Story: United States and New Zealand

Page 5. Trade, culture and people, 1985–

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During the 1990s New Zealand continued to buy many goods from the US, including computer and information services. In 1995 American imports were 20% of the country’s total imports by value – a proportion that then fell markedly. New Zealand’s exports to the US dropped to under 10% by the mid-1990s, largely because of increased demand from Australia and Japan. In the 2000s the US was consistently the country’s third-largest trading partner, but as a percentage of total trade it was about 10%, consistently less than Australia and China.


The arrival of jet travel in the 1960s made more frequent visits to New Zealand possible for American tourists. In the 2000s there was a steady inflow of US travellers. They were the third-largest group of visitors (after Australians and British), and represented about 8% of all tourists. American visitors tended to be older than those from other countries, and were often in their 50s and 60s.


It took some time before Americans took advantage of New Zealand’s immigration policy, which favoured those with higher educational qualifications or greater wealth. In 1991 there were only 8,451 Americans resident in the country. But over the next 15 years the number doubled, with Americans most likely to be found in the cities. They made important contributions to New Zealand’s cultural and IT industries.


The US continued to have a powerful influence on the popular culture of New Zealand in the films watched, the blockbuster books read, the television shows enjoyed and the music played. Hip-hop music and its offshoots of break-dancing and graffiti art had a strong following, especially among Māori and Pacific youth. Young New Zealanders also inhabited the technology universe which the United States had spawned. Facebook, Google, YouTube and iPhone became household names in New Zealand.

New Zealanders also participated occasionally in this media world, most obviously when Peter Jackson’s Lord of the rings film trilogy won plaudits in Hollywood and Oscars in 11 categories in 2004.

New Zealand’s success in sailing to victory in the America’s Cup at San Diego in 1995 also attracted American interest southwards. American sailors competed in Auckland in 2000 and 2004, and coverage of the regattas involving the two countries in 2013 and 2017 heightened New Zealand’s profile in the US.

How to cite this page:

Robert Ayson and Jock Phillips, 'United States and New Zealand - Trade, culture and people, 1985–', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Robert Ayson and Jock Phillips, published 20 Jun 2012