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How is our Māori population changing?

Māori population growing

The number of people living in New Zealand who identify with the Māori ethnic group – the Māori ethnic population – reached an estimated 712,000 at 30 June 2015. Māori population growth was an estimated 1.5 percent in the year ended June 2015.

See Māori population estimates for more information.

Graph, Maori ethnic population, 1858–2038.

Māori ethnic population projections indicate the population will continue to grow over the coming decades. The projections suggest a population of 830,000–910,000 in 2025 and 1–1.18 million in 2038.

See national ethnic population projections for more information.

The Māori descent population – people who identify as being descended from a Māori – is larger than the Māori ethnic population. The respective populations were estimated at 812,000 and 692,000 at 30 June 2013.

All these population numbers exclude Māori living in other countries. The 2011 Australian Census indicated there were over 100,000 people of Māori ancestry living in Australia.

Births are the main driver of Māori population growth

The Māori population has grown from a census count of less than 50,000 in the late 1800s. This growth has been driven mainly by high rates of birth. During 2012–14, the total fertility rate – an indication of how many births women will have during their lifetime – was 2.5 for Māori women, compared with 1.9 for non-Māori women.

See age-specific fertility rates for the major ethnic groups for more information.

Ethnic intermarriage (parents with different ethnicities) also makes an important contribution to Māori population growth. In 2012–14, about one-quarter of Māori births (ie where the child is identified as Māori) had a non-Māori mother but a Māori father.

In addition, the Māori population has a much younger age structure than the non-Māori population. The Māori population has relatively high proportions at the child and childbearing ages, and low proportions at the older ages. A younger age structure provides greater built-in momentum for future growth. In 2015, half the Māori population was under 24 years of age, compared with a median age of 40 years for the non-Māori population.

Other components of population change – deaths, migration, and inter-ethnic mobility (changing ethnic identification) – have generally played smaller roles in changes in the Māori population.

Younger Māori age structure likely to persist

In 2015, 1 in 3 Māori are under 15 years of age, while only 1 in 17 are aged 65 years and over. By comparison, 1 in 6 non-Māori are aged under 15 years of age, while 1 in 6 are aged 65 years and over.

Graph, Maori and non-Maori ethnic populations, as at 30 June 2015.

The Māori population is expected to maintain a much younger age structure than the remainder of the New Zealand population. By 2038, half the Māori population will be younger than 28 years, compared with 24 years in 2015. Over the same period, the median age of the non-Māori population is projected to increase from 40 years to 45 years.

The Māori population will gradually age – with growing numbers and proportions of people in the older age groups – reflecting the combined impact of gradually reducing birth rates (people having fewer children) and people living longer.

Māori share of total population will increase

In 2015, 15 percent of New Zealand’s population identified with the Māori ethnic group. Among children (under 15 years), the share is higher, at 26 percent. Among people aged 65+ years, the share is lower, at 6 percent.

Projections indicate that the Māori ethnic group is likely to increase its share of the total population at all ages, reflecting higher growth rates on average, driven by high Māori birth rates and the younger Māori age structure. Depending on future trends in birth rates, the Māori population could account for nearly 20 percent of New Zealand’s population in 2038, and nearly one-third of New Zealand’s children. However, because of increasing ethnic intermarriage and identification of children with multiple ethnicities, there is likely to be parallel growth in people identifying with other ethnicities (including the Asian and Pacific ethnicities).

In the 2013 Census of Population and Dwellings, 54 percent of people identifying with the Māori ethnic group also identified with at least one other ethnic group.

See 2013 Census ethnic group profile for more information.

Note: population estimates are higher than census counts because the estimates include adjustments for people who do not answer the ethnicity question in the census, people missed by the census (net census undercount), people temporarily overseas on census night, as well as population change between census night and the date of the estimate.

At a local level

Population estimates indicate that the Māori ethnic population is growing across most of New Zealand’s areas. Population projections indicate that this growth is likely to continue across most areas, although the rate of the population growth will decline over time assuming birth rates drop further and the Māori population gradually ages.

NZ.Stat contains subnational Māori population estimates, by age-sex, in each census year (1996–2013), as well as subnational Māori population projections.

Published 17 November 2015

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