New Zealand is the world’s youngest country, meaning that it was the last major land mass to be settled just over 1,000 years ago.

The first inhabitants were the Maori, who migrated from Polynesia. European migration began with missionaries and whalers in the late 1700s, but accelerated rapidly after New Zealand became a British colony in 1840. In 1853, the British government granted the settlers the right of self-governance. In 1907, New Zealand became an independent dominion. Formal independence was achieved 40 years later, in 1947.

New Zealand is located in the South Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 km (1,200 miles) to the southeast of Australia. The country is made up of two main islands, along with a number of other smaller islands. As a whole, New Zealand is smaller than Italy, but larger than the United Kingdom. The country’s South Island has a mountainous ridge running along its center called the Southern Alps, with Mount Cook (the tallest mountain) climbing more than 12,000 feet above sea level. The North Island is somewhat flatter and characterized by volcanic terrain in some areas.

Traditionally, New Zealand’s economy was based on agriculture, including the production of wool, meat, and dairy products. Today, agriculture is still the country’s primary export industry. However, it now accounts for 4.6 percent of GDP, compared to industry at 23.7 percent (food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, tourism) and services at 71.7 percent (financial services, infrastructure, transportation). Tourism, in particular, is playing an increasingly important role in the economy. In 2010, it was estimated to account for approximately 9.1 percent of New Zealand’s GDP.

In 1984, the New Zealand government launched a major restructuring of its economy to boost the country’s financial health and improve its global competitiveness. Key structural reforms involved the liberalization of import regulations, tariff reductions, the elimination of controls on wages, prices, and interest rates, and the dismantling of agricultural subsidies. As a result, New Zealand experienced more than a decade of economic expansion until just before the global financial crisis, which began in 2008.

Given its relatively small domestic population, the country remains highly dependent on exports to countries such as Australia, the United States, Japan, and the U.K. This position leaves the economy vulnerable to financial downturns that affect its trading partners, as well as fluctuations in the prices of its commodity exports.

This video provides an example of how groups are seeking to promote New Zealand and its unique attributes.

New Zealand


Population: 4.2 million

Total Land: 267,000 square km

Capital: Wellington

Climate: Temperate with extreme regional variation

Official Language: English

Per Capita GDP: $27,400 (2009 est.)

GDP Growth: –1.6% (2009 est.)

New Zealand

Made in New Zealand: Consumer Perceptions

In January 2009, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NTZE) commissioned a U.S. consumer research and consulting firm, The Hartman Group, to examine North American consumer perceptions of New Zealand (and more generally of sustainability).

Through a series of ethnographic focus groups and retail buyer interviews, researchers determined that most consumers have relatively limited knowledge about New Zealand. However, the vague information they possess is overwhelmingly positive.

Overall, they believe that products from New Zealand perform well against factors such as environmental regulation, resource consumption, biodiversity, and animal welfare. These attributes are linked to the perception of more sustainable, higher quality products, which creates an advantage for New Zealand companies in positioning their exports in the North American market.