New Zealand's epidemic of meningococcal disease began in mid 1991. Surveillance of meningococcal disease in New Zealand is based on a combination of disease notification and organism characterisation. Case numbers and population rates rose from 53 (1.5 per 100,000 population) in 1990 to a high of 650 (17.4 per 100,000 population) in 2001. The highest rates of disease occur in Pacific peoples under 20 years but the highest percentages of cases occur in Maori and European New Zealanders. The epidemic has been driven by a strain identified as B:4:P1.7b,4, ST-41/44 complex/Lineage III. The stability of the P1.7b,4 Por A protein has been demonstrated suggesting that the epidemic may be controlled by a strain-specific OMV vaccine.