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Bilateral relationship

The relationship with Australia is New Zealand’s closest and most significant. It is underpinned by geography and shared historical linkages, values and institutions. It encompasses close cooperation, especially on trade and economic issues, defence and foreign policy, but extends across the range of government activities. Migration, trade and other people-to-people linkages have helped shape a robust trans-Tasman sense of identity.

Extensive engagement at the political level creates a sound framework for the management of the relationship. The two Prime Ministers have annual bilateral talks and meet also on a number of other occasions through the year. Foreign Ministers meet in six‑monthly talks. CER Economic Ministers, the Ministers of Defence and the Treasurer/Finance Ministers meet at least annually. In addition, New Zealand participates in relevant councils and fora in the Australian ministerial council system. Connections are also strong between Parliamentary committees, political parties, and government agencies at officials’ level.

Complementing the very high level of political engagement, senior business and community leaders (including relevant Ministers and Opposition spokespeople) from both countries meet annually as the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum. The first meeting was held at Government House in Wellington in 2004. The 9th Forum meeting was held in Sydney on 27 November 2013. The Forum plays an important role in the trans-Tasman relationship as it brings together key stakeholders for high level networking and information exchange, and allows them to explore possibilities for continuing to develop the relationship. Although strongly supported by both Governments, the Forum is a bipartisan, non-government grouping.

People-to-people contact is a key element of the relationship. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement allows New Zealand citizens and Australian residents freedom of movement to enter, reside and work in each other’s country. New Zealanders and Australians make over two million short term visits across the Tasman each year. There are substantial resident populations of New Zealanders in Australia, and of Australians in New Zealand.

Trans-Tasman trade

Australia is New Zealand’s number one bilateral trading partner in two-way trade (goods and services). In 2013, New Zealand rose to become Australia’s sixth largest two-way trading partner, making up 3.3% of Australia’s total trade. Read more on Trans-Tasman trade…

Closer Economic Relations

CER is a series of agreements and arrangements governing trade and economic relations between Australia and New Zealand, built on the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA) which took effect on 1 January 1983. As one of the world’s first bilateral free trade agreements, CER was an ambitious undertaking, and it is still regarded as setting benchmarks for bilateral trade relationships. It has been described by the World Trade Organisation as “the world’s most comprehensive, effective and mutually compatible free trade agreement.” Read more on CER…

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Towards a Single Economic Market (SEM)

Following on from the success of CER, successive New Zealand and Australian governments have committed to the long term goal of establishing a seamless trans-Tasman business environment – the Single Economic Market (SEM). The concept was first discussed in January 2004 by New Zealand and Australian Finance Ministers and has subsequently been endorsed by their successors and successive Prime Ministers. Read more on SEM…p of page

Closer Defence Relationship (CDR)

Australia and New Zealand have an alliance relationship, and the two defence forces have had the closest of relationships since the shared Gallipoli campaign of the First World War. The two countries shared an alliance relationship with the United States (ANZUS) from the end of World War 2 until the mid-1980s.

The end of ANZUS as a tripartite alliance led Australia and New Zealand to consider their own arrangements, embarking together on a process known as Closer Defence Relations or CDR (1991).   CDR is not a formal treaty, but a broad arrangement that spans a large number of agreements and arrangements including on policy, intelligence and security, logistics, and science and technology.  It was refreshed in the 2011 Review of the Australia/New Zealand Defence Relationship, which aimed to improve coordination and inter-operability and to identify areas for further cooperation.

Defence Ministers meet annually and have focused particularly on areas in which New Zealand and Australian troops are deployed, on the security challenges facing the immediate region and on interoperability of the two defence forces. There is significant operational collaboration between the two defence forces, which have engaged together in recent years in operations in Timor Leste, Bougainville, Solomon Islands and Tonga.

Engagement with the States

The bilateral political relationship is conducted between the two capitals, Wellington and Canberra. New Zealand’s relationship with the eastern states of Australia is also strong and dates back to the early days of European settlement. For a time the colony of New Zealand was administered from Sydney but we declined an invitation to join the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Australia’s states are political power centres in their own right, the focus of New Zealand traders and investors, and the base for the Australian media. New Zealand has a Consulate-General in Sydney which also covers Queensland, and the Trade Commissioner in Melbourne serves as Consul-General there. 

New Zealand Ministers visit state capitals when the opportunity arises, and develop links with their state counterparts through attending Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Standing and Select Council meetings. State Premiers make periodic visits to New Zealand.top of page

Trans-Tasman Cooperative Arrangements

New Zealand and Australia work together across a broad spectrum of governmental and non-governmental activity, and there are many cooperative arrangements in existence. The following are three examples:


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New Zealand is represented in Australia by:

Australia is represented in New Zealand by:


Travel advice

The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Australia [external link]. [external link].

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Page last updated: Monday, 04 August 2014 15:04 NZST