Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Region


  1. Regional Characteristics
  2. Australia
  3. New Zealand
  4. Review Questions

Regional Characteristics

Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Region, as a whole, comprise the largest geographic region in terms of square miles. The region is 8000 miles East to West and 6000 miles North to South. This region covers the area from Easter Island at 109 degrees west, to the western edge of Australia at 115 degrees east and from the Marshall Islands at 28 degrees north extending to the southern tip of New Zealand at 47 degrees south. Australia and New Zealand are geographic antipodes of their European Core, the origin of their strongest cultural tie.

Most of the land, in this region, is arid and has little geographic relief. There are some exceptions, however. In the Pacific Region there are some mountainous volcanic islands that receive rain, like Hawaii, that has mountains that reach 14,000 feet. In New Zealand there is a mountain range called the Southern Alps with peaks reaching beyond 11,700 feet. In Canberra is the Snowy Mountains, the only place in Australia where there is snow and mountains.

The region has a population of 28.9 million people. Australia has a population of 18.5 million, New Zealand has a population of 3.5 million, Micronesia has a population of 450,000, Melanesia has a population of 5.5 million, and Polynesia has a population of 1.8 million. Approximately 7 million of the people are indigenous to the region. The majority of the remaining population are primarily of European descent, mostly living in Australia and New Zealand.


Australia came to its present day location after separating from Gowanda 100- 200 million years ago and moving south 3100 miles. For roughly 80 million of those years, most of the continent was under a glacier. The first inhabitants reaching the continent, approximately 50 to 60 thousand years ago, were the Aborigines.

James Cook discovered Australia for the British in 1770. The discovery led to the first settlement at Port Jackson, now known as Sydney Harbor in 1778. The first British settlers came by way of the First Fleet of 11 ships with 736 convicts and their guards. Captain Arthur Phillip, who later became Australia’s first governor, headed the First Fleet. The second settlement from England was in van Dieman's Land that is now called Tasmania. Tasmania was used as a place to bring prisoners from England, to be used as slaves. Their crimes were as little as stealing a loaf of bread. Free settlers trickled in from 1793, lured by the promise of cheap land and convict labor.

The English used Australia for 80 years as a place to send convicts that were sentenced to deportation. When England lost control of the 13 colonies of America, a new area was needed as an area to which criminals could be deported. By the time the last ship of convicts arrived in Australia in 1868, there were as many as 165,000 deportees in Australia. The convicts were sent to Australia in terrible circumstances such as overcrowded boats, where countless prisoners died and were thrown overboard. Many who survived the voyage arrived sick and unable to fend for themselves in the penal colonies.

At the time of the first settlement, Australia had an Aborigine population of approximately 300,000 people. In Tasmania, the Aborigines were exterminated by the British, while those located on the coasts of mainland Australia were forced to flee inland or were killed. Distance protected the northern Aborigine communities longer. This destruction dropped the Aborigine population to as low as 100,000. The current Aborigine population is approximately 200,000.

In 1859, Australia consisted of six separate colonies, Victoria and South Australia (convict free), Queensland (2nd offense convicts from Sydney), Western Australia (convicts for rural work), New South Wales and Tasmania. Each colony had an independent government that was ruled from London. On January 1, 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. The six colonies became states and 2 Federal Territories were created. The Northern Territory was created to protect the interests of the Aborigines. The other federal territory was created in New South Wales for the establishment of the new federal capitol Canberra.

Australia has a population of 18.5 million based on 1997 estimates. Sidney and Melbourne each contain 8 million of Australia’s population. The demographics of Australia's population are 85% urban 15% rural with most of the population living on the eastern coast. Few people live more than 50 miles inland. The Aboriginal population is 200,000. Half of the Aborigines live in the northwest region, with the remainder living in the cities. Australia is a large country, however, most of the population is heavily concentrated in an area that lies in the East and Southeast. A secondary core of population has developed in the Southwest around Perth. Most of the population is located in areas that have a humid mid-temperate climate. The bulk of Australia is dry desert that is an inhospitable area to live.

Agriculture has always been an important part of Australia's export income. In the late 1940's, it produced 80% of Australia's export income. Currently agriculture produces about 45% of the export income. This reduction is mainly because of increased mineral exports. Sheep ranches, cattle ranches and wheat farming dominate agriculture today. Australia currently produces 30% of the world's wool.

Gold was discovered in Victoria and New South Wales in 1851. Making them the most prosperous in Australia. This produced a 10-year gold rush that started a new economic era. By 1855 Australia was producing 40% of the world's gold.

Australia's mineral resources are extremely diverse. Australia has enormous reserves of coal, uranium, iron ore, bauxite, natural gas, lead, and zinc. The mining sector in Australia expanded at remarkable rates during the 60's and 70's so that Australia now accounts for about 1/5 of the world coal exports, 1/3 of bauxite, 1/5 of aluminum and 90% of the world's opals. In the mid 1990's, Japan is buying 1/3 of all Australian mineral exports.

Australian manufacturing remains oriented to the local domestic markets. Their manufacturing is quite diversified and clustered near major urban areas where the markets are located. Tariff barriers protect the industry because the small and scattered domestic market does not prompt production that is competitive with foreign imports. The protection of the manufacturing industry by tariff barriers is being reduced to make it a more efficient and export-oriented sector of the economy.

Australia implemented the White Australia immigration policy in the late 1800's. The Australian government recognized the vulnerability of a relatively small white population controlling such a large land mass so close to overpopulated regions of Asia. During times of prosperity the government-supported immigration, while during times of recession, immigration was opposed. Until 1973 these immigration practices showed a strong preference for people of British origin and exclusion of nonwhites. Currently immigrants are selected by their education, job skills needed by Australia and potential for adapting to life in Australia.

All throughout Australia live many different kinds of kangaroo. The koala live in the southern coastal regions where the climate is wetter. The dingo, a dog like animal that likes to eat sheep, lives here. The sheep ranchers had to put up a dingo fence to keep them from eating their sheep. On the island of Tasmania lives the Tasmanian Devil.  The Tasmanian Tiger, last seen in the 1930s, has gone extinct with the.

There are three major parties that dominate Australian politics. The first one is the Australian Labor Party (ALP), which is the oldest party. The second one consists of the Liberal and National parties, since they often form a coalition to oppose the ALP. The third party is the Australian Democrats Party.

Australia’s One Nation Party was launched as a result of the Australians support for Pauline Hanson’s vision and courage. It began in April 1997. One year after Pauline Hanson was elected to represent the people of Oxley (Queensland) in the 1996 Federal Elections. Within 14 months of its launch, the One Nation Party took 25% of the primary vote and 11 parliamentary seats from the mainstream political parties in the Queensland State Election. After 16 months, it had 300 branches throughout the country and 25,000 members. There are 6 main goals of the One Nation Party: 1. To reduce immigration to match the number of people leaving Australia, or a zero net gain basis, until unemployment is addressed. 2. To cap population for environment reasons. 3. To treat all Australians equally and abolish divisive and discriminatory policies such as those attached to aboriginal and multicultural affairs. 4. To restrict foreign ownership of Australia, repeal the Native Titles Act, abolish ATSIC and reverse WIK. 5. To restore tariff protection, revitalize Australian manufacturing and initiate financial support for small business and rural sector. 6. To take positive action on such matters as taxation reforms, education, health, unemployment, crime, and the discrimination created by political correctness.

Australia is a large country that is about the size of the contiguous 48 states of America. It has a small population with a high standard of living. Its prosperity is dependent on agricultural and mineral exports. The manufacturing sector is non-competitive in the world markets. Australian world trade was originally dependent on Britain and the European Community, but has since shifted to the United States and is currently shifting toward Asia. In fact, Japan has become Australia's leading trade partner. Australia is beginning to become part of the Asian region it adjoins.

New Zealand

New Zealand is similar to Australia in the following ways: Peripheral development, the populations are of similar ancestry, population clustered in urban agglomerations, they have large land areas in proportion to population, geographically remote from Europe with which they have their strongest cultural ties, and integration into the economic framework of the western Pacific Rim principally as suppliers of raw materials.

New Zealand contrasts with Australia in the following ways: New Zealand is mountainous, smaller physically, has more precipitation, utilizes hydroelectric power, has more manufacturing, is much less populated, was never used for prisoners, and half of New Zealand is pasture land.

The population of New Zealand is 3.6 million. Of the 3.6 million approximately 500,000 are Maori's the indigenous Polynesians. Two thirds of the population live on the North Island of New Zealand. The breakdown of New Zealand's population is 84% urban 16% rural. Although 84% of the population live in urban areas, New Zealand does not have a large urban center. The largest city in New Zealand is Auckland, with a population of 900,000. New Zealand like Australia is dominated by peripheral development, caused in New Zealand by the high rugged mountains. The major cities are all located on the coast and the entire railway and road systems are peripheral in their configuration.

Wool, meat and dairy products provide over 33 % of New Zealand's export revenues, which places New Zealand among the world's top exporters of these products. Although less than 1% of the population in New Zealand farm, agriculture has generated most of New Zealand's wealth. New Zealand has one of the world's highest proportions of livestock to human population, a ratio of 23:1.

New Zealand's attempts to diversify its economy through industrialization have not been very successful. New Zealand has been hampered by the lack of a variety of mineral resources, a small local market that is dispersed over a large area and a high cost of skilled labor. Most of the current manufacturing industries in New Zealand are high cost producers that survive because they are protected by import tariffs.

The Maori minority in New Zealand has a more significant role in New Zealand life than the Aborigines do in Australian life. Many of the Maori's have a good education and professional jobs. The 20th century has witnessed a revival of the Maori culture and a slow pace of integration of the Maori's into New Zealand society, which in the 1990's has caused the Maori presence to become the leading national issue. The Maori population is growing rapidly and could double to 25% of the total population by the year 2010.

New Zealand has a high rate of emigration, mainly to Australia. This major factor that causes this high rate of emigration is that New Zealand has a sameness about it, a perception by its people that nothing changes or they cannot find jobs and this causes the emigration of the younger generation. This emigration occurs even though New Zealand is a socialist country that provides an elaborate cradle-to- grave system of welfare benefits.

Review Questions

1. Australia and New Zealand's antipodes would be: A. Japan; B. SE Asia; C. Hawaii; D. South Africa; E. Northwest Europe.

2. Which of the following is not true about Australia: A. Australia lies remote from the places with which they have the strongest cultural and economic ties; B. Australia has the lowest average elevation and the lowest overall relief of all the continental landmasses; C. Australia, with a large and diverse natural resource base, is a continent of substantial untapped potential; D. Australia's population distribution is decidedly peripheral as well as highly clustered; E. Australia's population of over 40 million is much larger than that of Canada.

3. Most of Australia's domestic production of cane sugar and tropical fruits are in northerly locations, nearer the equator, in: A. Central Australia; B. New South Wales; C. Queensland; D. Victoria; E. Tasmania.

4. Australia's population is: A. greater than 85% urban; B. mostly rural; C. spread evenly across the southern part of the country; D. about evenly divided between urban and rural; E. mostly in the northern part of the country.

5. Australia's wheat: A. is grown in the northern part of the country; B. is grown mostly in the center of the country; C. is Australia largest export; D. is Australia's second greatest agricultural export commodity; E. exceeds sheep derived income.

6. Australia is marked by a vast arid and semiarid interior, extensive open plainlands, and A. tropical periphery; B. arid periphery; C. grassland periphery D. marginal moister peripheral zones; E. none of the above.

7. Australia's population distribution is decidedly peripheral in location and A. evenly distributed; B. highly clustered; C. mostly northerly in location; D. mostly interior in location; E. mostly western in location.

8. Australia's indigenous Aborigine population was almost completely submerged by the European invasion, is now A. numerically small and participates only slightly in modern society; B. a major part of Australian society; C. numerically large; D. an important element of Australian population and society; E. none of the above.

9. New Zealand economy is dominated by: A. wool and wheat; B. wool and cattle; C. wool and kiwi; D. steel and wool; E. aluminum and steel.

10. New Zealand's population is: A. ethnically diverse; B. mainly white with a small but growing percentage of indigenous people; C. growing very quickly and will double in population by the year 2000; D. is being affected by large number of immigrants; E. none of the above.

11. Population policies in Australia: A. has led to a predominantly 'White Australia'; B. have tended to encourage immigration from Britain, Italy, Germany, Greece, and Eastern Europe (mostly Poland); C. allowed Asian immigrants after 1966 if they were urgently needed; D. as adopted in 1901 with the support of the Australian Labor Movement, allowed only white immigrants up until recently; E. all of the above

12. In the height of the Australian gold rush of the 1850's, Australia provided what percentage of the world's gold production: A. 30%; B. 35%; C. 40%; D. 45%; E. 50%;

13. Which is not one of Australia's largest cities? A. Sydney; B. Melbourne; C. Auckland; D. Brisbane; E. Perth.

Submitted by Robert Kent on 10-17-97. Resubmitted by Michelle Lee 11/20/98.