Steam spouts from the hot springs below, while icy winds blow across the surrounding mountaintops. Rich fauna dot the landscape of snow, and azure blue skies look down on the lush rainforests, wide creeks and sandy coastlines. This is New Zealand, a country of myriad hues whose rugged natural beauty remains untainted even as it curves with the contours of change and melds effortlessly with the world network. The country’s pride in its raw and pristine landscape is personified in its national symbols – the silver fern and the kiwi. Situated on the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is comprised of the North Island and the South Island, flanked by many small ones on its vestiges. Its neighbors include little known atolls like Tonga and New Caledonia. Once isolated amidst the Pacific blue, New Zealand is now a prominent engraving in the colorful frieze of globalization.
The native Maori christened the island Aotearoa, which means, The Land of the Long White Cloud. The Polynesians arrived first into the ragged terrain followed by the Maoris who populated it with their culture and legends. They arrived about a 1000 years before the Europeans and still form the enriching ethnic core of New Zealand.
The European influx began with Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, who first spotted the island in the 17th century. Dutch cartographers picked the name New Zealand after the Dutch province of Zeelandia. Tasman was followed in 1769 by James Cook, a British explorer, who expanded the unassuming spot on Tasman’s map to a well-charted out territory, claiming the land for Britain.
New Zealand and the World
|Nominal GDP ($)Nominal GDP: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of a nation’s output of goods and services during a period. Nominal GDP is unadjusted for inflation or relative purchasing power. Source of data: The World Bank||$104.5 billion (2006)|
|GDP RankGDP Rank: Position among all nations, in terms of Nominal GDP. Source of data: The World Bank||52/185|
|Per Capita GNI ($)Per Capita GNI: Per Capita Gross National Income (GNI) is the value of a nation’s output of goods and services, together with net income received from abroad, per person. Source of data: The World Bank||26,750|
|Per Capita GNI RankPer Capita GNI Rank: Position among all nations, in terms of Per Capita GNI. Source of data: The World Bank||37/209|
|Population RankPopulation Rank: Position among all nations, in terms of total population. Source of data: U.S. Census Bureau||125/224|
|Geographical Area RankGeographical Area Rank: Position among all nations, in terms of total land area. Source of data: The CIA World Fact Book||74/250|
|Global Competitiveness RankGlobal Competitiveness Rank: Position among all nations in terms of competitiveness, as ranked by World Economic Forum.||24/131|
|Economic Freedom Index RankEconomic Freedom Index Rank: Position among all nations in terms of economic freedoms, as ranked by The Heritage Foundation.||6/157|
|Human Development Index RankHuman Development Index Rank: Position among all nations in terms of overall human development, as ranked by United Nations Development Program||19/177|
|Major Industries||Manufacturing, services, tourism and energy|
In a bid to curb anarchy and protect British traders, the British government signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori chiefs on February 6, 1840. According to the Treaty, the Maoris ceded authority to the government while the British were guaranteed the newly acquired Maori land and protection of their rights. Between 1840 and 1860 about 40,000 British settlers arrived, and since then, the New Zealand authorities have assisted many migrations to populate their land.
The economy at this time was driven by the rush to mine gold, which in turn gave a fillip to commodities and exports. Sheep farming particularly gained prominence in the 1850s, and New Zealand wool is held in high esteem even today. Towards the end of the century, frozen meat and dairy products became a prime export to Britain. New Zealand’s economy boomed on a foundation of exports, and an ambience of plenty reigned until the World War I.
New Zealand had always defied the conventional image of hegemony displaying a freethinking mind and autonomy. It clinches the honor as the world’s first country to allow women to vote way back in 1893 and evidenced its tolerant views by being one of the earliest to adopt old age pensions in 1898 and to provide unemployment and health insurance. A strong identification with Britain made outlining New Zealand’s separateness a sluggish process. The silhouette of New Zealand’s individuality grew bold with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on its own without British chaperoning.
Maoris – yesterday and today
The name “Maori” originally meant “the local or original people” as opposed to the “new arrivals” or Pakeha as the Europeans were known. Alcohol, guns and other destructive forces percolated on the island with the influx of the Pakeha, hurting the native population. Whites soon outnumbered other colors. Loss of land added to the crumbling populace in the mid 19th century and it marginalized the economy of the Maoris significantly. After a rise in their numbers during the 20th century, New Zealand’s 2006 National Census clocked the Maori population at around 14% out of a total population of 4.2 million.
Postmodern times brought with it apologetic words from the government and the Queen herself for all the wrongs done to the Maori. Globalization acted as a life force and a catalyst for reconstruction, reviving New Zealand’s indigenous culture and rights. Universal symbols like the Internet and television pervaded lives, becoming a projection screen for the Maori, helping them awaken their voices and allowing more social visibility.
But just as modern amenities and advancements added vibrancy to Maori lives, they also blanched their place in society. The liberalization of the 80s and 90s galvanized massive social and economic changes. Parallel tracks, hewn from the winds of change and an indulgent economy, were being laid in opposite directions. On one hand, the country began painting itself in vivid hues in the global sketchbook. But with each stroke forward it took one backward in terms of social disparities that impacted the Maori more than the Pakeha. The redistribution of income, the decline of the welfare state in terms of subsidized state housing and accessible medical care, were some factors that contributed to the Maoris’ social erosion. The definition of national identity had now expanded to include cross cultural representatives from all over the globe. People walked across to New Zealand on newly built bridges to form a culture that is now a potpourri of mixed lifestyles, ethnicities and tongues.
New Zealand’s chequered economic history began with the advent of the Europeans. The Maori extended the keys of trade which was gladly accepted by the Pakeha.
The late 19th century represented the years of the export boom, propelled by the invention of refrigeration. New Zealand’s economic destiny seemed to lay in sheep farming and frozen food exports. The 1920s and 1930s saw the manufacturing sector booming. Auto assembly plants, hydroelectric dams for electric power and other industries appeared in the sudden glare of automation and industrialization. The slump that followed the World War I soon rebounded after the World War II, bringing about a rise in wool trade in the 1950s. Liberalization warmed New Zealand in the 1980s and 90s, rustling up a capitalistic and free market economy. The controlling grip of the government over many businesses relaxed, tariffs slid, the financial market was deregulated, and the currency was floated.
The spread of ‘Rogernomics’1 truly opened up the half-closed shutters of New Zealand’s economy. The focus now veered from agriculture and production to services and finance. The island emerged from behind isolated doors, peering through peepholes to the world. New Zealand’s market became an elastic entity, stretching to accommodate international expectations and preferences and embracing foreign wealth. This paradigm shift set in motion by Rogernomics was viewed by some as partial because it pampered the affluent New Zealanders further, while failing to deliver the high standard of living promised to the ordinary masses.
New Zealand thrives on its manufacturing sectors; primarily food processing, wood and paper products, and metal fabrication. Service industries, particularly financial, insurance, and business services, form a significant part of New Zealand’s economy.
However, New Zealand’s current priority is the energy sector. The country’s cache of hydroelectric power and natural gas powers life in New Zealand, meeting 60-65% of New Zealand’s non-transport energy needs. Economists predict that at some point conventional crude oil production will peak and then wane, a phenomenon termed as “peak oil”. Once this steady supply is choked and oil ceases to flow criss-crossing the world, the prices are bound to shoot up. The worst hit will be the transport sector but almost all others in this country have evolved on the rich sinews of cheap oil. Sans oil and other natural assets, an assortment of industries like trade, tourism, banking and agricultural production would suffer setbacks.
The country, which calls itself the youngest nation in the world, had no trouble easing into the fray of world business and politics. Its economic and geographic segregation was cut short by agrarian prosperity and an increase in global trade. As more countries began to take notice of New Zealand’s wares, it soon transformed itself from an idyllic island souk to a busy international market. The establishment of the South Pacific Forum (now known as the Pacific Islands Forum) to promote the welfare of the Pacific Islanders in 1947, was one of the first fissures in the British mold that New Zealand had been cast in. The chink in the armor widened when the U.S. and Australia inked the Australia New Zealand United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) in 1951, a military alliance that promised mutual security.
Today, New Zealand is an active member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) among others. The country trades with more than 100 countries and is regarded as one of the most open economies among the OECD countries.
Traditionally, New Zealand has always maintained a soft spot for Australia. New Zealanders and Australians are free to enter each other’s country to live and work. They share a common cultural vein and their relationship was formally cemented in an economic agreement called the Closer Economic Relationship (CER). The pact was signed in 1983 and consists of a series of agreements that cover free trade in most goods, market harmonization in services and capital, and mutual acknowledgement of many standards benefiting each other. CER has been beneficial to both parties marked by the stupendous increase in trade since 1983. Australia is now New Zealand’s biggest export market, cornering at least 21% of its exports. The country has also become the country’s primary source of investment, with Australian companies owning many of the key institutions in major sectors of the New Zealand economy, like banking and mass media.
New Zealand is intricately linked with Asia as well because of geographic proximity and geopolitical interests. The Asian connection began with the Gold Rush in the 19th century when there was a glut of Asian immigrants.
Today, with the Asian economies surging ahead, New Zealand has dipped its hands deeper into the Asian trade casket. Instead of distancing the region as a formidable rival, New Zealand has made Asia a close ally, with its economic prosperity rubbing off on the island. The value of New Zealand’s exports to Asia now runs into figures higher than those with traditional markets like Australia, Europe or the U.S. Japan, China and Korea, among others, feature in the top 20 export destinations on New Zealand’s list.
Relations with the U.S. date back to the early 19th century when the U.S. established a representation in New Zealand to protect and promote American shipping and whaling interests. But diplomatic handshakes were formed only after 1942 when the Japanese threat spurred the countries to join forces. Despite the suspension of the ANZUS treaty due to conflicting political interests, the New Zealand government has continued to attach great importance to its political, economic and social ties with the U.S. The United States is the second-largest trading partner for New Zealand, with U.S. goods and services accounting for approximately 13% of all imports.
The quaintness has not been leeched out of this sylvan land in the wake of globalization’s footprints. The cities of New Zealand today are uber cool and jazzy, sporting a cosmopolitan blend of Maori, Asian and European culture. With a past made up of plunder, migration and ancient wisdoms, this island has come a long way into modernity. The shadow of New Zealand’s Blue Mountains falls over a land of potions and coffee, noodles, and burgers. Its forests whisper harmonious strains of Mandarin and Irish, Maori and French, and its coasts and cities teem with a cultural richness and diversity which truly make it a global hamlet.
: term coined to characterize the dramatic liberalization implemented by the Finance Minister Roger Douglas, the force behind many radical economic strategies that brought in vast changes to the New Zealand economy
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