Supposedly NZ had one of the highest GDPs per capita after WW2 because of the high demand for woollen army clothing. At least that's why the dormitory buildings I live in in Christchurch exist, to support all the farming boarders that were getting rich off wool. We did hit a rough spot in the 80s (studied the Springbok Tour at school) and all that. Now I hear from those farming boarders wool isn't profitable anymore.
I think we are a bit like Greece before the Eurozone crisis. Rich but with not that much way to pay for it; NZers expect world class living but I really can't see how we can afford it. And of course politicians tend to be lax, especially at the local level.