New Zealand Geopolitics

By | December 1, 2021

New Zealand is an island state in the South Pacific Ocean and belongs to the continent of Oceania. Traditionally inhabited by the Maori people, it witnessed, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the arrival of the Dutch first, and then the British. In particular, it was the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman who discovered the country in 1642, while it was the British explorer James Cook who landed on the main island in 1769 and mapped most of its coasts. The country officially became part of the colonial possessions of the British crown in 1840, following the signing of the Waitangi Treaty.

Beginning in 1947, the year it gained independence from London, New Zealand has deepened its relations with neighboring Australia, with the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum (Pif) and with the United States, while maintaining ties cultural and political affairs with the United Kingdom. For New Zealand economics and business, please check

In the regional context, the privileged relationship with Canberra today represents the main direction of foreign policy of the country, while relations with the Fiji Islands have recently been extended following the end of the military regime, against which both New Zealand and Australia had launched economic sanctions, finally canceled in 2014. The more than cordial relations with Australia are based on the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, which since 1973 guarantees citizens of the two countries the right to travel across borders and work without restrictions, and from Closer Economic Relations agreement (Cer) of 1983, which favored economic integration. The long-term goal is the creation of a single market; to this end, the two governments are negotiating a protocol on the creation of a common border, joint investments and transferability of pension funds. Wellington also maintains good relations with China and the states of Southeast and East Asia. New Zealand is the only country to have signed agreements for the creation of free trade areas with both China and Taiwan. In 2013, China became New Zealand’s first trading partner. In turn, Wellington joined the Beijing-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in July 2014.

Relations with the United States are also good. Unlike Australia, however, New Zealand is less linked to Washington: despite the US being the third largest trading partner, over the past thirty years relations have proved complicated due to New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy, under which ships carrying nuclear weapons were not allowed to enter national territorial waters. Furthermore, since 1985, New Zealand has undermined the political significance of the Anzus trilateral defense pact(Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty), which still remains in force today. It is also significant that Wellington is one of the twelve signatory countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Pacific free trade agreement promoted by the US to limit Chinese economic influence in the region.

New Zealand, a member of the Commonwealth, is a parliamentary monarchy in which the Crown of England retains the formal role of head of state. Its power is exercised through a governor general, today Sir Jerry Mateparae, appointed by the British sovereign and essentially endowed with a ceremonial function. Legislative power is exercised by a unicameral parliament, elected with a mixed proportional system which replaced the traditional majority system in 1996. The parliament, elected every three years, is made up of 121 seats, with a quota reserved for the Maori minority, which elects its representatives from a separate list. Although the legal system is based on the common law principle, the interpretation of which by New Zealand judicial institutions conforms to that of the UK, the New Zealand Supreme Court was established in 2004, replacing the UK courts’ jurisdiction of last resort.

Since 1935 the political scene has been dominated by the alternation between two parties: the National Party and the Labor Party. However, since the 1996 reform, smaller political platforms have benefited from the new proportional system, exponentially increasing their share of seats. The last round of elections (September 2014), however, went against the trend, with the party of the reigning premier John Key which almost reached the absolute majority of the votes.

In fact, the National Party obtained almost 47.4% of the votes, leaving very little space both for the main opposition parties (Labor and Green, stopping at 25.1% and 10.7% respectively), and for its allies of government. John Key’s third consecutive reconfirmation and such a positive outcome for his party – despite an election campaign stirred by the ‘Whale Oil’ scandal, a political blog close to the National Party that allegedly used confidential information to attack the premier’s opponents – confirm the approval of the electorate for the reforms implemented in recent years. First of all, the privatization of public companies which made it possible to partially fill the large deficit of the state budget and the reform of safety in the workplace which aims to reduce the numerous accidents.

New Zealand Geopolitics