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Births and Deaths: Year ended December 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  19 February 2013

Live births down in 2012

There were 61,178 live births registered in New Zealand in 2012, down 225 from 2011. This is the lowest number of births since 2006, when 59,193 births were registered.

In part, annual fluctuations in births reflect changes in the size and age of the population, the age at which women have children, and the number of children they have. In turn, the number of births influences the future size and age of the population. 

The highest number of births ever recorded in any December year was 65,390, in 1961. At that time, New Zealand's population was just 2.5 million, compared with 4.5 million in 2012.

Number of Auckland births stable

There were 22,837 live births in the Auckland region during 2012, up slightly from 22,660 in 2011. The number of births in the Auckland region has been relatively stable over the last five years, accounting for an average of 37 percent of all New Zealand births. Auckland accounts for approximately 34 percent of New Zealand's population.

For babies born to mothers living in the Auckland region, just over 6 out of 10 had at least one parent born in New Zealand, compared with nearly 9 out of 10 for the rest of New Zealand.

Babies born in Auckland in 2012 were more likely to have a Pacific or Asian ethnicity compared with the rest of New Zealand, and were less likely to belong to the European or Māori ethnic groups.

Births by ethnic group (based on the child's ethnicity)

 Ethnic group  Percent
Auckland Rest of New Zealand 
 European 52   76
 Māori 20  33
 Pacific 28  9
 Asian 26  9
Note: Babies may belong to more than one ethnic group. As a result percentages sum to more than 100 percent.

European and Māori babies in Auckland were more likely to also belong to at least one other ethnic group compared with the rest of New Zealand. Pacific and Asian babies born in Auckland were less likely to have multiple ethnicities than babies in these ethnic groups born elsewhere in the country.

Women aged 30–34 years have the highest fertility rate

Age-specific fertility rates measure the number of live births 1,000 women in a particular age-group have in a given period (usually a year).

In 2012, women aged 30–34 years had the highest fertility rate (122 births per 1,000 women aged 30–34 years). The next highest fertility rates were as follows:

  • 25–29 years – 105
  • 20–24 years – 71
  • 35–39 years – 71.

Compared with the high fertility seen in the early 1960s, women in all age groups now have fewer babies. In 1962, women aged 20–24 had the highest fertility rate (265 per 1,000), followed by those aged 25–29 years (259 per 1,000) and 30–34 years (152 per 1,000).

Graph, Age-specific fertility rates, 1962–2012.

Median age of mother

The median age (half are younger and half older than this age) of New Zealand women giving birth is now 30 years, compared with 26 years in the early 1960s. The median age dropped to just under 25 years in the early 1970s.

Although there has been a significant increase in the median age since the 1970s, it has stayed relatively stable over the past decade at around 30 years. While there has been a small drop since 2005, this does not necessarily indicate a reversal of the trend towards older childbearing, but partly reflects changes in age structure within the childbearing age group.

Graph, Median age of mother, 1962–2012.

Total fertility rate lower

The total fertility rate summarises the age-specific fertility rates into a single-number indicator of fertility. It indicates, on average, the number of babies a woman would have in her lifetime if the age-specific fertility rates in a given period stayed the same throughout her life.

The total fertility rate for 2012 was 2.05 births per woman – down from 2.06 births in 2011. Annual fluctuations in the total fertility rate do not necessarily indicate changes in family size, but rather changes in the timing of births.

New Zealand's total fertility rate has been relatively stable over the last three decades, averaging 2.02 births per woman. During this period, the total fertility rate varied from 1.89 births per woman (in 1998 and 2002) to 2.18 (in 1990 and 2008). In contrast, fertility rates increased dramatically from the mid-1940s, peaking at 4.31 births per woman in 1961. New Zealand then experienced decreasing fertility over the following two decades.

Graph, Total fertility rate, 1921–2012.  

Small increase in the number of deaths

The number of deaths registered during 2012 was 30,099, up very slightly from 30,082 in 2011. The increase in the number of deaths is not unexpected. The number of deaths is gradually increasing due to population growth in the older age groups, although this is partly offset by longer life expectancy.

Fifty years ago, in 1962, deaths numbered 22,081. The number of deaths increased over the following 10 years, to 24,801 in 1972. Deaths averaged 26,512 per year during the 1980s, 27,196 during the 1990s, and 28,093 during the 2000s. Our population projections (median projection) indicate that the number of deaths will continue to increase, passing 40,000 in 2033 and 50,000 in 2046. 

Compared with 20 years ago, death rates dropped for all ages. Overall, deaths are increasingly concentrated in the older age groups. The median age at death in 2012 was 78 years for males and 83 years for females, compared with 72 years and 79 years, respectively, in 1992. The standardised death rate (see the 'Definitions' section) decreased from 3.82 in 2011 to 3.69 in 2012. This slight decrease suggests that when death numbers are adjusted for changes in the size, age, and sex of the population, a smaller proportion of people died in 2012 than in 2011.

Regional deaths

Regional figures are based on the usual residence of the deceased, not the place of death. We do not compile statistics on place of death.

During 2012, the Auckland region had the highest number of deaths (7,665). This was similar to 2011 (7,692). Although the Auckland region is home to approximately one-third of New Zealand's population, it only accounted for around one-quarter of New Zealand's deaths. This is due to the region's relatively young age structure. The median age of the Auckland region's population is 34 years, compared with 37 years for the national population.

Canterbury had the next highest number of deaths in 2012 (4,360), down from 4,474 in 2011. The 2011 figure for Canterbury includes fatalities that occurred as both a direct and indirect result of the 22 February 2011 earthquake. However, deaths in 2012 were still higher than in 2010 (4,270).

Infant mortality rate down to 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births

During 2012, the number of infant deaths (under one year of age) registered in New Zealand was 256. In 2012, the infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) was 4.2 per 1,000, down from 4.7 in 2011, and 5.6 a decade ago.

The drop in infant mortality between 2011 and 2012 was due to fewer Māori infants dying (down from 123 to 82).

The Māori neonatal mortality rate (infants under four weeks of age) was 2.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, down from 3.2 in 2011. The Māori post-neonatal mortality rate (infants aged four weeks and over) also dropped. In 2012 there were 2.5 post-neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 3.8 in 2011.

Because of the relatively small numbers, annual fluctuations in infant deaths should be treated with caution. Long-term trends indicate that while the infant mortality rate has dropped over the last decade, the decline has been slower than in previous decades. The rate declined from 28.4 (in 1952), to 15.6 (in 1972), and to 7.2 (in 1992).

Graph, Infant mortality rate, 1952–2012.

Changes to the births and deaths release

This is the first annual Births and Deaths information release. Data for the year ended March, June, and September will continue to be released on Infoshare, but information releases and media releases will no longer be published in those quarters. 

For more detailed data, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

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