A Land of Opportunities
New Zealand (Aotearoa in Māori) is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Due to its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long isolation New Zealand developed a distinctive fauna dominated by birds, many of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and introduced mammals. With a mild maritime climate, the land was mostly covered in forest. The country’s varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks owe much to the uplift of land and volcanic eruptions caused by the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates clashing underfoot.
New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy, although its constitution is not codified. Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of New Zealand and the head of state. The Queen is represented by the Governor-General, whom she appoints on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General can exercise the Crown’s prerogative powers (such as reviewing cases of injustice and making appointments of Cabinet ministers, ambassadors and other key public officials) and in rare situations, the reserve powers (the power to dismiss a Prime Minister, dissolve Parliament or refuse the Royal Assent of a bill into law). The powers of the Queen and the Governor-General are limited by constitutional constraints and they cannot normally be exercised without the advice of Cabinet.
Local government and external territories
Realm of New Zealand
The early European settlers divided New Zealand into provinces, which had a degree of autonomy. Due to financial pressures and the desire to consolidate railways, education, land sales and other policies, government was centralised and the provinces were abolished in 1876. As a result, New Zealand now has no separately represented subnational entities. The provinces are remembered in regional public holidays and sporting rivalries.
Since 1876, various councils have administered local areas under legislation determined by the central government. In 1989, the government reorganised local government into the current two-tier structure of regional councils and territorial authorities. The 249 municipalities that existed in 1975 have now been consolidated into 67 territorial authorities and 11 regional councils. The regional councils’ role is to regulate “the natural environment with particular emphasis on resource management”, while territorial authorities are responsible for sewage, water, local roads, building consents and other local matters. Five of the territorial councils are unitary authorities and also act as regional councils. The territorial authorities consist of 13 city councils, 53 district councils, and the Chatham Islands Council. While officially the Chatham Islands Council is not a unitary authority, it undertakes many functions of a regional council.
The Realm of New Zealand is one of 16 realms within the commonwealth and comprises New Zealand, Tokelau, the Ross Dependency, the Cook Islands and Niue. The Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand. The New Zealand Parliament cannot pass legislation for these countries, but with their consent can act on behalf of them in foreign affairs and defence. Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory that uses the New Zealand flag and anthem, but is administered by a council of three elders (one from each Tokelauan atoll). The Ross Dependency is New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica, where it operates the Scott Base research facility. New Zealand citizenship law treats all parts of the realm equally, so most people born in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency before 2006 are New Zealand citizens. Further conditions apply for those born from 2006 onwards.
The snow-capped Southern Alps dominate the South Island, while the North Island’s Northland Peninsula stretches towards the subtropics.
New Zealand is made up of two main islands and a number of smaller islands, located near the centre of the water hemisphere. The main North and South Islands are separated by the Cook Strait, 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide at its narrowest point. Besides the North and South Islands, the five largest inhabited islands are Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, Great Barrier Island (in the Hauraki Gulf), d’Urville Island (in the Marlborough Sounds) and Waiheke Island (about 22 km (14 mi) from central Auckland). The country’s islands lie between latitudes 29° and 53°S, and longitudes 165° and 176°E.
New Zealand has a modern, prosperous and developed market economy with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita of roughly US$28,250.[n 10] The New Zealand dollar, informally known as the “Kiwi dollar”, is the currency of New Zealand. It also circulates in the Cook Islands (see Cook Islands dollar), Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands. New Zealand was ranked the 3rd “most developed” country in 2010 according to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, 4th in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation.
New Zealand is heavily dependent on international trade, particularly in agricultural products. Exports account for a high 24 percent of its output, making New Zealand vulnerable to international commodity prices and global economic slowdowns. Its principal export industries are agriculture, horticulture, fishing, forestry and mining, which make up about half of the country’s exports. Its major export partners are Australia, United States, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom. On 7 April 2008, New Zealand and China signed the New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement, the first such agreement China has signed with a developed country. The service sector is the largest sector in the economy, followed by manufacturing and construction and then farming and raw material extraction. Tourism plays a significant role in New Zealand’s economy, contributing $15.0 billion to New Zealand’s total GDP and supporting 9.6 percent of the total workforce in 2010. International visitors to New Zealand increased by 3.1 percent in the year to October 2010 and are expected to increase at a rate of 2.5 percent annually up to 2015.
Wool has historically been one of New Zealand’s major exports.
Wool was New Zealand’s major agricultural export during the late 19th century. Even as late as the 1960s it made up over a third of all export revenues, but since then its price has steadily dropped relative to other commodities and wool is no longer profitable for many farmers. In contrast dairy farming increased, with the number of dairy cows doubling between 1990 and 2007, to become New Zealand’s largest export earner. In the year to June 2009, dairy products accounted for 21 percent ($9.1 billion) of total merchandise exports, and the country’s largest company, Fonterra, controls almost one-third of the international dairy trade. Other agricultural exports in 2009 were meat 13.2 percent, wool 6.3 percent, fruit 3.5 percent and fishing 3.3 percent. New Zealand’s wine industry has followed a similar trend to dairy, the number of vineyards doubling over the same period, overtaking wool exports for the first time in 2007.
In 2008, oil, gas and coal generated approximately 69 percent of New Zealand’s gross energy supply and 31 percent was generated from renewable energy, primarily hydroelectric power and geothermal power. New Zealand’s transport network includes 93,805 kilometres (58,288 mi) of roads, worth 23 billion dollars, and 4,128 kilometres (2,565 mi) of railway lines. Most major cities and towns are linked by bus services, although the private car is the predominant mode of transport. The railways were privatised in 1993, then re-purchased by the government in 2004 and vested into a state owned enterprise. Railways run the length of the country, although most lines now carry freight rather than passengers. Most international visitors arrive via air and New Zealand has seven international airports, although currently only the Auckland and Christchurch airports connect directly with countries other than Australia or Fiji. The New Zealand Post Office had a monopoly over telecommunications until 1989 when Telecom New Zealand was formed, initially as a state-owned enterprise and then privatised in 1990. Telecom still owns the majority of the telecommunications infrastructure, but competition from other providers has increased.
New Zealand’s historical population (black) and projected growth (red)
The population of New Zealand is approximately 4.4 million. New Zealand is a predominantly urban country, with 72 percent of the population living in 16 main urban areas and 53 percent living in the four largest cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton. New Zealand cities generally rank highly on international livability measures. For instance, in 2010 Auckland was ranked the world’s 4th most livable city and Wellington the 12th by the Mercer Quality of Life Survey
The life expectancy of a New Zealand child born in 2008 was 82.4 years for females, and 78.4 years for males. Life expectancy at birth is forecast to increase from 80 years to 85 years in 2050 and infant mortality is expected to decline. In 2050 the population is forecast to reach 5.3 million, the median age to rise from 36 years to 43 years and the percentage of people 60 years of age and older to rise from 18 percent to 29 percent.