Facts about New Zealand

World Facts Index > New Zealand > Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington

New ZealandThe Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in about A.D. 800. In 1840, their chieftains entered into a compact with Britain, the Treaty of Waitangi, in which they ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria while retaining territorial rights. In that same year, the British began the first organized colonial settlement. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872 ended with the defeat of the native peoples. The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand's full participation in a number of defense alliances lapsed by the 1980s. In recent years, the government has sought to address longstanding Maori grievances.

Geography of New Zealand

Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia
41 00 S, 174 00 E
total: 268,680 sq km
note: includes Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Bounty Islands, Campbell Island, Chatham Islands, and Kermadec Islands
water: NA sq km
land: NA sq km
Area comparative:
about the size of Colorado
Land boundaries:
0 km
15,134 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
temperate with sharp regional contrasts
predominately mountainous with some large coastal plains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Cook 3,764 m
Natural resources:
natural gas, iron ore, sand, coal, timber, hydropower, gold, limestone
Natural hazards:
earthquakes are common, though usually not severe; volcanic activity
Environment current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; native flora and fauna hard-hit by species introduced from outside
Geography - note:
about 80% of the population lives in cities; Wellington is the southernmost national capital in the world

Population of New Zealand

4,173,460 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 21.1% (male 439,752/female 419,174)
15-64 years: 67.1% (male 1,374,850/female 1,361,570)
65 years and over: 11.8% (male 210,365/female 270,429)
Median age:
33.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
5.76 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.81 years
male: 75.82 years
female: 81.93 years
Fertility rate:
1.79 children born/woman
noun: New Zealander(s)
adjective: New Zealand
Ethnic groups:
European 69.8%, Maori 7.9%, Asian 5.7%, Pacific islander 4.4%, other 0.5%, mixed 7.8%, unspecified 3.8%
Anglican 14.9%, Roman Catholic 12.4%, Presbyterian 10.9%, Methodist 2.9%, Pentecostal 1.7%, Baptist 1.3%, other Christian 9.4%, other 3.3%, unspecified 17.2%, none 26%
English (official), Maori (official)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%


Country name:
conventional short form: New Zealand
abbreviation: NZ
Government type:
parliamentary democracy
Administrative divisions:
16 regions and 1 territory*; Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Canterbury, Chatham Islands*, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui, Marlborough, Nelson, Northland, Otago, Southland, Taranaki, Tasman, Waikato, Wellington, West Coast
Dependent areas:
Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau
26 September 1907 (from UK)
National holiday:
Waitangi Day (Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty over New Zealand), 6 February (1840)
consists of a series of legal documents, including certain acts of the UK and New Zealand Parliaments and The Constitution Act 1986 which is the principal formal charter
Legal system:
based on English law, with special land legislation and land courts for the Maori; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Anand SATYANAND (since 23 August 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Helen CLARK (since 10 December 1999); Deputy Prime Minister Michael CULLEN (since July 2002)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; deputy prime minister appointed by the governor general.
Legislative branch:
unicameral House of Representatives - commonly called Parliament (120 seats; 69 members elected by popular vote in single-member constituencies including seven Maori constituencies, and 51 proportional seats chosen from party lists, all to serve three-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court; Court of Appeal; High Court; note - Judges appointed by the Governor-General
Political parties and leaders:
ACT New Zealand [Rodney HIDE]; Green Party [Jeanette FITZSIMONS]; Maori Party [Whatarangi WINIATA]; National Party or NP [Don BRASH]; New Zealand First Party or NZFP [Winston PETERS]; New Zealand Labor Party or NZLP [Helen CLARK]; Progressive Party [James (Jim) ANDERTON]; United Future or UF [Peter DUNNE]


Over the past 20 years the government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy dependent on concessionary British market access to a more industrialized, free market economy that can compete globally. This dynamic growth has boosted real incomes - but left behind many at the bottom of the ladder - and broadened and deepened the technological capabilities of the industrial sector. Per capita income has risen for eight consecutive years and reached $27,300 in 2007 in purchasing power parity terms. Consumer and government spending have driven growth in recent years, and exports picked up in 2006 after struggling for several years. Exports were equal to about 22% of GDP in 2007, down from 33% of GDP in 2001. Thus far the economy has been resilient, and the Labor Government promises that expenditures on health, education, and pensions will increase proportionately to output. Inflationary pressures have built in recent years and the central bank raised its key rate 13 times since January 2004 to finish 2007 at 8.25%. A large balance of payments deficit poses another challenge in managing the economy.

$112.4 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 4.3%
industry: 27.3%
services: 68.4%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
2.13 million
Labor force - by occupation:
services 65%, industry 25%, agriculture 10% 
revenues: $43.1 billion
expenditures: $37.57 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 31.6%
hydro: 57.8%
other: 10.7%
nuclear: 0%
food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, banking and insurance, tourism, mining
wheat, barley, potatoes, pulses, fruits, vegetables; wool, beef, dairy products; fish
dairy products, meat, wood and wood products, fish, machinery
Export partners:
Australia 19.7%, US 14.3%, Japan 9.6%, China 5.6%, UK 4.7%, South Korea 4.1%
machinery and equipment, vehicles and aircraft, petroleum, electronics, textiles, plastics
Import partners:
Australia 26.3%, US 11.3%, Japan 10.5%, China 5.8%, Singapore 5% 
New Zealand dollar (NZD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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