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Primary Industries

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Primary industries in New Zealand produce, process and move goods around New Zealand and across the world.

Primary industries in New Zealand include:

People rely on primary industries. A lot of people work in these industries. Primary industries have to deal with some of the world's biggest problems, such as:

  • biosecurity risks
  • animal welfare
  • food safety
  • the effects of climate change.

People working in primary industries help feed, shelter, and clothe the world.

Primary Industries have always been important to New Zealand. They earn over $36 billion a year in exports.


Agriculture does well in New Zealand because animals can mainly eat grass. New Zealand farmers are also very skilled. They use technology and science to help produce more from less.


Most forestry blocks are privately-owned exotic forests. Pine is the main form of forestry in New Zealand.

By law, most of New Zealand’s native forests cannot be cut down.


The main New Zealand fruits sold overseas are:

  • kiwifruit
  • grapes
  • apples
  • pears
  • avocados.

New Zealand also makes over 19,000 tonnes of honey.


Fishing has become a major export industry. Fisheries are managed by a system which sets limits on catching fish. There are limits on the number of fish that can be caught. Sometimes there are also limits on the size of fish that can be taken. As well as fish there are also exports of squid, lobster and farmed mussels.

Ministry for Primary Industries

The Ministry for Primary Industries manages primary industries. They set rules and manage: 

  • Biosecurity
  • Animal welfare
  • Food safety.

Ready for a quiz? Try the "New Zealand Primary Industries" interactive activity.

Audio Māori keywords: 

What primary industries are there in your community and how have they changed over time?

A World of Industry

The Apple Industry


Primary Industries are important to New Zealand's economy. New Zealand's dairy products feed over 100 million people world-wide. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.

New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of sheep meat and cross-bred (strong) wool. Image: Andrew Penny, LEARNZ.

Science and technology are helping to make New Zealand's primary industries more productive. Do you know what this machine is used for? Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.

In 2016 kiwifruit provided over $1.6 billion in export earnings. Image: Public Domain.

In New Zealand limits are set on the number and size of fish that people can catch. Why do you think these limits are set? Image: Public Domain.