WELLINGTON: Australia's ploy to put the ball in the right spot and let a green pitch do the work for them has helped them take a firm grip of the first test against New Zealand, fast bowler Josh Hazlewood said after the first day's play.

Australia were 147 for three in reply to New Zealand's first innings of 183, with Hazlewood and Peter Siddle destroying the home side's top order to set up their batsmen to capitalise on a Basin Reserve wicket that got better to bat on.

Hazlewood finished with 4-42, while Siddle took 3-37 after they had exploited what seam assistance there was to reduce New Zealand to 51-5 inside 12 overs, before Nathan Lyon mopped up the tail.

"It was just about putting the ball in the right areas and letting the wicket do the work," Hazlewood told reporters. "There wasn't a great deal of swing but there was a bit of seam movement throughout the whole day.

"I think while the ball is new it will still do a little bit, but once that shine and hardness out of the ball has gone it's quite a good wicket for batting."

New Zealand had also started well when they bowled after tea, with Tim Southee reducing Australia to five for two before a 126-run partnership between captain Steve Smith (71) and Usman Khawaja (57 not out) guided them into a strong position.

The visitors could have been in dire straits but Smith was dropped on 18 by Mark Craig at second slip and BJ Watling could not stump Khawaja, then on 34, from the off-spinner.

"Looking back I probably owe the boys 50 runs, putting Smith down at second there," Craig said. "No one likes dropping catches and that is pretty disappointing there personally.

"That's the rub of the green," he added of the potential stumping. "Another day that could have gone to BJ."

Craig, who top-scored for New Zealand with 41 not out, said while they would have liked to have scored more runs, they had learned a lot from the Australian bowlers and would need to emulate them when they return on Saturday.

"Once they bowled that fuller length it was doing enough to go either way and take both edges," he said.

"We have to put the ball in the right areas for long enough and see if we can grab a couple of wickets and take it from there. That first session is crucial for us."