To many people the English of New Zealand and Australia sounds very similar. It is true that they share a number of common features. However, the two varieties of English can be distinguished from one another.
The vowels of New Zealand and Australian English are not identical. In words such as "sit" and "this," New Zealand has a centralized vowel which corresponds to the schwa of unstressed syllables. The New Zealand pronunciation of "fish and chips" is quite different from the Australian.
In words such as "too" and "cool," Australian English has a diphthong but New Zealand English has a monophthong. The New Zealand vowel is centralized and thus pronounced with a more advanced articulation than the Australian vowel which is a back vowel.
In words such as "boat" and "home," Australian English has a low back vowel in the first component of the diphthong but New Zealand English has a low mid central one. The first component in New Zealand English is the vowel of the word "up."
In words with the letter "r" such as "pear" and "beer," the "r" is not pronounced. The exception is a part of the South Island of New Zealand which was influenced by a large number of Scottish immigrants. However, Australian and New Zealand speakers have different pronunciations of these words. Australians have a single vowel in "pear" and "beer." New Zealanders, however, pronounce these words with two vowels. The first vowel is a front vowel and the second is a schwa. This pronunciation is also common in England.
Words such as "first" and "service" have a lower and more rounded vowel in New Zealand English than in Australian. The New Zealand pronunciation is unique among varieties of English.
The words "woman" and "women," distinguished in Australian English, are pronounced alike in New Zealand. New Zealanders pronounce both words with the central unrounded vowel known as a schwa.
Though Australian and New Zealand English may be difficult to distinguish for many, they are not identical. They have a number of differences and these differences are particularly evident in their vowels. Knowledge of these differences can make it possible to identify the two varieties of English.