I am curious how to avoid google penalizing a site. In short it operates under .com.au, however with the expansion of more regional features it would be nice to bring the .co.nz domain online. When individuals visit via .co.nz the logo will customise to a .co.nz, and a few other content areas of the website will be changed to suit as well. However the bulk of the actual content will be the same, it's just a few areas that will be changed to suit the region.
What is the best way to avoid google penalizing for duplicate content?
Essentially you should have no problem bringing both sites online as long as they don't have exactly the same content. Furthermore, you can have either website target a specific country with settings in Google Webmaster Tools.
Just remove this misconception that Google ever "Penalizes" sites for duplicate content. If that was the case, there would only reside 1 list on first page with unique text.
I would suggest modifying the content as well because you want increase relevancy as much as possible. And start getting links from NZ sites and AU sites separately. This means you get ranked on Google NZ and Google AU both.
There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. But I do suggest that you change the content up a bit. It will help much more. I think others have suggested that as well.
That depends on what you mean by penalty. If Google finds duplicate content or a content strategy that seems suspicious, it will simply not rank well nor will the links from that content be worth anything. To me, that's seems like a penalty.