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Is New Zealand In Australia?

Is New Zealand part of Australia? Australia and New Zealand are often talked about together as if they are one country. People might think, ‘They’re both in the same part of the world, they have similar flags, and their accents sound similar, so they’ve got to be the same country, right?’ 

Nope. 

Australia and New Zealand might be neighbours with close ties in terms of trade, international relations and culture. They even fought together in World War I with a combined military corps (ANZAC).

They are, however, separate countries although there is something akin to a sibling relationship between the two. And like other siblings, this relationship does include the occasional row. 

I’ve spent time in both countries, particularly New Zealand where I lived for a year, so I’ve seen first-hand many of the differences and similarities. 

I’m going to clear up this common misconception and guide you through the distinct geographies, political systems, histories, and international relations of these two incredible countries. So, the next time the question ‘Is New Zealand in Australia’ comes up, you won’t just take a wild guess; you’ll know the answer.

View of downtown Auckland from the water on a cloudy day. Two cruise ships are docked and the SkyTower is visible.

Section 1: Geography

Greyscale map of the world with Australia in blue and New Zealand shown in green. Map shows that New Zealand is not part of Australia
Created with MapChart

1. Location

New Zealand and Australia are both located in the Southern Hemisphere in the Pacific Ocean. They are separated by the Tasman Sea, and a flight between the two countries typically takes at least 3 ½ hours. 

In terms of continents and geography, the situation is a little less clear. The two countries are commonly considered to be part of the region called Oceania, but there is some debate over whether the landmass that New Zealand is part of, Zealandia, should actually be considered an 8th continent. 

However, unless you have a particular interest in geography and geology, it’s probably sufficient to say that they are part of the same region.

Is New Zealand in Australia? No! Although geographically close they may technically not even be in the same continent! 

For a taste of New Zealand humour and their own views of their location in relation to Australia, take a look at this video from New Zealand’s official tourism site, featuring a previous Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

2. Land Area

Australia is made up of the large main island, the smaller island of Tasmania, and several thousand other small islands of varying sizes. The country is slightly under 7.7million km², the sixth largest country in the world. 

New Zealand is made up of two main islands, the North Island and South Island. There is also the smaller Stewart Island to the south of the South Island, and just like Australia, many small islands dotted around the coast. The land area of New Zealand is 263310 km², significantly smaller than Australia.

People walking down a pathway with bushes and trees on the left and a lake on the right. There are mountains in the background.

3. Climate and Terrain

Climate

First off, Australia is a massive country with a range of climates, from the arid deserts of the Outback to the tropical conditions of Queensland. In contrast, New Zealand is a much smaller island nation with a more temperate maritime climate. 

In Australia, the climate varies significantly from north to south. The northern regions like Queensland experience hot, humid summers and mild winters, while southern areas like Melbourne and Sydney have warm summers and cooler winters. Inland areas can get scorching hot, especially in the summer. Bushfires are a real concern in Australia, particularly in the drier regions.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has a more consistent climate, thanks to its smaller landmass and proximity to the ocean. The North Island is generally warmer than the South Island, but the difference isn’t as stark as it is in Australia.

You’ll find mild summers and cool, wet winters across the country. Snowfall is common in the South Island and in the mountainous regions of the North Island, making places like Queenstown a haven for winter sports enthusiasts.

Rainfall is another point of difference. New Zealand tends to be wetter overall, especially in the western regions. Australia, being larger and having a more varied topography, has regions that are incredibly dry, like the Outback, and others that are quite wet, like Tropical North Queensland.

So, whether you’re planning to surf in Australia’s Gold Coast or go skiing in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, understanding these climate differences can help you pack your bags accordingly. Both countries offer a unique set of weather conditions that contribute to their individual charms.

The Great Barrier Reef from the sky, with blue-green coral and dark blue ocean.

Terrain

Australia covers an area that’s nearly 29 times larger than New Zealand. Its terrain is incredibly diverse, ranging from the flat, arid plains of the Outback to the rugged mountain ranges like the Blue Mountains and the Flinders Ranges. The country also boasts some of the world’s most famous beaches along its extensive coastline.

Then there’s the Great Barrier Reef, a world-famous marine wonder that needs no introduction, although unfortunately, it is increasingly in need of protection. Australia’s size means it has a bit of everything: deserts, forests, mountains, and even tropical rainforests in places like Queensland.

New Zealand, while smaller, packs a punch when it comes to dramatic landscapes. The country is essentially a collection of mountain ranges, rolling hills, and coastlines, all squeezed into a much smaller area. The Southern Alps in the South Island are a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from skiing to mountaineering.

The North Island is known for its geothermal activity; think hot springs and geysers, especially around areas like Rotorua. New Zealand also has its share of beautiful beaches, but they’re often more rugged and windswept, particularly on the West Coast.

A thermal pool with brown deposits and white rock and trees in the background

In summary, Australia offers a broader range of terrains due to its size, from deserts to coral reefs. New Zealand, though smaller, offers concentrated doses of dramatic landscapes. Both are dream destinations for anyone keen on exploring diverse terrains, but they offer very different experiences.

4. Biodiversity

Both countries have various native species of flora and fauna that are not found in the wild in other countries. As they are both island countries, animals have evolved into species that have not then spread to other countries. 

Starting with Australia, the most famous examples are the koala and kangaroo. Outside of Australia these animals can only be found in zoos. The country’s birdlife is equally impressive, featuring species like the kookaburra and the emu.

New Zealand’s biodiversity is equally intriguing but on a different scale. The country’s isolation for 80 million years has led to the evolution of unique flora and fauna. One of the most famous is the kiwi, a flightless bird that has become a national symbol.

New Zealand is also known for its ancient forests filled with native trees like the kauri and rimu. The country has a number of endemic bird species, such as the kea and kakapo. New Zealand also has virtually no dangerous animals, and is a very safe place to visit.

A boradwalk through a forest with ferns and trees on both sides of the oath.

Both countries have challenges to face in terms of conservation. In Australia, habitat loss and invasive species pose significant threats to native wildlife. In New Zealand, the introduction of mammals like rats and possums by humans has had a serious impact on native bird populations.

Section 2: Politics

1. Political Systems

Both Australia and New Zealand are constitutional monarchies. As Commonwealth countries, their Head of State is the British Monarch, Charles III. Both countries also have significant numbers of citizens who are in favour of leaving the Commonwealth and becoming republics, however not currently enough to make that change happen.

As former British colonies, and countries that were settled by British citizens, the politics and governance of Australia and New Zealand are both influenced to some extent by the systems that were already in place in Britain. 

Australia operates under a federal system, meaning it has multiple levels of government: federal, state, and local. The country is divided into six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) and ten territories (most notably the two federal territories – the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory).

Australian citizens are subject to both state and federal laws. One example of how the states can affect citizens differently can be demonstrated by events of the COVID-19 pandemic. Different states had individual lockdowns, and at times residents of one Australian state were not allowed to enter others. 

Voting is compulsory in Australia and is enforced by imposing fines on people unless they meet specific exemptions.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has a unitary system of government, meaning most of the administrative powers are held by the central government. Unlike Australia, New Zealand has a single legislative body, known as the House of Representatives. There’s no upper house, making the legislative process a bit more streamlined.

Indigenous rights and immigration are hot-button issues in both nations. Australia’s relationship with its Indigenous population is a significant political issue, as is the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand, which was signed between the British Crown and Māori chiefs.

New Zealand has historically been the more liberal of the two countries and was even the world’s first country to give women the vote. However, New Zealand’s most recent election in October 2023 did result in the election of a centre-right party rather than the left-leaning Labour Party.

If you do look into Australia’s political history, remember that despite the name, the Liberal Party in Australia is actually the more conservative of the two major parties (the other being the Labor Party). 

So, while Australia and New Zealand share some similarities like being constitutional monarchies and having Westminster-style parliaments, they differ in their structure of government, representation systems, and some aspects of political culture.

The Beehive building in Wellington New Zealand. The building is a round shape with narrow windows
The Beehive, Wellington

2. Governance

Australia

1. Prime Minister: The Prime Minister is the head of the Australian government and is usually the leader of the political party with the most seats in the House of Representatives. The maximum term between Federal elections is 3 years, however, there is no limit to the amount of time that an Australian Prime Minister can hold office. They serve as long as they maintain the confidence of the House of Representatives.

2. Governor-General: The Governor-General acts as the King’s representative in Australia. While the role is mostly ceremonial, the Governor-General has constitutional duties like giving Royal Assent to legislation and summoning Parliament. In extreme cases, they can dissolve the House of Representatives.

3. State Premiers: Given Australia’s federal system, each of the six states has a Premier who acts as the head of government at the state level. They have similar roles to the Prime Minister but within the confines of their respective states.

New Zealand

1. Prime Minister: Similar to Australia, the Prime Minister is the head of government and is usually the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Representatives. The term is three years, but there is no limit to the number of terms a New Zealand Prime Minister can serve. 

2. Governor-General: The Governor-General in New Zealand also serves as the Kings’s representative and has similar responsibilities to their Australian counterpart, such as giving Royal Assent to laws and summoning Parliament.

While the roles of central political figures in both countries share many similarities due to their historical ties to the British parliamentary system, the nuances in their responsibilities are shaped by each country’s unique political landscape and governance structure.

4. Indigenous Populations

Indigenous populations in Australia and New Zealand have rich histories and cultures that stretch back thousands of years. In Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the original inhabitants, with their presence dating back at least 65,000 years.

They have over 250 distinct languages and a deep connection to the land, which plays a central role in their spiritual beliefs.

The most well-known example of this is probably Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. This landmark has been the subject of much controversy, especially regarding whether people should be allowed to climb it.

Uluru at dusk. Red sandstone rock with purple sky.

Aboriginal art, music, and storytelling are integral to their culture, serving as a way to pass down traditions and knowledge through generations. Despite facing numerous challenges, including colonisation and the loss of their lands, they have fought to preserve their culture and are increasingly gaining recognition and rights, including land rights and the right to self-determination.

Despite this general improvement, the Australian people voted No in October 2023 to what would have been a landmark amendment to their constitution. The amendment would have formally recognised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by creating a body to represent their interests to the Australian Parliament.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is home to the Māori people, who arrived from Polynesia around 1300 AD, making New Zealand the most recently settled major landmass.

The Māori people have a rich cultural heritage that famously includes the haka, a ceremonial dance, and intricate tattoos known as “ta moko”. Their concept of “whānau” (family) extends beyond immediate relatives, emphasising a collective approach to community and well-being. 

The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between Māori chiefs and the British Crown, is a significant but contentious document that aimed to establish a framework for coexistence and rights. While it has been a source of dispute, efforts are ongoing to address grievances and ensure that Māori culture and language not only survive but thrive.

Māori culture is much more integrated into the wider New Zealand culture than the Aboriginal culture is in Australia, in part because the Māori people make up a higher percentage of the population compared to the Aboriginal people in Australia. Māori phrases are frequently used by New Zealanders of all backgrounds, as is the haka. 

Significant speeches by New Zealand’s political leaders often include sections in Māori, such as the opening remarks of then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2022.

5. Flags

The Australian flag. Blue background with the British Union Jack in the top left corner, and six white stars representing the Southern Cross constellation
Australian Flag
The New Zealand flag. Blue background with the British Union Jack in the top left corner, and four red stars with white outlines representing the Southern Cross
New Zealand Flag

Australia and New Zealand have very similar, but not identical flags. Both have primarily blue flags with the Union Jack (the flag of the United Kingdom) in the upper left corner. They also both have stars representing the Southern Cross constellation.

The main differences are that the Australian flag has six stars making up the constellation while New Zealand’s flag only has four. Also, the stars on Australia’s flag are all white while the New Zealand flag’s stars are red with a white outline. 

Both Australia and New Zealand have considered changing their flags to remove the Union Jack. Neither country currently has a majority in support of a change, and even if they did, choosing a replacement could be very difficult.

Section 3: History

1. Colonial Past

Both New Zealand and Australia share a colonial history with the British Empire, but the timelines and impacts differ significantly.

For a short period of time, New Zealand was designated as part of the British colony of New South Wales. This is perhaps where some of the confusion about New Zealand’s relationship to Australia arises from, however even once New Zealand was a separate colony both still belonged to Great Britain. New Zealand has never belonged to Australia.

Australia was initially used as a penal colony by the British in the late 18th century, while New Zealand was colonised in the 19th century mainly for its agricultural potential.

The British influence is still evident in both countries, from the legal systems to the English language, but the colonial experience was far from identical.

2. Independence

Australia became a federation in 1901, gaining independence from British rule but maintaining the British monarch as its head of state. New Zealand, on the other hand, became a dominion in 1907 and later gained full statutory independence in 1947.

Both countries have evolved their own unique identities since then, but they still maintain constitutional ties to the United Kingdom.

The Sydney Opera House from the water. Several interlocking white shells are the focus point for this distinctive building

3. Cultural Evolution

Post-independence, both nations have developed distinct cultures that reflect their unique histories, landscapes, and indigenous populations. Australia is known for its laid-back lifestyle, love for sports, and its iconic Opera House. New Zealand is globally recognised for its Māori culture, rugby, and stunning landscapes that served as the backdrop for movies like “The Lord of the Rings.” 

Woman in red top standing in front of rows of vines. Down a hill there is a bright blue stretch of water with boats on.

They are also both well-known as New World wine producers. Both countries have significant wine production. For a relatively small country, New Zealand has several distinct wine regions around the country.

4. Major Historical Events

Australia and New Zealand have both been involved in significant global events, including both World Wars. The ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) legacy is a crucial part of their shared history, especially commemorated on ANZAC Day. However, each country has also faced unique challenges.

Australia dealt with the Gold Rush in the 1850s, which significantly impacted its economy and immigration. New Zealand had the Waitangi Tribunal, established to address Maori grievances dating back to the original Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

New Zealand has seen several tragic events in recent years, including the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, the 2019 eruption of Whakaari / White Island and the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. Australia, meanwhile, has had to contend with many bushfires and floods in the last few decades, most notably the 2019/2020 bushfire season.

Section 4: International Relations

Australia and New Zealand have something of a sibling rivalry going on. Both lay claim to the invention of the Flat White coffee and the pavlova dessert. There is fierce competition when it comes to sports such as rugby. Overall, however, the two countries maintain close ties. 

New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team performing the haka before a match with Australia’s team, the Wallabies.

1. ANZAC

When it comes to international relations, the term “ANZAC” often comes to mind. Standing for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, ANZAC is a symbol of the shared military history and camaraderie between the two nations.

Formed initially during World War I, the ANZAC troops fought together in the Gallipoli Campaign, a tragic yet defining moment that has left an indelible mark on both countries. 

Every year on April 25th, ANZAC Day is commemorated by both countries to honour the soldiers who lost their lives. While the military alliance has evolved over the years, the historic connections continue to be a cornerstone of the relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

Although the two countries are closely linked there are still some significant differences in their defence policies. Most notably, New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy will prevent the nuclear-powered submarines that Australia is in the process of acquiring from entering New Zealand waters. 

2. Trade Relations

Economically, Australia and New Zealand are tightly knit. The Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement, signed in 1983, has been a game-changer, essentially creating a free-trade zone between the two countries. 

This agreement has led to a significant increase in trade. Although the majority of New Zealand’s exports now go to China, Australia is their second biggest trade partner, 

Australia’s exports are highest to countries such as China and Japan, however, New Zealand’s trade is still significant. From dairy products to tourism, the economic interdependence is clear.

3. Travel and Immigration

One of the most tangible aspects of the Australia-New Zealand relationship is the ease of travel and work between the two countries. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement allows citizens of both nations to visit, live, and work in the other country with minimal restrictions. 

The majority of migration under this agreement is for New Zealanders settling in Australia. As a larger country, work opportunities in Australia can be more numerous than in its smaller neighbour. 

However, this immigration arrangement is not without its challenges. Issues like social security benefits, deportation and healthcare access for trans-Tasman migrants have been points of contention, occasionally resulting in rows and overt criticism by political leaders.

4. Regional Partnerships

Both countries are active members of regional organisations like the Pacific Islands Forum, where they collaborate on issues affecting the South Pacific.

Australia and New Zealand also work together in the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, along with the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These partnerships indicate a level of trust and cooperation that extends beyond bilateral relations, impacting their roles in broader international alliances.

5. Cultural Exchanges

Beyond politics and economics, cultural exchanges between Australia and New Zealand are rich and frequent. Whether it’s the friendly rivalry in sports like rugby and cricket or the shared love for films and music, cultural ties further cement the relationship.

Events like the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race or the New Zealand International Film Festival often see participation from both sides of the Tasman Sea, celebrating the shared yet distinct cultural heritage.

Conclusion: Is New Zealand In Australia?

Alright, let’s wrap this up! So, is New Zealand in Australia? The short and sweet answer is a resounding “no.” 

While it’s easy to lump them together due to their proximity and shared British colonial history, these two nations are very much separate. From landscapes to politics, there are many differences between the two countries.

So, if you’re planning a trip down under, remember that New Zealand and Australia are two different worlds, each with its own set of adventures waiting for you. (But if you have to choose, go to New Zealand – it’s my fave!)

Whether you’re into the great outdoors, keen on diving into local politics, or just up for soaking in the culture, you’ll find unique experiences in both. But let’s make it clear: they’re neighbours, not roommates. 

Hope that clears things up for you! Safe travels! 

Sunrise in Acukland. View over the harbour with the Sky Tower dominating the skyline. Is New Zealand In Australia? No!

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