General background: The British colony of New Zealand
became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported
the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand's
full participation in number of defense alliances
lapsed by the 1980s. In recent years the government
has sought to address longstanding native Maori grievances.
Area comparative: About the size of Colorado.
Climate: Temperate with sharp regional contrasts.
Terrain: Predominately mountainous with some
large coastal plains.
Population: 3,908,037 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: New Zealand European 74.5%,
Maori 9.7%, other European 4.6%, Pacific Islander
3.8%, Asian and others 7.4%
Religions: Anglican 24%, Presbyterian 18%,
Roman Catholic 15%, Methodist 5%, Baptist 2%, other
Protestant 3%, unspecified or none 33% (1986)
Language: English (official), Maori (official)
Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Legal system: Based on English law, with special
land legislation and land courts for Maoris; accepts
compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: Since 1984 the government
has accomplished major economic restructuring, transforming
New Zealand from an agrarian economy dependent on
concessionary British market access to a more industrialized,
free market economy that can compete globally. This
dynamic growth has boosted real incomes (but left
behind many at the bottom of the ladder), broadened
and deepened the technological capabilities of the
industrial sector, and contained inflationary pressures.
While per capita incomes have been rising, however,
they remain below the level of the four largest EU
economies, and there is some government concern that
New Zealand is not closing the gap. New Zealand is
heavily dependent on trade - particularly in agricultural
products - to drive growth, and it has been affected
by the global economic slowdown and the slump in commodity
prices. Thus far the New Zealand economy has been
relatively resilient, achieving about 3% growth in
2001, but the New Zealand business cycle tends to
lag the US cycle by about six months, so the worst
of the downturn may not hit until mid-2002.
Communication/Telephone system: Excellent domestic
and international systems.
Places of interest: New Zealand is a country
of rare seismic beauty: glacial mountains, fast-flowing
rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling
mud. There are also abundant forest reserves, long,
deserted beaches and a variety of fauna, such as the
kiwi, endemic to its shores. Any number of vigorous
outdoor activities - hiking, skiing, rafting and,
of course, that perennial favorite, bungee jumping
- await the adventurous. You can swim with dolphins,
gambol with newborn lambs, whale-watch or fish for
fattened trout in the many streams.