Story: Political values

It has been said that if New Zealand was to erect a huge statue like the Statue of Liberty, it would be the Statue of Equality. Like other countries, it has developed its own national character, and equality, fairness and honesty are values which most New Zealanders see as important.

Story by Stephen Levine
Main image: 1980s anti-nuclear badge

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New Zealand’s political culture has changed slowly over time – it is a country of slow evolution rather than rapid revolution.

Political values in the 19th century

Most settlers who came to New Zealand were from Britain, and brought with them British values and systems of government. They were loyal to the British Empire and keen to follow it into war.

New Zealand’s values

While not all New Zealanders have the same views, there are some values that most New Zealanders think are important. These include:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law (rather than being ruled according to the whims of leaders)
  • protection by government
  • fairness and equality
  • honesty.

New Zealanders do not usually show their patriotism publicly, although sports events are one exception.

Leading the world

Though small, New Zealand likes to see itself as capable of influencing and inspiring other countries. It was the first nation to give women the vote, and its development of the welfare state in the 1930s gave it a reputation as the social laboratory of the world.

While New Zealanders value their country’s independence, it has always been connected with other countries through alliances and international organisations.

Cultural diversity

New Zealand has many ethnic groups, each with their own values. Many Māori, and also non-Māori, place a high value on honouring the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori rights.

New Zealanders are generally in favour of multiculturalism, but some have at times been less welcoming to immigrants.


In elections people often vote for the political party they feel best reflects their personal values, though some choose to vote based on which party’s policies will benefit them.

Since the 1970s New Zealand has shown a more socially liberal outlook, for example by making homosexuality legal.

Kiwi culture

New Zealanders often take pride in the country’s small size, and may see large countries as arrogant. Kiwis like to see themselves as being practical and adaptable, with a ‘can-do’ spirit.

Less positively, some people have seen New Zealanders as anti-intellectual, shallow and conformist.

How to cite this page:

Stephen Levine, 'Political values', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 April 2024)

Story by Stephen Levine, published 20 June 2012