New Zealand has been ranked fifth in the world for its positive contribution to humanity.

It's the only non-European country to make the top 10 of the Good Country Index, which measures 125 countries on how much they give to the "greater good" of the world.

Countries were judged in seven categories, including science, culture, peace, climate, equality and health.

New Zealand ranked fifth overall, beating Britain (7th), Australia (15th), and the United States (21st).


Kiwis scored highly (7th) for their contribution to the planet and climate, with no hazardous waste exports, and for science and technology (10th), with a large number of international students and journal publications, patents and Nobel prizes.

But its rank was brought down by its poor scores in equality and prosperity (41st), and international peace and security (37th), where it was marked down for its role in international conflict and arms exports.

Ireland claimed the top spot on the Good Country Index.

Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, said it showed New Zealand does "remarkably well given where we are in the world and our size".

"It tells us something that we've known for a very long time, that New Zealand is a great little country. We should be proud of ourselves."

The high score in science and technology showed "we have a remarkably effective scientific system".

The high score on climate reflected the nature of New Zealand's large agricultural-based economy, he said.

A breakdown of scores also showed Kiwis did well on charitable giving, food and humanitarian aid, something Gwen Green, Oxfam NZ's engagement director, said was a "striking" feature of New Zealanders.

Michael Tritt of Greenpeace said it was great New Zealand was recognised for its beautiful environment. But he said future success could be hindered by oil-drilling policies.

The Good Country Index merged 35 data sets produced by bodies including the United Nations, World Health Organisation, and Unesco over nearly three years.