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New Zealand has a small open economy which operates on free market principles. It has sizable manufacturing and service sectors complementing a highly efficient export-oriented agricultural sector. New Zealand is highly dependent on the primary sector with commodities accounting for around half of total goods exports. Exports of goods and services account for around one third of real expenditure GDP.

New Zealand's high proportion of winter sunshine hours and considerable rainfall provide an ideal resource base for pastoral agriculture, forestry, horticulture and hydro-electicity generation. Hydro-electricity provides a relatively cheap source of energy and has allowed the development of energy-based industries such as aluminium refinement. New Zealand is also a popular overseas visitor destination and tourism is an important source of export income.

Over the last quarter of a century, the New Zealand economy has changed from being one of the most regulated in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to one of the least regulated. The minority National Party government elected in November 2008, and re-elected in November 2011, aims to lift the long-term perfomance of the economy through six key policy drivers: a growth-enhancing tax system; better public services; support for science, innovation and trade; better regulation, including regulation around natural resources; investment in infrastructure; and improved education and skills.

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