What Are The Major Natural Resources Of New Zealand?

Sheep and agricultural land on the Banks Peninsula in New Zealand.
Sheep and agricultural land on the Banks Peninsula in New Zealand.

New Zealand is a sovereign country found in southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, and it is made up of two main landmasses, the South Island, and the North Island, and more than 600 other smaller islands. The country lies about 1,200 miles to the eastern part of Australia and about 600 miles to the south of the Pacific islands such as Tonga, Fiji, and New Caledonia. As a result of its remote location, New Zealand is among the last lands to be settled by humans. New Zealand has one of the most advanced market economies in the world, and it was ranked 16th highest regarding human development index in 2018, and the third position regarding the index of economic freedom. The country is also ranked as a high-income country having a nominal GDP per capita of $36,254. New Zealand has numerous natural resources distributed across the country, and they include minerals such as limestone, gold, coal, iron ore, arable land, natural gas, forests, and hydropower among others.

Major Natural Resources


Mining in New Zealand has a long history which dates back the period before the European colonization of the country when the Maori people mined argillite. After the colonization, mining began in New Zealand in the latter period of the 19th century and the minerals produced since that time include limestone, gold, iron ore, silver, and coal. Mining industry contributes significantly to the economy of New Zealand, and in 2004 the value of production derived from mining with the exception of gas was valued that $1,142 million, which was approximately 1% on the country's GDP. In 2017, mining in New Zealand contributed about 1.3% of the country's GDP valued at $3,079 million. As of 2009, the mining sector employed about 6,800 people, and 8,000 more people were indirectly supported by mining. In 2008, the median wage income for the mining employee was about $5,732, and this compares with the nation’s median wage of $33,530.The mining sector in the country employs 5,300 people, which was equivalent to 0.2% of the country’s labor force of 2,593,000.


New Zealand has huge coal reserves, and in 2014 the country produced 4 million tones of the mineral out of which 44% were destined for the export market. In 2016, the production dropped to 2.8 million tonnes. The country's coal reserves are estimated t to be more than 15 billion tonnes, and they are mainly found in Taranaki, Waikato, west coast Southland, and Otago regions. It is estimated that about 80% of the mineral reserves in the country are found in the Southland and they are mainly lignite, and they are estimated to be worth more than $1,000 billion. Coal in New Zealand is obtained from 4 different underground shafts and 21 open-cast mines. The largest mining company in New Zealand is the state-owned, Solid Energy. In 2011, the country exported 2.1 million tons of coal out of a total of 4.9 million tons produced in the country. The Solid Energy Company is responsible for more than 8% for the total production in the country out of which 93% is bituminous and sub-bituminous coal. According to the ministry of economic development, New Zealand recoverable reserves of coal is approximately 8.6 billion tons.


Gold prospectors in New Zealand discovered gold in 1852 around the Coromandel and sparked the famous 1860s west coast gold rush, Otago gold rush, and the Coromandel gold rush. At first, gold was recovered in alluvial deposits, but later mining in quartz veins using the stamper batteries became the preferred method of coal production. As from the 1890s, Otago Rivers were heavily dredged for the search of gold, and floating dredges were used. As of 2003, it is estimated that about 998.71 tonnes of gold had been produced in New Zealand, which is slightly below 1% of the gold mined globally. In 2006, gold valued at $250 million was recovered from two large hard rock mines, different medium-sized alluvial mining, and several small alluvial mines.

Arable Land

As of 2014, the size of arable land in New Zealand was about 24% of the total land area of the country. Agriculture in New Zealand plays an important role in the economy and between 2006 and 2007 agriculture accounted for two-thirds of all export goods. For the year ending in March 2002, agricultural exports from New Zealand were valued at $14.8 billion. The country is a member of the Cairns group of countries advocating for free trade in agricultural goods. The government of New Zealand used agricultural subsidies in the early 1970s, and by 1980s the government offered farmers with about 40% of their income. In 1984, the new government stopped all farm subsidies in the country and by 1990 agriculture was the most deregulated industry in the country. To remain competitive in the heavily subsidized markets in the US and the European Union, farmers in New Zealand had to increase their efficiency, particularly in their operations. Some of the popular crops cultivated in New Zealand include oats, wheat, barley, corn, peas, lentils, canola, and clovers among others. In 2002, New Zealand had wheat grown in about 42,000 hectares of land, while barley occupied about 78,000 hectares of land, and corn was grown in about 14, 200 hectares of land.

Environmental Problems in New Zealand

New Zealand is facing a serious environmental problem caused by mining operations. Modification of landscapes and acid drainage are some of the serious environmental problems. Acid mine drainage from coal mining has affected several rivers and streams particularly in the Buller district in the west coast region of the south island. Regulations and enforcement of environmental laws have been weak. The Tui mine which is located within the Kaimai Range was closed down in 1973, and it is among the sites with the worst toxic waste in the country. The government has set aside about $10 million to go into cleaning up the site. In 2011, high levels of arsenic in the soil were discovered around the suburbs of Moanataiari, although the area had been reclaimed using mine tailings. In a period of hundred years, mountains such as Mount Smart in Auckland was mined and reduced the level of the surrounding land, and similarly, other volcanic mountains in Auckland have suffered the same fate.


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