New Zealand Economy


In 2019, 6.1% of the labor force was employed in agriculture and forestry. The share of this sector in GDP fell steadily from almost 14% in 1972 and was only 6.6% in 2016. The products are strongly export-oriented and together with the fishery make up over half of New Zealand’s exports. Over 45% of the country’s area (12.1 million hectares) is used for agriculture, of which 2.6 million hectares are used for dairy farming. Agriculture plays a comparatively minor role. Regionally, it focuses on the coastal plains (e.g. Canterbury Plains) and is mostly operated in connection with the dairy and meat industries. The main crops are wheat, oats, barley, maize and potatoes. Fruit and vegetable cultivation has increased sharply since the mid-1980s. Citrus fruits only thrive on the North Island, Kiwi fruits are mainly grown in the east of the North Island (Bay of Plenty). The rapidly expanding viticulture became more important; 60% of the cultivation area is on the South Island, white wines predominate.

The livestock industry is still dominated by sheep farming, although the herds fell from around 40 million in the past to 26.7 million in 2019. In contrast, the number of cattle rose further (3.9 million in 2019). Mainly on the South Island, the keeping of deer and roe deer in enclosures and in the open air has spread.

Forestry: The forest area in New Zealand has declined sharply over the centuries due to conversion into farmland and intensive use. Through targeted reforestation, it now takes up approx. 29% of the land area again (2019). Large areas of the remaining forest have been placed under protection as national parks (3.1 million hectares), forest parks and reserves. Forest plantations with non-native, fast-growing conifers (e.g. Monterey pine) meet the needs of the wood processing and paper industries (2016: 25 million m 3 of logging). With an export share of 5.4% (2017), wood and wood products are important export goods.

Fisheries: Since the establishment of the 200-nautical-mile economic zone around New Zealand in 1978 (more than 4.4 million km 2), this area, one of the largest fishing areas on earth, has been used by the New Zealand fishing fleet and by foreign ocean-going vessels under license. The catch quotas are set annually. Oysters, mussels and salmon are raised in sea farms, especially for export. Over half of the fish and shellfish catch is exported, primarily to Japan, Australia and the USA.

Energy industry

New Zealand is one of the few countries that has completely abandoned nuclear power. Due to domestic natural gas, oil and coal deposits as well as a rich potential of renewable energy sources (hydropower, geothermal energy), New Zealand can mainly supply itself with its own energy. The missing share is made up by oil imports. Primary energy generation (2018: 43,126 gigawatt hours) is largely based on hydropower, followed by geothermal energy, gas, wind and coal (in that order). The share of renewable energy totaled 84% in 2018. In 2015, the power plant operator Genesis Energy Limited announced that it would close the last two power plants. Prime Minister J. Ardern announced that New Zealand would reduce CO 2-neutral and will cover all energy needs from renewable sources as early as 2035. New Zealand is also set to break away from oil and gas.


Auckland is the largest and most important industrial center in the country. 20.4% of all gainfully employed people are employed in the manufacturing industry, including the construction industry, and generate around a quarter of GDP. Until the 1950s, with the exception of the processing of agricultural products for export, primarily consumer goods were manufactured for the domestic market. A very efficient raw materials and capital goods industry has developed since the mid-1980s. More than two thirds of all operations are concentrated on the North Island in Auckland and Wellington. In addition to the export-oriented food industry, mechanical engineering, the wood processing, pulp and paper industry, the textile and clothing industry, the chemical, metal processing, electrotechnical and electronic industry is of great importance. New Zealand also has a steel and aluminum mill (processing Australian alumina) and an oil refinery. Visit weddinginfashion for Economy of Oceania.


New Zealand has a well-developed transport network. In 2018, the rail network was 4128 km long, of which over 500 km are electrified. The road network has a total length of 94,000 km, two thirds of which are paved. The roads are well maintained. Two providers of car and rail ferries between Wellington and Picton connect the two main islands via the Cook Strait. Due to the peripheral location of New Zealand, shipping is of great importance. The six largest container ports are Tauranga, Auckland, Lyttelton, Napier, Otago and Wellington. In Whāngārei Harbor in the north, primarily oil and petroleum products are handled. Since the mid-1980s, Auckland has developed into a major hub for South Pacific air traffic. There are other international airports in Christchurch and Wellington. Domestic air traffic is provided by numerous smaller airlines; the air transport network is very dense overall.

New Zealand Economy