GlobeMostly friends – the impact of other nations on New Zealand

Many people in the world would struggle to name New Zealand if the country was described to them, let alone be able to point to it on a map (and that’s the way many Kiwis prefer it). Despite this, several countries and people from many different nations have played their part in shaping the New Zealand we know today.


The development of New Zealand culture and society by Māori is enormous and what sets New Zealand apart from every other nation. While the focus of this page is overseas nations, we recommend you find out more about Māori culture and customs or visit Te Ara's feature Māori New Zealanders.

United Kingdom

After Māori, the biggest single influence on the development and culture of Aotearoa has been the United Kingdom. The majority of New Zealanders have ancestors1 who arrived in New Zealand from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland2 after it became a colony. United Kingdom citizens are still the largest group of migrants to New Zealand today, being 29 per cent of all new settlers3. Around 1 in 16 people in New Zealand today were born in the United Kingdom4.

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New Zealand has a culture, style of government and institutions largely styled on the United Kingdom appraoch, mixed with Māori culture and the combined experience of successive generations of other migrants to these islands. Many of our everyday Kiwi favourites have their roots in United Kingdom culture, from Cadbury chocolate (who opened a Dunedin factory in 1930) and TVNZ to Marmite/Vegemite, rugby, seaside holidays and fish and chips.

Read the UK New Zealand High Commission’s view of NZ’s relationship with the UK and see the Te Ara (Encyclopaedia of New Zealand) content on the role played by the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish in shaping New Zealand.


Australia and New Zealand are closer than with any other nations. Read our article on the relationship between the two countries and see the Te Ara content on Australia’s influence on New Zealand. Over 62,0004 Australians live in New Zealand.

Pacific Island states

Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world and New Zealand is firmly anchored to its sister Pacific nations through trade, support and family links. Pacifican culture is a growing influence on Kiwi culture, particularly through events such as the annual Pasifika and Style Pasifika. Some 265,000 people identified as being Pacific people in the 2006 Census5, mainly from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands.


Over almost two centuries, New Zealand has become the home of people from many European countries, bringing with them an influence on our food and culture. After the United Kingdom, the Dutch are the largest group of Europeans in New Zealand (around 22,0004) followed by Germans (around 10,0004) and Russians (around 4,5004). Of all the European nations other than the United Kingdom, New Zealand’s relationship with France has probably been the most interesting. New Zealand nearly became a French colony, centred on Akaroa, before William Hobson signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of the United Kingdom government. In more recent years, New Zealand’s relationship with France has been turbulent as a result of the Rainbow Warrior bombing and French nuclear tests in the Pacific. Fewer than 2,500 French call New Zealand their home.


The greatest United States impact on New Zealand has arguably been through popular culture and the Americanisation of Kiwi culture rather than through politics or migration. Since the introduction of New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy and decision to pull out of the ANZUS alliance in 1984, our relationship with the United States has been cool but friendly. Over 17,0004 Americans are now at home in New Zealand.

Significant migrant groups

Large groups of migrants from several other countries have impacted on New Zealand life in many different ways since British settlement. The Chinese were the next significant group to migrate to New Zealand in their thousands, joining the gold rush which started in the 1860s. Migration from Commonwealth nations is also notable, including more than 41,000 South Africans and 9,000 Canadians now living in New Zealand.4

Asian nations

One of the biggest influences on New Zealand in the last 20 years has been our growing relationship with Asia and the increase in migration to New Zealand from Asia. From food to business, our focus on our place in Asia is growing. Over 78,000 Chinese now live in New Zealand, 43,000 Indians, 29,000 Koreans, 15,000 Filipinos, 14,000 Malaysians and 10,000 Taiwanese.4 Other nations and territories with significant migration to New Zealand include Japan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Pakistan.


Sources and notes

  1. 1: New Zealand in Profile 2006, Statistics New Zealand, May 2006.
  2. 2: Note: Ireland was part of the UK from 1801 to 1921. Since 1921, only Northern Ireland or Ulster has been part of the UK.
  3. 3: Permanent Residence Approvals, Migration Trends 05/06 report - December 2006 NZ Department of Labour.
  4. 4: Birthplace and people born overseas: QuickStats About Culture and Identity 2006 Census, Statistics New Zealand
  5. 5: Pacific peoples: QuickStats About Culture and Identity, 2006 Census, Statistics New Zealand