In 1984, New Zealand adopted a nuclear-free policy, thereby prohibiting the entry of nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered vessels to its ports. This decision led to a conflict with the United States at a particularly tense time during the Cold War.
As a result, relations became strained leading to suspension of US-NZ cooperation in many areas and termination of the Security Treaty among Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (ANZUS).
In response to these diplomatic frictions, the United States | New Zealand Council was founded in late 1985 to encourage informal bilateral communication at a time when government-to-government contact had become strained and limited.
Anne Martindell, a former U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand (1979 – 1981), was the driving force behind the privately-funded, non-profit, non-partisan Council. Serving as the group’s first President, Ambassador Martindell assembled a board of directors which included diplomats, academics, and business leaders with strong interests in United States – New Zealand relations.
“It is my hope that this Council will seek to strengthen the ties that bind our two democratic countries together in as many ways as our imagination can lead us,” she said at its founding.
During her tenure as head of the United States | New Zealand Council, she helped foster friendship and a new level of trust between the two nations. By sponsoring activities that encouraged open, informal dialogue among government officials and private sector leaders, the Council played a critical role in keeping open the lines of communication and cooperation.
During its 27-year history, the United States | New Zealand Council has:
• Hosted US and NZ officials and business leaders, including former Prime Ministers James Bolger and Helen Clark, and current Prime Minister John Key.
• Established the Friends of New Zealand Congressional Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
• Sponsored a series of conferences called the US – NZ Partnership Forums, bringing together government, business, and academic leaders for high-level policy discussions.
• Launched a major charitable giving campaign called the American Friends of Christchurch to help victims of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and rebuild the city.
• Advocated on behalf of its members’ interests on such issues as trade liberalization, investment rules, and visa policies.
• Supported cultural events and internship opportunities for American and New Zealand university students.
Today, the United States and New Zealand have moved far beyond the issues of the 1980s to forge a vital bilateral relationship that is the strongest it has been – politically and economically – in generations.
This increasingly important renaissance in US-NZ ties offers new business, strategic, and cultural opportunities for our two nations … and the United States | New Zealand Council.
We are more committed than ever to advancing our shared interests, as Ambassador Martindell said, “in as many ways as our imagination can lead us.”