AIM To summarise the transplant-related activity of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit over the first four years. METHODS The records of all patients assessed for liver transplantation between 1 December 1997 and 30 December 2001 were examined. Listing criteria, demographics, waiting time, transplant-hospitalisation details and long-term outcome for those who underwent liver transplantation were recorded. RESULTS One hundred and eighty six patients over 14 years of age (acute liver failure 28, chronic liver disease 158) were assessed and 150 were listed for liver transplantation. Fifteen died waiting, 13 were de-listed (6 for cancer progression) and 14 remain listed. One hundred and nine liver transplants (including 1 combined heart-liver, 1 sequential liver-bone marrow and 5 re-transplants) were performed on 104 patients (13 acute liver failure, 96 chronic liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma). The median waiting time was 2 days (range 0 5) for acute liver failure and 62 days (range 0 320) for other patients. Median age at transplant was 50 years (range 14-70); 73 patients (66%) were male; 71 (65%) were European; 13 (12%) Maori; 12 (11%) Pacific Islander; and 8 (7%) Asian. Median duration of surgery was 480 minutes (range 300 720 minutes); red cell transfusion 5 units (0 32); intensive care and total hospital stays were 2 (range 1 17) and 11 days (range 6 91). One transplanted patient died in hospital, 1- and 3-year patient survival was 94% and 87% and corresponding graft survival was 91% and 83%. Ninety three transplanted patients (89%) are alive. Of the 92 patients at least three months post-transplant, 62 (67%) were employed. CONCLUSION Liver transplantation is now established in New Zealand as treatment of choice for acute and chronic liver failure and small hepatocellular carcinoma. Excellent outcomes have been attained in those transplanted to date. Reduction in waiting list mortality will require identification of and investment in strategies that will expand the donor organ availability.