So what are the differences between Australia and New Zealand? Actually, there is little comparison. Both are islands and both are in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, both were British colonies, but that’s about it. Here’s a comparison showing how much they actually differ.
A Penal Colony vs. A Religious Colony
Here’s one great difference. Australia was a penal colony, a place where England unloaded its burgeoning prison population. New Zealand began its European settlement as a religious colony. Maybe it was a good thing that the two countries are over 1,200 miles apart with the Taxman Sea in between.
Another great difference is how they are governed. Australia’s governmental bodies are somewhat similar to America. There are states with state governments, and a prevailing central government over all. In New Zealand there is only one central government with a unicameral legislative body, a parliamentary democracy. Both, though, are constitutional monarchies.
Climate wise they are very different. New Zealand has glaciers, fertile soils, mountains, lakes, and coastal plains and seems to be as green as Ireland, maybe because it was spring when we visited.
Australia though is tropical at one end and arid and dry in its vast middle. There are deserts and long-term droughts. New Zealand has droughts but they are short-term.
Australia has over 24 million people in a country of almost 3 million square miles, while New Zealand has less than 5 million who live in a little under 103,000 square miles. Over 4.5 million Australians live in the greater Melbourne area alone, which is about the total population for all of New Zealand. Australia’s GDP per capita is almost $54,000. New Zealand’s is almost $43,000. In comparison the US’s is over $59,000.
Australia’s primary export is minerals (global coal) and New Zealand’s is agricultural (dairy products and meat). Australia’s minerals are owned by its government. Australians may own land but their government holds all the mineral rights on the privately owned lands.
Land in Australia is primarily owned by its governments to the tune of 72% of all land. Thirteen percent is owned by the aborigines and 15% by private landowners. I could find no land ownership estimates for New Zealand other than a ban on land ownership by foreigners.
New Zealand has major earthquakes. Australia natural disasters include cyclones, bush fires, and floods.
Both countries primarily speak English but New Zealand also speaks Maori, though Maoris only make up 8% of the total population. The indigenous people of Australia make up less than 1% of its population.
So what’s better is relative to us individually. Some will love Australia, especially those who like urbanity and the finer multi-cultural things of life, and others will prefer New Zealand for its long vistas and pastoral way of life. I liked them both because they were so different.