The Treasury

Global Navigation

Personal tools

New Zealand: An Overview (continued)

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi is regarded as a founding document of New Zealand. First signed at Waitangi on 6 February 1840, the Treaty is an agreement between Māori and the British Crown and affirms for Māori their status as the indigenous people of New Zealand.

The Treaty comprises three articles. The first grants to the Queen of England the right to “govern” New Zealand while the second article guarantees Māori possession of their lands, forests, fisheries and other resources. The third and final article gives Māori all the citizenship rights of British subjects. There are outstanding claims by Māori that the Crown has breached the Treaty, particularly the guarantees under the second article. Since 1992, the Government has developed processes and polices to enable the Crown and Māori to settle any Treaty of Waitangi claim relating to events that occurred before September 1992.

Foreign Relations and External Trade

New Zealand foreign policy seeks to influence the international environment to promote New Zealand's interests and values, and to contribute to a stable, peaceful and prosperous world. In seeking to make its voice heard abroad, New Zealand aims to advance and protect both its security and prosperity interests.

Trade is essential to New Zealand's economic prosperity. Exports of goods and services make up over 30% of New Zealand's GDP. New Zealand's trade interests are well diversified. Australia, China, North America, the European Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) take between around 10% and 25% each of New Zealand's goods exports. Other major trading partners include Japan and the Republic of Korea.

While New Zealand exports a broad range of products, it is reliant on exports of commodity-based products as the main source of export receipts and relies on imports of raw materials and capital equipment for industry.

New Zealand is committed to a multi-track trade policy which includes the following measures:

  • multilateral trade liberalisation through the World Trade Organisation (WTO);
  • regional co-operation and liberalisation through active membership of such fora as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the East Asian Summit;
  • a focus on building regional relationships through various policy initiatives; and
  • bilateral and plurilateral trade arrangements, such as:
    • the Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement with Australia (in force since 1983);
    • the Free Trade Agreement with China (signed 2008);
    • bilateral agreements with Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Korea;
    • the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (previously known as P4) with Singapore, Chile and Brunei;
    • the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement;
    • the New-Zealand Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement;
    • the Chinese Taipei Agreement on Economic Co-operation;
    • current negotiations with India;
    • current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to include Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, Vietnam and the original P4 countries; and
    • current negotiations on RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) which involve the ten members of ASEAN, China, India, Korea, Japan and Australia.

New Zealand remains committed to a reduction of world-wide trade barriers. Tariffs have been systematically reduced and quantitative controls on imported goods eliminated. Around 90% of goods come into New Zealand tariff free, including all goods from Least Developed Countries.

New Zealand was active in laying the foundations for the Doha round of WTO negotiations. Agriculture and services are of prime importance to the New Zealand economy and agriculture, in particular, is central to the Doha negotiations. New Zealand is working with other like-minded countries to reduce barriers to trade in goods and services and provide improved market access for New Zealand exporters.

New Zealand, as a member of APEC, is committed to achieving APEC's goals of free trade and investment in the region. Asia-Pacific regional linkages remain at the core of New Zealand's political and economic interests. The countries of APEC take more than 70% of New Zealand's exports, provide 71% of tourism arrivals and account for around 75% of New Zealand's foreign direct investment.

Membership in International Economic Organisations

New Zealand is a long-standing member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In late 2014, New Zealand was elected to a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term. The New Zealand Representative took up the seat in January 2015. A major objective of New Zealand's tenure will be to ensure that the perspective of small states is reflected in the workings of the Council.

Environmental Policy

The New Zealand Government recognises the importance of the country's environment and natural resources to its social and economic development.

New Zealand is wealthy in natural resources. It has plentiful, clean water; clean air; fertile soil and a temperate climate well-suited to forestry, livestock, and agriculture; long coastlines and significant aquaculture resources; low energy use, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output; significant mineral and petroleum reserves; and extraordinary biodiversity both on land and in the rivers, lakes and surrounding ocean. The World Bank estimates that New Zealand ranks eighth out of 120 countries in natural capital per capita; it is outranked only by petroleum-exporting countries.[1]

Given the importance of the primary sector to the economy, better management of freshwater and other renewable resources, the continued protection of biodiversity and marine resources, reducing waste, and improving energy efficiency are all essential for creating wealth and providing higher living standards for New Zealanders. Programmes are in place or under further development in all these areas.

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) provides a national framework for balancing environmental protection with economic, social and cultural values. Local government has the major responsibility for delivering resource management planning and consenting, with central government providing guidance on how to apply the RMA and direction on matters of national importance. Amendments to the RMA in 2009 streamlined and simplified processes and created a new agency, the Environmental Protection Authority, to facilitate decision-making on proposals of national significance. Further proposed amendments are intended to strengthen planning outcomes, reduce uncertainty, reduce costs and delays and enhance Māori participation in resource management processes.

Climate change presents a particular challenge for New Zealand, both from an international and domestic policy perspective. New Zealand is a small country with a unique emissions profile driven by the predominance of land-use industries. Despite New Zealand's relatively small contribution to global emissions, the Government is nonetheless committed to participating constructively in the international climate change dialogue.

An Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is in place, designed to assist New Zealand in meeting international climate change commitments at least cost and to reduce New Zealand's net emissions below business-as-usual levels by placing obligations on emitters to surrender units in relation to their emissions. The ETS came into force in 2008 and has been periodically reviewed and adjusted since then.


Page top