

  • Executive – The head of government is the Prime Minister. The 20-person cabinet is headed by the Prime Minister. All cabinet members must also be members of Parliament.
  • Legislative – Parliament normally consists of 120 members elected every three years; however, overhang mandates allow more than 120 members to enter parliament (2005: one overhang mandate). A small number of the current seven seats in parliament are reserved for Māori MPs. Since 1996, elections have been based on personalized proportional representation, which replaced the previous first-past-the-post system based on the British model.
  • Judiciary – The judiciary in New Zealand is exercised by the Supreme Court as the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the Court of Appeal as the Court of Appeal and the High Court, as well as by numerous regional courts, the District Courts. There are also special courts for certain hearings, such as the Youth Court, a court for Māori issues, known as the Māori Land Court, or the Family Court, known as the Family Court. There are also other special jurisdictions, such as the Waitangi Tribunal.

The New Zealand law is based on three important pillars: the English common law, many laws passed in the United Kingdom, for example, the Bill of Rights of 1689, and all decisions of the New Zealand Parliament. The common law, which is largely based on customary law, is almost always applied in the same way as in Great Britain, partly because the Supreme Court was the court of the Privy Council in London until 2004 when the Supreme Court of New Zealand began its work in Wellington.

Party system

Before the formation of political parties, there were only individual candidates to be elected in the New Zealand Parliament. In the last decades of the 19th century, increasingly strong loose interest groups formed, which initially came together mostly according to the geographical origin of the candidates, but later according to political attitudes – conservatism or liberalism. The Liberal Party, founded by John Ballance and later influenced by Richard Seddon, is generally regarded as New Zealand’s first real political party. From 1890 to 1912 it was the government majority. From 1903 onwards, many parliamentarians began to unite to form a conservative alternative movement, officially known as the Reform Party since 1909, which was to be distinctly distinct from the Liberal Party.

With the merger of numerous socialist groups into the Labour Party in 1916, the decline of the Liberal Party began, which in the ensuing elections no longer had the support of the working class and eventually also to its second electoral base, businessmen and employers, who were concerned about the rise of the Social Democratic Party and united with the Reform Party. with their “anti-socialism” program, had to renounce. The latter political association was in power until 1928 when it was replaced by an alliance of the Labour Party and the United Party, the successor party to the Liberal Party.

When the Labour Party was able to form government in 1935 without a coalition partner, the United and Reform Party merged to form the Conservative National Party, which was the Labour Party’s largest and only competitor in the second half of the 20th century. In the early 1990s, numerous smaller parties were formed, the best known being the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (1990), Alliance (1991) and New Zealand First (1993). Due to the first-past-the-post electoral system, they were only able to win a few parliamentary seats despite large shares of the vote. It was only after the change in the electoral system in 1993 and the associated introduction of personalized proportional representation for the House of Representatives elections in 1996 that smaller parties were able to have a greater say in the country’s politics.

After the 2005 elections, the Labour Party under its leader Helen Clark and the National Party under its leader John Key continue to dominate the New Zealand party landscape and regularly go head-to-head in elections, but in addition to these two parties, six others are represented in the House of Representatives: the right-wing, nationalist and often described as populist party New Zealand First, the left-wing, green Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Māori Party founded in 2004 by former Labour cabinet member Tariana Turia, which is particularly active for Māori interests, the Christian Democratic centre-right United Future, the liberal ACT New Zealand and the democratic socialist Jim Anderton’s Progressive (a split from the social democratic alliance).

Political indices

Political indices published by NGOs
Index name index value World Rank interpretation help year
Fragile States Index 18.4 of 120 176 of 179 Stability of the country: very sustainable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy Index 9.37 of 10 2 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 99 of 100 Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Press Freedom Ranking 83.5 of 100 11 of 180 Satisfactory situation for press freedom
100 = good situation / 0 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 88 of 100 1 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2021

Political developments

The center-left coalition of Prime Minister Helen Clark, who had been in office since 1999, was replaced by a coalition led by the National Party in the election on 8 November 2008. The new Prime Minister, John Key, took office on 19 November 2008. His government was supported by the Māori Party, Act New Zealand and United Future New Zealand. The largest opposition party was the Labour Party. On 26 November 2011, the ruling National Party under John Key extended its lead with 47.31% of the votes cast and narrowly missed an absolute majority in the House of Representatives with 59 seats. On December 5, 2016, Key announced his resignation for private reasons, his successor was party colleague Bill English on December 12, 2016.

In the general election of 23 September 2017, the National Party again became the strongest force, but the government came about through a coalition of the Labour Party with New Zealand First, which was tolerated by the Green Party. The new Prime Minister since 26 October 2017 is Jacinda Ardern; she was re-elected for a further three years in 2020. Among other things, New Zealand was the first nation in the world to adopt a well-being budget that takes into account social and ecological welfare indicators in addition to economic ones.

Election results
Party 2020 2017 2014 2011
Share of votes Seats Share of votes Seats Share of votes Seats Share of votes Seats
National Party 26,8 % 35th 44,4 % 56 47,0 % 60 47,3 % 59
Labour Party 49,1 % 64 36,9 % 46 25,1 % 32 27,5 % 34
Green Party 7,6 % 10 6,3 % 8 10,7 % 14 11,0 % 14
New Zealand First 2,7 % 7,2 % 9 8,7 % 11 6,6 % 8
Māori Party 1,0 % 1 1,2 % 1,3 % 2 1,4 % 3
ACT New Zealand 8,0 % 10 0,5 % 1 0,7 % 1 1,1 % 1

Heads of State of New Zealand

Reign Name Dynasty Biography
1837–1901 Victoria Hannover 1819–1901
1901–1910 Edward VII Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 1841–1910
1910–1936 George V Saxe-Coburg and Gotha/Windsor* 1865–1936
1936 Edward VIII Windsor 1894–1972
1936–1952 George VI Windsor 1895–1952
1952–2022 Elizabeth II Windsor 1926–2022
since 2022 Charles III. Windsor *1948

*In 1917, King George V renamed his house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor in order to distinguish the British royal family from the German Empire, which was hostile in the First World War.

The head of state is represented by the Governor-General of New Zealand, who is considered the de facto head of state in everyday politics.

Security and foreign policy

The approximately 12,000 employees of the New Zealand police are responsible for the internal security of the country. As a rule, patrol officers do not carry firearms, as in the motherland of Great Britain. By default, however, the members of the so-called Armed Offenders Squads are armed. These consist of a total of around 300 officers, who are spread over 17 units and are most comparable to the German special task forces.

The New Zealand Defence Force is divided into three branches: the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the New Zealand Army, which consist of 4500 regular soldiers and 2500 other employees. In foreign policy, New Zealand has distinguished itself through its regular participation in wars on the side of Great Britain. New Zealand participated in the Boer War, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Second Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan. New Zealand has also provided troops to various peacekeeping missions, for example in Cyprus, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sinai, Angola, Cambodia, the Iran-Iraq border and East Timor. New Zealand spent around 1.2 percent of its economic output on its armed forces in 2018.

The military defense alliance ANZUS with the USA and Australia was temporarily suspended because of New Zealand’s strict anti-nuclear policy, in which the country also campaigned against the French nuclear tests in the South Pacific. New Zealand is considered one of the most loyal allies outside of NATO by the United States.

New Zealand is a founding member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth. Furthermore, since its foundation on February 6, 1947, it has been a member of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the organizations of the World Bank Group (except MIGA), since its foundation in 1966 of the Asian Development Bank, since its foundation on April 17, 1973, of the Pacific Islands Forum, since May 29, 1973, of the OECD, since its foundation in 1980 of the Pacific Council for Economic Cooperation, since its creation in 1989 of APEC and since 1 January 1995 of the World Trade Organisation.

Immigration policy

New Zealand currently receives around 45,000 immigrants a year. The country’s immigration system works according to a points table, which refers not only to a candidate’s education but also to previous employment.

Fire Brigade

In 2019, 2,785 professional firefighters and 11,847 volunteer firefighters were organized in the fire brigade in New Zealand, working in 653 fire stations and fire stations, where 714 fire engines and 31 turntable ladders or telescopic masts are available. The proportion of women is 15 percent. The New Zealand fire brigades were alerted in the same year to 83,359 operations, of which 23,258 fires had to be extinguished. Here, 33 dead were recovered by the fire brigades in fires. The national firefighting organization Fire and Emergency represents New Zealand’s fire brigades.

Administrative unit

New Zealand is centrally organized and has had a three-tier administrative structure since the major administrative reform of 1989. Below the national administrative organizations are the Regional Councils for the administration of the regions of New Zealand and, at the lowest level, the City Councils for the administration of the country’s major cities, the District Councils for the districts of New Zealand and the Chatham Islands Council for the Chatham Islands.

Since 2010, the country has 78 local councils based on this structure, which are divided into:

  • 11 Regional Councils
  • 12 City Councils (larger cities)
  • 54 District Councils
  • 1 Auckland Council, (since 1 November 2010, merger of 8 former City Councils)

and report directly to the Department of Internal Affairs. Their roles and functions were governed by the Local Government Act 2002.

Auckland Council, District Councils and City Councils are referred to as Territorial Authorities (TA) because they each operate independently in their territory and their boundaries do not overlap. They also act independently of the Regional Councils according to the division of tasks, so it also happens that a district can overlap with parts of several regions.

Auckland Council and four of the District Councils, Gisborne, Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough, are also Regional Councils. They are called unitary authorities. Many of the country’s smaller outskirts, such as the Kermadec Islands and the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands, are administratively directly under the Minister of Local Government.

The councils of all local authorities are elected every three years and can be elected either by a first-past-the-post system or by individual transferable vote.


New Zealand is divided into 16 regions, five of which are organized as unitary authorities. While the regional councils perform purely regional tasks, the unitary authorities also have to take over the tasks of the respective local level.

Regional Councils are responsible for:

  • regulating the use of land, air, fresh water and coastal waters;
  • rivers, flood protection and the prevention of soil erosion,
  • the development of regional policies and agreements,
  • the management of emergency and disaster response,
  • regional traffic and transport planning as well as for regional passenger transport,
  • the navigation and safety of the region’s ports and marine pollution.


At the lowest level of the administrative structure are 54 District Council and Chatham Islands Council. As territorial authorities, they are responsible for local infrastructure, road construction, sewerage, building permits, health, environmental protection, civil protection and other local affairs.

Cities and conurbations

At the lowest level of the administrative structure, in addition to Auckland Council, there are twelve other City Councils, which as territorial authorities perform the same tasks as the District Councils.

Since 1 November 2010, the former City Councils of the cities of Auckland City, Manukau City, North Shore City and Waitakere City, the District Councils of the Franklin District, Papakura District, Rodney District and the Regional Council of the Auckland Region have been dissolved and become the new administrative unit of the Auckland Council (1,415,550 inhabitants (2013)). This new administrative entity thus covers the entire Auckland metropolitan area.

Furthermore, the twelve cities of the country are administratively independent and are therefore not subordinate to any district administration. On the North Island, these are Hamilton City (141,612 inhabitants), Hutt City (98,238 inhabitants), Napier City (57,240 inhabitants), Palmerston North City (80,079 inhabitants), Porirua City (51,717 inhabitants), Tauranga City (114,789 inhabitants), Upper Hutt City (40,179 inhabitants) and Wellington City (190,959 inhabitants). In the South Island, these include Christchurch City (population 341,469), Dunedin City (population 120,249), Invercargill City (population 51,696) and Nelson City (population 46,437).

All other cities can be considered cities geographically, but are not administratively independent, as they are subordinate to the district in which they are located.


With regard to the sparse population, New Zealand is very well developed in terms of transport. Due to its isolated island location, coastal shipping, air transport and road transport are the main means of transport.

In the Logistics Performance Index, which is compiled by the World Bank and measures the quality of infrastructure, New Zealand ranked 15th out of 160 countries in 2018.

Air traffic in New Zealand

New Zealand is among the countries with the most airports per capita. In 2002, there were 113 paved and unpaved airfields in the country. Auckland Airport is by far the largest airport in the country with over eleven million passengers per year. This is followed by the international airports of Christchurch and Wellington, which each handle about four million passengers per year. Founded in 1940, Air New Zealand is by far the country’s most important airline. Pacific Blue, a subsidiary of Virgin Australia (formerly Virgin Blue), specializes in low-cost connections between New Zealand and Australia.

Road traffic

The era of New Zealand road construction began during the New Zealand Wars with the Great South Road south of Auckland in 1861. In the meantime, road transport has become the country’s most important medium of transport. It is clearly a higher priority than rail transport. The backbone of the road network is formed by the New Zealand State Highways, through which the country is largely accessible. Apart from about 150 km of motorways located near the three major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, even the major highways consist of no more than two lanes.

The state highways are not level-free (i.e. intersections are not always designed as overpasses or underpasses) and lead through towns, sparsely used sections of the highways are even only gravel roads, and especially over bridges there are always single-lane sections. In 2017, the entire road network covered about 94,000 km, of which about 61,600 km are asphalted. New Zealand’s traffic rules are governed by the New Zealand Road Code. Accordingly, left-hand traffic applies to a maximum speed of 50 km/h in urban areas and usually 100 km/h outside urban areas.


Shipping in New Zealand is important for both passenger and freight transport. The most important shipping line for passenger transport is the Interislander, a ferry service that connects the North Island (Wellington) with the South Island (Picton) and transports about one million people per year. On its three-hour journey, it crosses the only 35 km wide Cook Strait. (This time is needed because the ship has to cross not only the Cook Strait but also the Tory Channel and the Marlborough Sounds, about 70 km in total.) In New Zealand, there are 1609 km of inland waterways, but these are no longer important today.

New Zealand has eight major ports, each with a capacity of more than two million tonnes, and six ports with a turnover of less than two million tonnes each. 99% of exports, worth around NZ$36 billion per year, pass through all ports.

  • Container ports: Port of Auckland (Auckland), Port of Tauranga (Tauranga), Port of Napier, Wellington, Nelson (Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere), Port of Lyttelton (Christchurch), Timaru, Port Chalmers (Dunedin), Bluff
  • Other ports: Whangārei, Devonport (Auckland), Gisborne, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Picton, Westport, Greymouth
  • Inland ports: Rotorua (Lake Rotorua), Taupo (Lake Taupo), Queenstown, Kingston (Lake Wakatipu), Te Anau and Manapouri (Lake Manapouri)

Rail transport

In the second half of the 19th century, the construction of an extensive railway network began on a grand scale. In addition to the three main lines (on the North Island: North Island Main Trunk and East Coast Main Trunk; on the South Island: South Island Main Trunk), numerous private and public branch lines were built, which were managed by the New Zealand Railways Department. At the beginning of the 20th century, tram companies were established in many major cities in the country, of which only one in Christchurch still exists as a tourist attraction.

Until the 1950s, steam locomotives were mostly in use, and there were also some electrified sections. Branch lines were successively closed, double-track lines were dismantled to single-track ones, existing electrification was removed and passenger services were discontinued. Of the 3900 kilometers of track, about 500 km along the North Island Main Trunk have been electrified since the economic policy referred to as “Think Big” in the 1980s.

After the state-owned New Zealand Railways were sold in 1993 for NZ$ 400 million (about €202 million), the operating company Tranz Rail invested less and less in the maintenance of the railway network and gradually shifted the transport of goods from rail to road. In addition, between 1995 and 2004, numerous passenger services were discontinued for economic reasons, including the Southerners. When the company was facing financial ruin, the Australian infrastructure company Toll Holdings took over the railway operation, which has since been consolidated under the name Toll Rail, while the New Zealand state bought back the entire network in 2004 for the symbolic price of one New Zealand dollar and placed it under the administration of the state-owned company Ontrack.

Because the New Zealand government and Toll Rail could not agree on user fees for the nationalized tracks, and the state had to pay several million New Zealand dollars years after year for the maintenance of the network, the government decided to buy back the railway operation from Toll Rail for 665 million NZ$ (about 336 million €) on 1 July 2008.

Despite these changes, in 2008 there were only four long-distance passenger services, which are mainly of tourist importance and operate under the name Kiwi Rail Scenic Journeys: the Northern Explorer runs from Auckland to Wellington, the Coastal Pacific from Picton to Christchurch and the TranzAlpine crosses the New Zealand Alps from Christchurch to Greymouth. The connection from Palmerston North to Wellington, known as the Capital Connection, is primarily intended for commuters. There are also several other operators, such as the Taieri Gorge Railway in the Dunedin area, which specialize in tourist excursions in historic carriages or on historic routes. The importance of rail transport for freight transport has increased again in recent years. Almost the entire railway network was built in the Cape gauge, i.e. with a gauge of 1067 mm.

The two largest conurbations, Auckland and Wellington, have suburban-like suburban rail networks, although the system in Wellington is better developed and electrified as the only suburban railway in the country. However, significant improvements for Auckland were planned. It should be fully electrified by 2013. In addition, a double-track tunnel (City Rail Link) will be built under the city center. The commissioning of the City Rail Link Tunnel is scheduled for the end of 2024 (as of March 2021).

Educational system

The Ministry of Education, which has only been in existence since 1989, is responsible for the education system in New Zealand. In the future, the central administration of schools and universities is to be relaxed, and they are increasingly to manage themselves. All tertiary education institutions are supervised by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

Raising children up to the age of five is private. Nevertheless, 90% of three-year-olds and 98% of four-year-olds attend preschool education, such as kindergartens or playgroups. From the age of five, the child can attend primary school. Education is compulsory from 6 to 16 years. As a rule, primary school education takes place from year 1 to year 8, whereby the seventh and eighth years can alternatively be completed in an intermediate school.

From the ninth grade, one is taught at a secondary school. Upon completion of the eleventh grade, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement Level 1 (NCEA) can be obtained according to a points system, which roughly corresponds to the British GCSE (or the German Realschulabschluss). The following year, you can earn level 2 of this degree. With the completion of the 13th century. In the school year, usually around 18 years of age, you can finally obtain the highest school leaving certificate, the level 3 of the NCEA (or the New Zealand Scholarship qualification, as the degree has been called since 2004). This corresponds to the German Abitur or the British A Level. A school year in New Zealand usually starts at the end of January, lasts until mid-December and is divided into four quarters. Depending on the region, class sizes vary from 19 to 24 students (2004).

The OECD’s PISA studies show the great cultural similarity between New Zealand and Australia: in both countries, the same tasks are easy or difficult for students. Critics point out that New Zealand’s good performance (regularly in the top quarter of OECD rankings) is likely to be due not only to a selective immigration policy, but also to students’ familiarity with the multiple-choice format, the origin of many English-speaking assignments and the formulation of all tasks by an Australian testing company.

There are 36 tertiary education institutions in New Zealand, including eight state universities, 21 state polytechnics and institutes of technology, four colleges of education and three wananga. An academic year in New Zealand lasts from February to November and is usually split into two semesters. Some educational institutions also offer a summer trimester. The oldest university in New Zealand is the University of Otago, founded in 1869. The University of Waikato is notable for its unique Māori science faculty. From 1870 to 1961, the University of New Zealand was the only university in the country to lead to an official degree. After its dissolution, today’s universities emerged from individual campuses (constituent colleges).

New Zealand economy

The official currency of the country is the New Zealand dollar (also known as the Kiwi dollar; NZD, NZ$), which is divided into 100 cents (ct). This replaced the British pound sterling in 1967. Since then, New Zealand has been using units in the decimal system. Since 1999, the Kiwi dollar has been the second currency on earth to use plastic money, after the Australian dollar; all notes are made of polypropylene. In August 2006, smaller coins were introduced due to rising material costs and the risk of confusion; the 50-cent coin, for example, was one of the largest coins on Earth with a diameter of 3.2 centimeters.

Economic development

Until the first half of the 20th century, New Zealand was an agrarian state in which the majority of the inhabitants worked in the primary sector. By far the most important trading partner was the United Kingdom, to which about half of the mostly agricultural goods produced in New Zealand were exported. At the beginning of the 20th century, the importance of dairy farming increased significantly due to increasing demand in Europe. In order to meet the demand, it was necessary to introduce new technologies, which changed the New Zealand economy greatly. In 1973, the country plunged into a deep economic crisis due to the sharp rise in oil prices and the accession of Great Britain to the EU, on which New Zealand was economically dependent. It was not until 1984 that the government took major measures to counteract this.

From then on, New Zealand evolved from a managed economy focused on agriculture to a liberalized industrial nation with a free market that can compete with other Western nations and is one of the most deregulated and privatized economies in the world. The country abolished numerous subsidies, for example, almost completely agricultural subsidies liberalized all trade in goods and gave up the state’s say in wages, interest and prices for goods and services. Fiscal austerity and major efforts to reduce the budget deficit reduced inflation from 18% in 1987 to 3.9% in 2005. In addition, almost all state-owned enterprises were restructured and privatized in the 1980s and 1990s.

An example of this is the entire train service, which was operated by Tranz Rail from 1995 to 2008 (due to the poor condition of the tracks and stations, the rail system was renationalized in 2004, since 2008 the rest of the railway operation is again in state hands), or the New Zealand Telekom. The unemployment rate rose to 15% in the short term as a result of various measures, but at the end of 2004, it was only 3.6%, the lowest level within the OECD. Inflation was 2.4% and economic growth was 4.4% between July 2003 and June 2004.

One of the reasons that dampen economic growth is infrastructural deficits (rail transport, energy supply). After the power grid in the north of the country collapsed for 66 days in 1998, former state-owned enterprises were gradually re-nationalized, including the bankrupt airline Air New Zealand in 2001. Similarly, in 2008, in order to improve the transport network, the government decided to buy back the railway privatized in 1993 from the Australian company Toll Holdings for the equivalent of €336 million.

In February 2011, a major earthquake destroyed parts of the city of Christchurch, and as a result, New Zealand’s economic activity slowed considerably later that year. Some economists predicted a 15% contraction of the country’s economy in 2011, leading to a downgrade of New Zealand’s international credit rating in late September 2011.

Since 2013, despite the global financial crisis, earthquakes and drought, the New Zealand economy has been on an economic upswing: total GDP in 2013 was NZ$ 181.1 billion, with estimated growth of 2.7% in 2013. The unemployment rate was 4.13% in 2019. In the same year, 6.6% of the total workforce worked in agriculture, 20.7% in industry and 72.7% in services.

In the Global Competitiveness Index, which measures a country’s competitiveness, New Zealand ranks 13th out of 138 countries (as of 2017–2018). In the Index of Economic Freedom, the country ranks 3rd out of 180 countries in 2018. New Zealand is one of the most liberal economies in the world. The 1st place that New Zealand took in the Ease of Doing Business Index in the World Bank’s survey year 2017 also proves the good business climate for companies in the country.

Key figures

All GDP figures are expressed in US dollars (purchasing power parity).

Year GDP (purchasing power parity) GDP per
capita (purchasing power parity)
GDP growth
Unemployment rate
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
2005 114.13 billion 27.427 2,6 % 3,0 % 3,8 % 18 %
2006 120.86 billion 28.714 2,7 % 3,4 % 3,9 % 16 %
2007 129.00 billion 30.382 4,0 % 2,4 % 3,6 % 14 %
2008 131.00 billion 30.604 −0.4% 3,9 % 4,0 % 16 %
2009 132.42 billion 30.567 0,3 % 2,2 % 5,8 % 21 %
2010 136.72 billion 31.258 2,0 % 2,3 % 6,2 % 26 %
2011 142.15 billion 32.311 1,9 % 4,1 % 6,0 % 31 %
2012 148.46 billion 33.543 2,5 % 1,0 % 6,4 % 31 %
2013 154.16 billion 34.443 2,2 % 1,1 % 5,8 % 30 %
2014 161.90 billion 35.546 3,2 % 1,2 % 5,4 % 29 %
2015 170.49 billion 36.681 4,2 % 0,3 % 5,4 % 28 %
2016 179.81 billion 37.877 4,2 % 0,6 % 5,1 % 28 %
2017 188.60 billion 38.934 3,0 % 1,9 % 4,7 % 26 %
2018 206.4 billion 42.811 3,2 % 1,6 % 4,3 % 28,5 %
2019 205.2 billion 43.953 2,2 % 1,6 % 4,1 % 31,5 %

Mineral resources

New Zealand is poor in natural resources compared to other nations. Iron sand, gold and silver are mined in metals, and although the country also has bauxite, copper, chromite ironstone, cinnabarite, cassiterite, ilmenite, scheelite and uranium deposits, these are not or no longer mined, either because the deposits are too small or because the import is cheaper.

In terms of fossil fuels, New Zealand has lignite and hard coal deposits, on the North Island mainly hard coal, the South Island has both forms. In total, the country has 8.6 billion tons of lignite, about a third of which is located in existing mines, mainly on the South Island. Lignite accounts for more than three-quarters of total resources. The most important oil and gas fields are located in the Taranaki Basin in the Tasman Sea near the city of New Plymouth. About half of the natural gas goes to the petrochemical sector and is used, for example, to produce synthetic gasoline, a quarter is used to generate energy, and the rest goes to households and companies. In addition, clay minerals and limestone are mined.


Since the beginning of European settlement, agriculture in the form of sheep breeding on extensively cultivated ranches has been an important pillar of New Zealand society. Initially, sheep served exclusively as a supplier of wool, but since the 1880s, when export by refrigerated ship became possible, also as a meat supplier. In the meantime, New Zealand had experienced an economic crisis in the second half of the 19th century due to collapsing wool prices. Nevertheless, agriculture remained the most important economic sector for a long time.

The number of sheep peaked at 70.3 million in 1982 and has been declining since then: 40.1 million in 2006, 34.1 million in 2008, 32.4 million in 2009, 27.6 million in 2016 and 26.8 million in 2019. Cattle breeding has become an important sector, the number of animals is increasing. In 2008, 5.3 million dairy cows lived in New Zealand, 90% of dairy products are exported, making New Zealand the world’s largest exporter of dairy products for a long time. New Zealand’s beef production is also the world leader, with around four million beef cattle currently living on the islands.

In addition to animal breeding, fruit and vegetable growing also play a major role in New Zealand agriculture. Within the 20th century, the cultivation of four crops was started in New Zealand, which were brought to the world market with varying degrees of success: macadamia plants, cultivated blueberry and kiwi bushes and avocado trees. Among them, the kiwifruit was undoubtedly the most successful.

Originally from mainland China, the plant has also been cultivated on a large scale in other parts of the world since the 1980s. Outside the People’s Republic of China, Italy is the largest producer of kiwifruit. Apart from a few years – in 2010 and 2019 more was harvested in New Zealand than in Italy – New Zealand ranks third after China and Italy in terms of kiwifruit production volume (2018: 473,607 tonnes, 2019: 558,191 tonnes). The most important trading partner for dairy, fruit and fruit was Great Britain, despite the great distances. Much of the deforested areas are used as pastureland.


Tourism is also of particular importance to the New Zealand economy. In 2002, according to official figures from the New Zealand Ministry of Tourism, foreign tourists spent over 6.1 billion NZ dollars in the country. According to estimates by the New Zealand government, one in ten jobs in the country depends directly or indirectly on tourism.

New Zealand tourism is based on the diversity of landscapes – coasts, lakes and fjords, high mountains and glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs – the lush and alien vegetation in the Bush and Tussockgrass Countries, the national parks on the North and South Islands, in the forest areas as well as in the high mountains, the well-developed infrastructure and the open-minded inhabitants of New Zealand.

New Zealand has more than two million tourists a year and is often referred to as a clean and green adventure playground. Until a few years ago, the average New Zealand holidaymaker was a backpacker or bungee jumper. Although adventure tourism still plays an extremely important role, the New Zealand travel industry has also been increasingly looking for short-term holidaymakers with high budgets who see themselves as “interactive travelers”.

The days of European adventure tourists are not numbered, but there is a clear tendency towards a “luxurious New Zealand”. To date, Qualmark, New Zealand’s official accommodation review service, has awarded over 160 hotels five stars. However, this development is increasingly criticized in the circles of adventure holidaymakers and backpackers, as the country is allegedly increasingly becoming a package holiday destination. Although tourism in New Zealand is not expected to decline in the next few years, it is likely that far fewer adventure holidaymakers will visit the country in a few years.

The New Zealand government issues a “Working Holiday Scheme Visa” to many citizens of Western countries, which is often called a work-and-travel visa in Germany. With this visa, travelers (between 18 and 30 years of age) are entitled to stay and work in the country for up to twelve months. Such a visa is used by many Europeans and North Americans to travel through the country for several months and to supplement their travel budget with jobs such as harvest workers.

Tourists, business travelers and visitors from the European Union with a valid passport could stay in the country for up to three months without an explicit visa; however, since October 2019, this tourism has been regulated with entry fees, which are levied on the now mandatory electronic visa application NZeTA. Up to nine months stay is possible with a visitor visa. However, re-entry is only permitted after a waiting period equal to the last period of stay.

Most tourists arrive at the international airports in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. The most popular destinations are Rotorua, the Waitomo Caves, the Coromandel Peninsula, the Fiordland with Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, Queenstown, Auckland, the Bay of Islands, Dunedin and the Hawke’s Bay region.

Foreign trade

After the UK’s accession to the EU and the resulting drop in demand for agricultural products, New Zealand had to look for new markets. Meanwhile, Australia, the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the East Asian tiger states are the country’s most important trading partners. The economic crisis in East Asia in 1998/99 therefore also hit New Zealand. New Zealand has had a negative trade balance for a long time, representing about eight percent of the total gross domestic product. All New Zealand exports in 2005 amounted to $29.2 billion, with total imports totaling $35.8 billion. The most important economic sectors for exports are agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and forestry. The tourism and service sectors are also important for New Zealand. Important import products are automobiles, tractors, other technical equipment and medical products. Germany ranks fifth as an import partner with a share of 5.2%.

Australia is New Zealand’s most important partner, especially in economic terms. Since 1983, the two countries have had a free trade area of 24 million people called Closer Economic Relations, which has been increasingly opened up and extended to almost all economic sectors in the following years. In the future, a common internal market is to become a reality and, for example, taxes are to be harmonized.

Since 2000, there has also been a free trade agreement with Singapore. This was extended in 2005 to Chile and Brunei and is now known as the P4 Agreement. New Zealand continues to search for similar agreements in the Pacific region. Negotiations on a free trade area with the PRC have been ongoing since 2005.

energy supply

In 2014, New Zealand met 40% of its primary energy needs from renewables, 31% oil and 23% natural gas, while coal played only a minor role. In 2019, 39.5% of primary energy was generated from renewable sources. Approximately 42.3 terawatt hours of electricity generation in 2014 was renewable at 80%; in 2018, the share of renewables was 84%, in 2019 it was 82.4%. By 2025, the share is to rise to 90% as part of the energy transition. From a technical point of view, it would also be possible to meet all electricity demand exclusively from renewable energies.

The most important source of electricity in 2014 was hydropower, which is mainly used in the South Island, with a share of 57% of total electricity generation, followed by geothermal energy, which accounted for about 16.2% and which also serves as an important heat supplier. The most important fossil fuel was natural gas, which supplied 15.7% of the electricity produced. Despite its own oil and gas fields, New Zealand is not independent of imports from other production areas, as most of the oil as fuel for cars comes from abroad. In addition to solar energy and energy generation from biomass, wind energy is also playing an increasingly important role, providing 5.1% of the electricity generated in 2019. In August 2015, power plant operator Genesis Energy announced that it would close the last two coal-fired power plants in New Zealand by 2018; however, the duration was extended to 2022 in 2016.

In the 1960s, there were plans to build nuclear power stations in New Zealand, but these were finally abandoned after the discovery of large coal deposits and gas fields in 1972. In the following decades, energy production from hydropower was increasingly expanded and New Zealand became a “model country” with a green, clean image. The increase in consumption has been compensated for years by the expansion of gas-fired power plants, whose capacity utilization has recently declined again due to the growing share of renewable energies. In 1987, New Zealand was declared a “nuclear-free zone” by law; the status has remained unchanged since then (as of December 2015).


The state budget in 2015 included expenditures of the equivalent of 65.0 billion US dollars; this was offset by revenues of the equivalent of about 65.55 billion US dollars. This results in a budget surplus of 0.18% of GDP. Public debt was $41.8 billion, or 25.2% of GDP, in 2015.

The share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:

  • Health: 11% (2014)
  • Education: 6.3% (2014)
  • Military: 1.1% (2012)


Since the second half of the 19th century, European immigrants have largely shaped New Zealand’s culture. Most immigrants immigrated from the “motherland” of Great Britain. There are significant regional differences: the southern part of the South Island, for example, is predominantly Scottish. So there are said to be more bagpipes in New Zealand than in Scotland. In recent decades, Māori culture has also experienced an upswing. In addition, the country has seen large influxes from the Pacific islands and, especially in recent years, from South, East and Southeast Asia. These ethnic groups live mainly in the south of Greater Auckland. Consequently, in New Zealand, various cultures from the Pacific region meet the Western way of life of Great Britain, to which the country still has a strong connection.

In New Zealand, the metric system of units applies.


Date English name German name Comments
January 1 New Year’s Day New Year If January 1st falls on a weekend, the holiday takes place on the following Monday.
January 2 Day after New Year’s Day Day after New Year If January 2 is a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday will take place on the following Monday or Tuesday.
February 6 Waitangi Day Waitangi Day The country’s National Day (since 1960) commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday Good Friday  
Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox Easter Sunday Easter Sunday  
Day after Easter Sunday Easter Monday Easter Monday  
April 25 ANZAC Day ANZAC Day Holiday celebrating the combined forces of Australia and New Zealand in World War I on the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli
First Monday in June Queen’s Birthday Birthday of the Queen  
Fourth Monday in October Labour Day Labour Day Commemoration Day for the introduction of the eight-hour day in 1840, therefore partly also Eight-Hour Demonstration Day
December 25 Christmas Day Christmas Corresponds to 1. Christmas Day, if December 25 falls on a weekend, the holiday takes place on the following Monday.
December 26 Boxing Day Boxing Day Corresponds to 2. Christmas Day, if December 26 is a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday takes place on the following Monday or Tuesday.

In addition to these national holidays, the Provincial Anniversary Days were introduced in 1981, the date of which can be determined by each (historical) region of New Zealand. These holidays commemorate the founding of the province or the arrival of the first settlers in a particular area.


On 18 April 1840, the first New Zealand newspaper, the New Zealand Gazette, was published. Today, the New Zealand Herald from Auckland, which belongs to the Australian group APN News & Media, dominates the New Zealand newspaper market with a daily circulation of about 200,000 copies. This is followed by the Dominion Post based in Wellington (daily circulation: 100,000 copies) and The Press from Christchurch with about 90,000 copies daily. The latter both belong to the Fairfax Group, which is also active in Australia. The oldest daily newspaper still published in the country is the Otago Daily Times, which is published in Dunedin.

Since 1925, work has been underway on the development of a nationwide radio station. This project was completed by about 1936. Since 1962, the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) has been responsible for managing the country’s public broadcasting stations, rather than the government. Since then, responsibilities have often been restructured, but a non-commercial broadcasting scheme has remained an integral part of Radio New Zealand, which has been a separate company since 1995 but remains a Crown entity. In addition to Radio New Zealand, which operates three national radio stations (RNZ National, RNZ Concert, RNZ Parliament) and the foreign service RNZ International (formerly: RNZ Pacific), there are numerous private stations.

In television, New Zealand was a late bloomer. After the BBC began operations in Great Britain in 1936, the USA followed only three years later with NBC. The first official television program in New Zealand was broadcast on 1 June 1960 and received only in Auckland. In the following years, the reception was extended to most of the country. Further milestones in New Zealand broadcasting followed in 1971, when the country first had access to satellites and was thus able to receive live broadcasts from all parts of the world, and in 1974 when color television was introduced because of the British Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch.

In addition to the two national broadcasters TV One and TV2, several private channels have been introduced since deregulation in 1989: TV3 and C4, which belong to CanWest Global Communications, and most recently Prime TV. There are also two pay-TV providers. Since 2004, there has been a national channel that broadcasts mainly in Māori. The free-to-air FreeView, which is based on digital DVB technology, will provide space for 18 channels and replace analog television by 2016 at the latest. For example, the majority of New Zealand’s channels can be received in Auckland via DVB-T, with the national television channels TV One and TV2 as well as TV3 broadcasting high-definition in 1080i. The license fees introduced in 1960 were abolished in 1999.

In 2020, 92 percent of New Zealanders used the internet.


From the silent film era on, there were essentially only documentaries, as important filmmakers of this time at least John O’Shea (Pacific Films) and Rudall Hayward are to be mentioned. In 1978, the New Zealand Film Commission Act came into force.

In 1995, Sam Neill shot the “Cinema of Unrest” for the British Film Institute about his homeland and its cinematic art: “All New Zealanders like to go to the cinema” (referring to the 1950s). According to him, Sleeping Dogs by Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune in 1977 was something of an initial spark for New Zealand film.

In recent years, New Zealand has become a well-known film country, not least due to the worldwide success of the 17-Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit (2012, 2013, 2014) directed by Peter Jackson. However, New Zealand directors have also been active internationally for many years: Vincent Ward’s debut film Vigil was shown in Cannes in 1984. In 1986, the science fiction film Quiet Earth – Das letzte Experiment (directed by Geoff Murphy) was shown in German cinemas.

In the 1990s, films dealing with New Zealand themes achieved international success for the first time. Outstanding was the drama The Piano by director Jane Campion, which won three Oscars and the Golden Palm. Around the same time, Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures and Lee Tamahori’s novel adaptation Once Were Warriors were released, which is also very popular there. One of the most famous films of recent years is the film Whale Rider (directed by Niki Caro), also based on a novel. Two other films dealing with New Zealand themes are The World’s Fastest Indian by Roger Donaldson and River Queen by Vincent Ward.

The most successful New Zealand films to date, Boy and Where the Wild People Hunt, were made by Taika Waititi, who was subsequently hired by Marvel Studios to direct Thor: Decision Day.

The internationally successful fantasy series Xena (1995–2001) was filmed in New Zealand. The leading actress Lucy Lawless is a native New Zealander.

Recent films by New Zealand directors include King Kong (directed by Peter Jackson) and The Chronicles of Narnia: The King of Narnia (directed by Andrew Adamson). The special effects in numerous international productions are provided by the Wellington-based Weta Workshop. New Zealand also serves as a backdrop in various films, such as Vertical Limit and Last Samurai.


In addition to traditional Māori music, New Zealand light music is largely dominated by artists who cultivate Western-influenced musical styles. Especially in indie rock, however, some bands have repeatedly attracted attention with their idiosyncratic sound, so the term Kiwi Rock has established itself for this part of the music scene.

One of the world’s best-selling pop songs from New Zealand is the 1996 released single How Bizarre by the group OMC. Other well-known artists with international fame include the singers Lorde, Kimbra, Brooke Fraser, Bic Runga and Ladyhawke as well as the groups The Naked and Famous, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Flight of the Conchords.

One of the first successful rock bands from New Zealand was the formation Split Enz around the brothers Neil Finn and Tim Finn, who had their biggest hit with the single I Got You in 1980. Both are still musically active today. Neil Finn also founded the band Crowded House in 1985, whose song Don’t Dream It’s Over became a worldwide hit in 1987.

In the 1980s, the independent label Flying Nun Records had a lasting influence on the rock sector. While groups like The Chills, The Clean, The Verlaines and Tall Dwarfs shaped the so-called Dunedin Sound, Bailter Space from Christchurch are still among the most famous representatives of New Zealand noise rock. Even after that, the local music scene produced a variety of notable bands, especially in the areas of indie and alternative rock, including The Datsuns, The Veils, The Brunettes, The Ruby Suns, OpShop, Evermore, Kerretta and Die! The! The!.

The country has a national symphony orchestra. New Zealand is also home to a number of well-known opera stars, including Frances Alda, Malvina Major, Donald McIntyre and Kiri Te Kanawa. Classical singer Hayley Westenra is also an internationally acclaimed artist.


Māori have a distinct narrative culture with numerous legends and stories passed on purely orally. Since the writing of the language, many of them have been written down; some of them have also been translated into German. Important motifs of the myths are, among others, the origin of the world and New Zealand. The latter is inextricably linked to the story of the demigod Māui, who fished New Zealand out of the sea. Other stories tell of Kupe’stravel, who discovered New Zealand for the people of Hawaiki, and the settlement of the country, but also of Māori life in modern New Zealand. One of the most important contemporary Māori authors is Witi Ihimaera. Other well-known authors dealing with Māori topics include Keri Hulme, Patricia Grace and Alan Duff.

Although publications in the Māori language are increasing, much of New Zealand’s literature is written in English. The earliest records of New Zealand are the accounts of European explorers, in particular the diaries of James Cook, which he kept on his three voyages to the Pacific, and the travelogue of Georg Forster, who accompanied Cook on his second Pacific voyage. New Zealand authors often include immigrants born abroad and citizens who have emigrated.

The latter include Katherine Mansfield. One of New Zealand’s best-known English-speaking authors is Janet Frame. One of New Zealand’s most important authors is Alice Esther Glen (1881–1940), born in Christchurch, New Zealand. At the age of 11, she won a short story competition of the English magazine Little Folks. Her most successful books include the children’s classics Six Little New Zealanders (1917) and Uncles Three at Kamahi (1926). From 1925 Glen was also active as a journalist and was involved in social work for needy children and women. The Esther Glen Award, New Zealand’s oldest and still most prestigious children’s book prize, was established in her honor in 1945.

Sports in New Zealand

Sport plays a very important role in New Zealand. In the most important sports of the Commonwealth – rugby, cricket and netball – New Zealand is among the world’s best. At the Summer Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, New Zealand regularly wins a relatively high number of medals due to its small population. From the 1950s to the 1980s, New Zealand has repeatedly produced some outstanding track and field athletes, especially middle- and long-distance runners and javelin throwers. With Arthur Lydiard, there was also a coach whose system was ahead of its time. Currently, shot putter Valerie Adams (sometimes under the name Valerie Vili) is one of the world’s best.

In addition, New Zealand is one of the leading nations in sailing. Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup in 1995 and 2000 under skippers Russell Coutts and Dean Barker and the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007 and 2013. Numerous water sports, such as surfing or rowing, are popular leisure activities in New Zealand. This also applies to golf, tennis and a variety of winter sports, such as curling, skiing or snowboarding.


The country’s national sport is rugby union. The New Zealand national team is called All Blacks because of their all-black uniforms. Despite the not excessively large population of the country, the All Blacks have led the world rankings for years and are currently ranked 2nd. They are the most famous and successful team in the history of international rugby and have a positive winning record against every previous opponent, winning more games than losing. In addition, the team won the Rugby Union World Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015 and is the record world champion together with South Africa.

In addition to the World Cup, the annual Rugby Championship (formerly Tri Nations) against the teams from Argentina, Australia and South Africa is one of the team’s regular tournaments. Furthermore, friendly internationals play an important role on the traditional European tour in autumn against all four national teams of the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) or against the visiting British and Irish Lions (all-star selection of the countries of the British Isles). In addition to their sporting success, the All Blacks are also known for the haka, a Māori war dance that is celebrated before each game. However, rugby’s masculinity cult has also been linked to widespread sexism in New Zealand society.

Club rugby plays an insignificant role in New Zealand and is a purely amateur sport. All professional teams are provincial teams. In international provincial rugby, the New Zealand franchise teams Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes play in the Super Rugby Championship together with teams from Australia, Fiji and the Pacific Ocean. The professional New Zealand rugby union provincial championship is the ITM Cup.

Recently, rugby league has also become increasingly popular in New Zealand. The New Zealand national rugby league team won the World Cup for the first time in 2008. Since 1995, the New Zealand Warriors have played in the Australian National Rugby League. The rugby league is particularly popular among the Polynesian population of New Zealand.


Together with Australia, New Zealand has a lively motorsport scene and provided two successful Formula 1 drivers in the 1960s and 1970s with Denis Hulme and Chris Amon, Hulme even became the Formula 1 world champion in 1967. Even better known, however, is Bruce McLaren, who founded the McLaren team in 1966, which still exists in Formula 1 today.

In addition to the Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding, Pukekohe Park Raceway (2.91 km) near Auckland and Teretonga Park (2.574 km) near Invercargill, there were several circuits where drivers’ championships with Tasman Formula 2.5-litre monoposti (Tasman series) were held:

  • Levin Circuit – 1.931 km near Levin
  • Wigram Airfield – 3,701 km near Christchurch

New tracks include Timaru (Timaru International Raceway, 1.6 km and 2.4 km, counterclockwise), Taupo (1.3 km, 2.3 km and 3.32 km, counterclockwise), Cromwell (New Zealand) (Highlands Motorsport Park, 4.1 km, clockwise), Christchurch (Ruapuna Park, 3.33 km, counterclockwise) and Hampton Downs (Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, 2.63 km, clockwise).

In 2003 and 2004, Pukekura Raceway in New Plymouth hosted the New Zealand World Endurance Grand Prix. Since 2012, Western Springs Stadium in Auckland has hosted the Speedway World Championship Grand Prix of New Zealand as part of the Speedway Individual World Championship. Speedway riders Ivan Mauger, Barry Briggs and Ronnie Moore won a total of 12 individual speedway world titles for New Zealand. Ivan Mauger was also three times long course world champion.


Football is enjoying growing popularity as a team sport in New Zealand. The women’s national team has already participated in four World Cups. The men’s national team, called All Whites, qualified after the 1982 World Cup for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, where the team was eliminated unbeaten as group third ahead of defending champion Italy.

With Wellington Phoenix, the country has a club in the Australian A-League. The New Zealand Football Championship replaced the National Soccer League in 2004. Wynton Rufer, who was voted Oceania’s Footballer of the Century, achieved international fame. He played for Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga and was involved in national and international successes. Football is often played amateur, but rarely professionally.


Besides rugby, cricket is New Zealand’s most successful team sport. The New Zealand national cricket team Black Caps, whose nickname, like many other New Zealand national teams, derives from the rugby union equivalent, has had Test status since 1930, which entitles them to participate in the most prestigious level of cricket. New Zealand participated in every Cricket World Cup and hosted the tournament for the first time in 1992 together with Australia. Since the 2010s, the Black Caps have succeeded in establishing themselves at the top of the world. At the 2015 World Cup, which was held together with Australia, they reached the final for the first time, but lost to their neighbours.

At the 2019 World Cup in England, this success was repeated when they lost to the hosts by the number of boundaries after the final and (the subsequent Super Over) ended in a draw for the first time. In Test cricket, the most prestigious level of cricket, New Zealand reached first place in the ICC Test rankings for the first time in 2021. In June 2021, New Zealand won the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship against India by eight wickets. At the T20 World Cup 2021 in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand reached the final in this format for the first time, but lost there to Australia by eight wickets. Together with Australia, New Zealand will host the T20 World Cup 2028.

References (sources)