New Zealand’s story this year follows that of its big brother. Like Australia, the Kiwis have fallen two places in the index but their decline doesn’t necessarily indicate a weaker performance. Politically, 2016 saw the surprise resignation of John Key – one of the country’s most well-liked prime ministers – and subsequent election of his deputy Bill English who has also ridden a wave of domestic popularity. This smooth handover in leadership is reflected in another strong performance in our Government sub-index. Culturally, New Zealand is once again at the forefront of sporting diplomacy with the government investing significant resources into its sporting programmes and athletes. But while New Zealand is known for its unrivalled beauty, its isolated location means it welcomed the fewest international tourists last year. A more concentrated tourism push – including through the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign – will be needed to catapult the nation into the top half of our Culture sub-index.
A stable and effective government is once again New Zealand’s greatest asset. The transition between two prime ministers hasn’t done much to dent the country’s strong performance across the government effectiveness, trust in government, and voice and accountability metrics. New Zealand has also broken back into the top-10 of our polling data, after falling out in 2016.
For the second year in a row, New Zealand narrowly avoids the bottom of the Engagement sub-index. Geography and size understandably limits New Zealand’s ability to engage on the world stage on the same level as its northern hemisphere counterparts. But with the current redrawing of international relationships, New Zealand should be looking to integrate further.
In his resignation speech, Prime Minister John Keys said one of his regrets was not getting the Trans-Pacific Partnership “over the line”. With Trump’s “America First” policy in full force and the US pulling out of the agreement, Bill English has secured a mandate to assert New Zealand’s authority in salvaging what’s left of the deal.