QuickStats About Culture and Identity

The religious affiliation question in the 2006 Census, in addition to options for several religious affiliations, included options for people to indicate that they had no religion or objected to answering the question.

Christian religions

  • In the 2006 Census, just over 2 million people, or 55.6 percent of those answering the religious affiliation question, affiliated with a Christian religion (including Māori Christian). This compares with the 2001 Census, when 60.6 percent of people affiliated with a Christian religion.
  • Despite an overall decrease in people affiliating with Christian religions, some Christian denominations increased and some decreased.
  • The five largest Christian denominations in 2001 remained the largest in 2006. There were increases in the number of people affiliating with Catholic and Methodist denominations, but decreases in the number of people affiliating with the Anglican denomination, the Presbyterian, Congregation and Reformed denomination, and with Christian not further defined (Christian, with no denomination stated).
Five Largest Christian Denominations
2001–2006 Censuses
Religious affiliation 
2001 Count 
2006 Count 
Percentage change

Anglican  584,793 554,925  -5.1  
Catholic   485,637  508,437  4.7  
Presbyterian, Congregational and Reformed  431,139  400,839   -7.0  
Christian not further defined 192,165   186,234   -3.1  
Methodist 120,546   121,806   1.0  
  • There were, however, larger increases in affiliations with other Christian denominations between 2001 and 2006. The number of people affiliating with Orthodox Christian religions increased by 37.8 percent, affiliation with Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist religions increased by 25.6 percent, and affiliation with Pentecostal religions increased by 17.8 percent.
  • Just over 8 in 10 Pacific peoples (80.2 percent or 199,983 people) who answered the religious affiliation question identified with Christian religions.
  • Of the people of Māori ethnicity who answered the religious affiliation question, 11.1 percent identified with a Māori Christian religion, such as Ratana and Ringatū.

Other religions

  • In contrast with the small decrease in people affiliating with Christian religions between 2001 and 2006, there was an increase in people affiliating with non-Christian religions.
  • The number of people indicating an affiliation with the Sikh religion increased from 5,196 to 9,507 (up 83.0 percent) between 2001 and 2006, while people affiliated with either Hinduism (up from 39,798 to 64,392) or Islam (up from 23,631 to 36,072) also increased by more than 50 percent (61.8 percent and 52.6 percent, respectively).
  • The increases in people affiliating with these non-Christian religions is mainly attributed to migrants, particularly from Asia. Almost 8 in 10 people (78.8 percent) affiliated with the Hindu religion were born overseas, particularly in Southern Asia and the Pacific Islands. A similar proportion of people affiliating with Islam (77.0 percent) were born overseas, mainly in Southern Asia, but also in the Middle East. The majority of people born overseas affiliating with Buddhism (37,590 people) were born in Asia (34,422 people).
  • Of the people born overseas affiliating with Hindu and Muslim religions, almost half (49.8 percent and 48.0 percent, respectively) had arrived in New Zealand less than five years ago. More than one-third (36.1 percent) of overseas-born Buddhists arrived in New Zealand less than five years ago.

No religion

  • The number and proportion of people indicating that they had no religion continued to increase in the 2006 Census. In 2006, 1,297,104 people (34.7 percent) stated that they had no religion, compared with 1,028,052 people (29.6 percent) in the 2001 Census.
  • Younger people were more likely to be recorded as having no religion. Over 4 in 10 (43.0 percent) children (aged 0 to 14 years) were recorded as having no religion, compared with over 1 in 10 (11.8 percent) people aged 65 years and over.

No religion by age group 

  • The European and New Zealander ethnic groups had the highest proportions of people stating that they had no religion, at 37.7 percent (955,260 people) and 37.6 percent (155,268 people), respectively. People in the Middle Eastern, Latin American and African ethnic grouping were least likely to state that they had no religion, with 11.0 percent or 3,651 people in this group giving this response in the 2006 Census.

For further information ...

Email our information Centre: info@stats.govt.nz or phone toll free: 0508 525 525