Mountains in New Zealand

New Zealand : Constitution and politics

New Zealand (‘Aotearoa’ in Maori) is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. It has two main islands, North Island and South Island. Its closest neighbour is Australia, more than 1,600 kilometres to the north-west. New Zealand has been shaped by volcanic activity and some of its volcanoes are still active. It has a diverse environment including mountain ranges, lakes, rivers and a long coastline of sandy beaches. 

Key facts

  • Region: Pacific
  • Population: 4.8 million (2018) 
  • Area: 268,000 square kilometres 
  • Capital: Wellington 
  • Joined Commonwealth: 1931, under the Statute of Westminster 
  • Commonwealth Youth Index: 3 out of 49 countries 

Secretariat support for New Zealand 

Human rights 

At a working session in April 2019, the Secretariat helped New Zealand parliamentarians share lessons with other countries in the Pacific region on human rights issues.  

In March 2019, the Secretariat helped New Zealand learn about using the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process to develop the human rights of minority groups. 

Debt management 

In April 2018, the Secretariat partnered with New Zealand to help create a central securities depository (a specialist financial organisation to hold securities such as shares) in Fiji. It also helped fund the conversion of Fiji’s bonds to electronic format. 


In March 2018, in Durban, South Africa, New Zealand worked with the Commonwealth to improve connections with trading partners. They investigated reducing physical barriers to trade – for example, by improving infrastructure. 

Blue Charter

New Zealand champions the Ocean Acidification Action Group. The Action Group held its first meeting in February 2019 with a three-day workshop led by the government of New Zealand.

More than forty-five participants, including experts, scientists and Commonwealth marine officials met to explore the impacts of ocean acidification and strategies that policymakers can to use to address the growing issue.

New Zealand is also a member of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance – the Blue Charter Action Group on tackling marine plastic pollution..

Connectivity Agenda

New Zealand is a member of the Physical, Digital and Regulatory Connectivity clusters of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. The Connectivity Agenda is a platform for countries to exchange best practices and experiences to trade and investment and undertake domestic reform.

New Zealand in the Commonwealth 

New Zealander Sir Don McKinnon was Commonwealth Secretary-General from 2000 to 2008. 

Six New Zealanders have won overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes: Witi Ihimaera in 1987 (Best First Book); Janet Frame in 1989; John Cranna in 1990 (Best First Book); Lloyd Jones in 2007; Craig Cliff in 2011 (Best First Book); and Emma Martin in 2012 (Short Story Prize). 

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