The ‘Know Your Region’ series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the Indo-Pacific region.


Originally founded as a colonial possesion of the British Empire, New Zealand initially held very strong ties with Great Britain. Over time, New Zealand gradually grew its South Pacific relationships in the late 20th century. New Zealand actively participates in numerous multilateral and regional security institutions. It also participates in a number of regional economic forums and partnerships, including as a founding member of the Pacific Islands Forum.

For further information on New Zealand diplomacy, see the resources below:


  1. Diplomacy and deployments | Ministry of Defence Website
  2. Our Story (
  3. Foreign policy and diplomatic representation – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  4. New Zealand country brief | Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
  5. Formal connections | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
  6. New Zealand – Lowy Institute Asia Power Index


New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a representative democracy as a system of government. His Majesty King Charles III is the Head of State and the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Christopher Luxon is the current Head of Government and requires the confidence of the House to govern. The Governor-General, presently the Right Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro, represents the Head of State and reserves the right to summon, prorogue, or dissolve parliament.

New Zealand’s parliament has had no ‘Upper House’ since 1951 and as such is unicameral in nature. It’s executive arm generally has 120 members, but this number may increase between elections to account for overhang seats under its Mixed Member Proportional electoral system, in which voters are given two votes. One vote is for a local MP and the other is for a political party. This system allows greater opportunity for minor parties to gain representation, but also increases the chances of minority and coalition governments. The current New Zealand Government consists of a coalition from three parliamentary parties. It is compulsory to enrol to vote from the age of 18; however, it is not compulsory to vote.

Early New Zealand elections discriminated against the indigenous Māori population by only allowing those with freehold or leasehold land rights issued by the British Crown Law Office to vote in elections. Māori mostly inherited their lands through birth right and were therefore ineligible. This had a secondary impact of making it very difficult for Māori people to be elected to parliament. In 1867 Parliament agreed to establish four Māori specific electorates and Māori men over the age of 21 were able to vote. This was intended to be temporary under the assumption that eventually a large proportion of the Māori population would become land holders under Crown Law. In 1893 all New Zealand women were able to vote, which included Māori women. In 1985 there was a Royal Commission into the electoral system; it recommended a proportional party list system which would achieve better Māori representation. There was some opposition from the Māori peoples who preferred to retain their separate electoral system alongside the ordinary system. The Māori seats were retained under the new Mixed Member Proportional system and there are now seven Māori seats in Parliament.

For further information on New Zealand politics, see the resources below:


  1. What is New Zealand’s system of government? | Elections
  2. New Zealand politics | World | The Guardian
  3. Members of Parliament – New Zealand Parliament (
  4. NZ National Party, ACT New Zealand and NZ First coalition winds back Jacinta Ardern’s Labour policies (
  5. Setting up the Māori seats – Māori and the vote | NZHistory, New Zealand history online

New Zealand and Australia

New Zealand and Australia share strong political ties due to their origins as colonies of Great Britain, their military ties from the first and second World Wars, their economic trade and their free migration between the two countries. The Prime Ministers and Ministers of each nation regularly hold formal talks, and many military exchanges exist. There is an annual Australia and New Zealand Leaders Meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visiting Wellington at the most recent meeting. They also celebrated the 40th anniversary of Closer Economic Relations, the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and the 80th anniversary of reciprocal diplomatic representation. At the conclusion of the meeting a joint statement and roadmap was released by the Prime Ministers outlining the plan for the next decade of diplomatic relations between the two countries. New Zealand and Australia also share strong ties with many of their Pacific island neighbours. 

For further information on New Zealand and Australian diplomacy, see the resources below:


  1. Australia | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
  2. Australia and New Zealand – Friends, Partners, Allies (
  3. Joint statement: Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Ministerial meeting in Adelaide | Minister for Trade and Tourism (
  4. New Zealand and Australia – Joint Statement and Trans-Tasman Roadmap to 2035 | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
  5. Australia-New Zealand relations: Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins must move beyond cliches (
  6. The Trans-Tasman Political ‘Family’ 

New Zealand and its Neighbours

New Zealand sits within the South Pacific which is considered strategically important to many nations. In 2018 New Zealand’s then Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, released their strategic foreign policy labelled the ‘Pacific Reset’ which aimed to refocus foreign policy on the Pacific Islands region. The Pacific Reset emphasises soft power, public diplomacy, partnerships, and engagement. The Pacific Islands region receives around 60% of New Zealand’s total Official Development Assistance funding.

New Zealand has recently increased diplomacy with China, acknowledging both China’s interest in the South Pacific Region and their importance to New Zealand as a trading partner. China labelled New Zealand as an example of how diplomatic relations should be handled with China, indicating that New Zealand’s refrain from diplomatic criticism is valued by China. 

For further information on New Zealand diplomacy with its neighbours, see the resources below:


  1. China, Trade and Security to Dominate Australia-New Zealand Talks (
  2. China relations: Xi Jinping labels New Zealand ‘friend and partner’ during visit by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (
  3. Our aid partnerships in the Pacific | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
  4. The Pacific Reset: The First Year 
  5. New Zealand’s public diplomacy in the Pacific: a reset, or more of the same? | Place Branding and Public Diplomacy (
  6. Finding Common Ground: New Zealand and Regional Security Cooperation in the Pacific
  7. New Zealand’s Pacific policies – time for a reset? on JSTOR