19. New Zealand

New Zealand is a new and dynamic actor in the space sector with a focus on “new space”. The New Zealand Space Agency in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, was set up in 2016 as the official government institution in charge of space policy, regulation and business development. New Zealand’s location provides access to some of the largest numbers of launch azimuths in the world, and low air traffic enables high-frequency launch.

In 2017 the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act was passed, which regulates orbital launch vehicles, launch facilities and satellites, as well as high-altitude activities (New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 2017[1]). New Zealand also has a Technology Safeguards Agreement with the United States, enabling the transfer of technology necessary to operate a New Zealand-based launch industry.

New Zealand’s spending on space activities and R&D is broad and spread across several government departments. New Zealand’s departmental space budget is NZD 3.7 million per year (USD 2.7 million). In addition to this, New Zealand spent NZD 3.9 million supporting space science and research in 2017-18. That will rise to NZD 6.02 million for 2018-19. Substantial R&D occurs within industry, and space-related companies like Rocket Lab have received government R&D grants of up to NZD 5 million per year to supplement their R&D budgets. From 2018, companies can apply for a tax credit for R&D activities and this will apply across all sectors, including space.

New Zealand has also been investing in skills and R&D capability including through the establishment of the Space Systems Institute based at the University of Auckland and an agreement with NASA for internships at their Ames Research Centre in California. A programme of space science investments will begin in 2018-19, including under a Letter of Intent signed with DLR.

New Zealand has several publicly-funded research institutions contributing to the development and use of space science and technologies across a variety of areas, such as Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). Universities also play an active role in global space science research, for instance the University of Auckland’s Space Science Institute (SSI).

Key emerging areas of expertise include the development of capabilities in responsive launch, smallsats, high-tech manufacturing, data analysis and integration, earth observation application development and ground stations. The country hosts the world’s first fully private orbital launch facility at Mahia Peninsula, owned and operated for their sole use by Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab, a US company with a subsidiary in New Zealand, is the leading commercial actor in the New Zealand space industry, and had its first successful test launch in 2018. New Zealand also has upstream business activity in components and materials, for instance C-Tech (carbon fibre), Rapid Advanced Manufacturing (3-D printing), and subsystems, for instance Hyperion Technologies and Rakon.

In the downstream space sector, strong transport and telecommunications infrastructure in southern latitudes means New Zealand also hosts ground stations supporting international space programmes and some of the biggest commercial players of ‘new space’. The Awarua Satellite Ground Station hosts antennas for both public and private satellite operators (e.g. Planet, Spire, ESA) and has a high-speed fibre optic link to the main telecommunications network (Venture Southland, 2018[2]). Furthermore, a number of companies provide and export space-related services and products in areas such as land management, precision agriculture, atmospheric and oceanographic research, geosciences and hazard management.

Since 2017, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and Geoscience Australia have trialled a satellite-based augmentation system for Australia and New Zealand to improve GNSS signal accuracy. Furthermore, the Centre for Space Science Technology was funded to help industries access and use space-derived data, with an initial NZD 15 million funding over three years (Centre for Space Science Technology, 2017[3]).

New Zealand’s share in scientific publications in the OECD space literature dataset (see guide to the profiles) is comparable to that of Ireland and has remained stable since 2000, with a small increase in the last years. The penetration of satellite television has remained stable since 2010, while the satellite fixed broadband subscription rate has decreased. This decrease is related to the progressive introduction of mainly terrestrial ultra-fast broadband in New Zealand.

Figure 19.1. New Zealand – Fast facts
Figure 19.1. New Zealand – Fast facts
Figure 19.2. Scientific production in space literature, per country
Share of total space publications, 2000, 2008 and 2016
Figure 19.2. Scientific production in space literature, per country

Source: OECD analysis based on Scopus Custom Data, Elsevier, July 2018.

Figure 19.3. Penetration of satellite telecommunication technologies in New Zealand
Satellite broadband and satellite TV subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, 2009-16
Figure 19.3. Penetration of satellite telecommunication technologies in New Zealand

Source: OECD analysis based on OECD Broadband database, https://www.oecd.org/sti/broadband/broadband-statistics/, and ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database.


[3] Centre for Space Science Technology (2017), About Us, http://www.csst.co.nz/satellite-data-brokerage/ (accessed on 10 October 2017).

[1] New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (2017), Regulatory impact statement: The Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017 Regulations, Wellington, http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/space/new-zealand-space-agency/document-image-library/folder-pdf-library/ris-oshaa-2017-regulations.pdf (accessed on 9 October 2017).

[2] Venture Southland (2018), Southland’s Space Industry, http://venturesouthland.co.nz/projects/diversification-of-the-southland-economy/southlands-space-industry (accessed on 22 March 2018).

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