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

New Zealand Country Overview

New Zealand consists of two narrow and mountainous islands named the North and South Island, respectively. They are separated by a passage waterway called the Cook Strait and there are a number of smaller surrounding islands. The country supports a population of around five million people and has grown at an average rate of 1.8 percent over the past ten years, owing mainly to immigration from the United Kingdom, Australia, northern Europe, and Pacific Island nations. Australia sees a significant amount of immigration to and from New Zealand. 

The indigenous population of New Zealand are descendants from the Polynesian region of Hawaiki. In the 18th century, British settlers colonised New Zealand. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Māori people of New Zealand and the Crown in New Zealand. Despite the Treaty, many Māori people were violently dispossessed of their land. 

New Zealanders speak English with some also speaking the Māori language (Te reo Māori). 

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


  1. New Zealand Britannica
  2. New Zealand Country Profile – DFAT 
  3. New Zealand Country Profile – BBC
  4. New Zealand Articles – The Guardian
  5. New Zealand – general facts and information – CIA World Factbook


New Zealand’s population is comprised of around 70% European descent, 16.5% indigenous Māori, 15.1% Asian descent, and 8.1% Pacific Islanders. With a population of approximately five million people, there are many different backgrounds that influence New Zealand’s culture. 

Māori Culture

The Māori indigenous population of New Zealand migrated from Polynesia over 1,000 years ago. Māori culture originated from Polynesian culture and is still considered part of the Polynesian culture group. With 16.5% of the New Zealand population comprising of Māori peoples, their culture is a distinct part of New Zealand. The Māori have a warrior-like identity and their culture consists of three core concepts: Mana, Tapu, and Utu.

  • Mana represents power, prestige, and authority. It can be won and defended through impressive feats and actions. Mana can create influence over others, as it is respected through hierarchical relationships. 
  • Tapu represents something that is sacred and unable to be used or touched. It gives things and places a spiritual protection that must be respected. An example may be a lake that can’t be fished in. 
  • Utu represents revenge and reciprocation. It projects the concept that things can be ‘put right’ or set straight through gifts or compensation for past events. 

Māori culture, like many Pacific Island cultures, is heavily collectivist. It is family orientated and has an expectation that extended family will be cared for. Māori often consider themselves to be part of one big tribe. Historically, Māori culture was strongly patriarchal; however, this has softened as gender equality and respect for female opinion has become expected in wider society. 

New Zealand Culture 

New Zealand culture blends Oceanian, Polynesian, and European traditions with western ideologies. New Zealand culture is typified by relaxed and easy-going nature. New Zealanders value individualism and, like Australia, value humility and modesty. Self-deprecation is common in order to avoid appearing pretentious or arrogant. 

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


  1. New Zealand Culture – Core Concepts – Cultural Atlas (
  2. Customs & Social Culture in New Zealand | Live and work New Zealand (
  3. Māori culture | NauMai NZ (
  4. New Zealand – Māori, Islands, Culture | Britannica


  1. How New Zealand Seeks to Right Its Colonial Wrongs (
  2. MAORI DOCUMENTARY | Meeting the Māori people of New Zealand (
  3. Who Are The Māori People Of New Zealand? (

National Psyche

New Zealanders share a love of their country’s natural environment and beauty. New Zealanders believe in ‘mauri’ (life force) within the ecosystem and any disruption to this mauri causes a loss to the land and its people. This very much mirrors Māori and Polynesian culture. 

New Zealanders are often called ‘Kiwis’. The name dates back to the early 20th century where cartoonists started using the native kiwi bird to represent the people of New Zealand. 

New Zealand is known to be a very progressive nation which has undergone significant social transformation over the past few years. Its progressive political policy has aimed to meet a number of wellbeing targets including increasing income, improving the environment, increasing social good, and increasing national happiness. The Jacinda Ardern era of politics brought with it significant shifts in the way politicians are viewed. In particular, her empathetic and kind nature was seen by many as a shining light through a difficult period for all New Zealanders. As a result, New Zealand is considered world leading in many aspects of its social and political environment. In contrast, New Zealand introduced extreme COVID-19 pandemic response measures which included one month of complete travel lock down. This successfully controlled the community transmission of the virus for a time. 


The Māori people are known for war dances. The overarching name for various forms of war dance is ‘Haka’. The tradition of the Haka has many social functions and was used as a form of greeting between two tribes as well as to welcome a visitor into a community. The Haka is also considered a battle preparation for male warriors, although the Haka can be performed by any gender. It involves a number of vigorous and energetic rhythmic body movements accompanied by a chant and fierce facial expressions. The most famous Haka is ‘Ka Mate’ which most famously is incorporated into the pre-game ritual of the ‘All Blacks’ New Zealand National Rugby League team. They now use a newer version called the ‘Kapa o Pango’. It is perhaps the most visible sign of Māori and New Zealand identity on the world stage. 

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


  1. New Zealand people | 100% Pure New Zealand (
  2. Why is New Zealand so progressive? – BBC Travel
  3. Haka | Definition, History, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica

Public Diplomacy

New Zealand’s foreign policy is largely based around the Pacific Reset launched by the Government of Jacinda Ardern. The policy directs much of the country’s foreign policy and strategy toward partnering with and influencing their Pacific island neighbours through soft power. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was provided additional funding lines to be able to support other nations within the region. 

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


  1. New Zealand’s public diplomacy in the Pacific: a reset, or more of the same? – PMC (
  2. New Zealand’s Promotion through Public Diplomacy: Beyond Expo 2020 Dubai | USC Center on Public Diplomacy (
  3. Our approach to aid | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (

Media and Internet


New Zealand has a comprehensive Information and Communication Technology infrastructure, including 5G internet. The New Zealand Government recognises the importance of ICT in improving national productivity and increasing innovation. As a result they have encouraged investment in software development, finance tech, health tech, and other creative technologies. New Zealand’s internet connectivity is served via submarine cable, namely the Hawaiki cable, Southern Cross Cable Network, the Tasman Global Access cable, and the Southern Cross NEXT cable. A further cable from Australia, the Hawaiki Nui Cable, is planned to be ready for service by 2026. 


New Zealand’s mass media consists of numerous television stations, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, websites, and media conglomerates. One such conglomerate, New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME) is one of the largest. It claims to reach more than two thirds of the population across radio, digital, and print media. There is very little censorship of the media which makes New Zealand a world leader for press freedom. 

For further information on New Zealand media and internet, see the resources below:


  1. New Zealand – Information and Communication Technology (ICT) (
  2. Digital media and the internet – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  3. NZME. – Home
  4. RNZ – NZ News, Current Affairs, Audio On Demand

International Forums

New Zealand is a part of the Pacific Islands Forum which was founded along with 17 other countries in 1971. The forum’s vision is to foster a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. 

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


  1. Formal connections | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
  2. The Pacific Islands Forum – Pacific Islands Forum (