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People

Highly rural/remote areas have the smallest proportion of New Zealand ’s population. At the time of the 2001 Census of Population and Dwellings, 2.0 percent (76,449 people) of New Zealand’s usually resident population count lived in these areas, a decrease of approximately 6.0 percent from the 1991 Census. Since these areas cover a huge proportion of New Zealand’s land area, the population density is very low, 0.5 people per square kilometre. Around 4.5 percent (37,413) of the South Island’s census usually resident population count lived in these areas. In the North Island, 39,039 people (1.4 percent of the total North Island population) lived in highly rural/remote areas.

People Living in Highly Rural/Remote Areas
By region, Census of Population and Dwellings, 2001

Graph, People Living in Highly Rural/Remote Areas.

Note: Nelson Region has no highly rural/remote areas.

Although the West Coast had the highest proportion of people living in highly rural/remote areas (3,801 people or 12.5 percent) Canterbury had the greatest actual number of people (13,794 people or 2.9 percent), followed by Waikato (11,406 people or 3.2 percent).

Population estimates and projections have been calculated by area unit rather than meshblock and are derived using a calculation adjusting census figures to allow for census undercounts and migration between March 2001 and June 2001. As a result the figures are not directly comparable with census population figures. The estimated populated projections give a general picture about the situation of highly rural/remote areas. The estimated resident population of this profile area declined by 600 people (1.1 percent) between June 2001 and June 2003.

Population projections indicate that the population of highly rural/remote areas is likely to decline further. The medium projection suggests that the population of these areas will decrease by 9 percent, compared with a 16 percent increase in population nationally.

Projected Population for Highly Rural/Remote Areas
2001 (base)–2021

Graph, Projected Population for Highly Rural/Remote Areas.

The image of highly rural/remote areas as a man’s country was to some extent true, as these areas had the highest ratio of males to females (113.6 males per 100 females). Regionally, Wellington and Waikato had the highest male/female ratio (120.7 and 120.2 males for every 100 females, respectively) and Tasman had the lowest (102.8 males per 100 females). These figures compare to the national average of 95.2 males per 100 females.

Male/Female Ratio in Urban/Rural Profile Areas
Census of Population and Dwellings, 2001

Graph, Male/Female Ratio in Urban/Rural Profile Areas.

In highly rural/remote areas the proportions of children, and people between the ages of 30 and 54 years, were higher than the New Zealand average, but there were lower percentages of older people, and younger adults (aged between 15 and 29 years). Just over 65 percent of the population was of working age, the same as the national average. The population structure may be explained by the lure of education and employment, which tend to attract younger people to urban areas, particularly main urban areas.

New Zealand and Highly Rural/Remote Areas
By age and sex, Census of Population and Dwellings, 2001

Graph, New Zealand and Highly Rural/Remote Areas.

In 2001, the median age of people in highly rural/remote areas was 35.4 years, slightly higher than the national average of 34.8 years. The South Island median age was approximately two years older than the North Island median (36.8 years, compared with 34.1 years).

Highly rural/remote areas had lower birth and death rates than the general population. There was an average of 9.3 births per 1,000 people for 1999 to 2003, compared with 15.1 births nationally; and 3.9 deaths per 1,000 people, compared with a figure of 7.5 deaths for New Zealand. This lower birth rate may be related to the age and sex structure of this population, which had relatively fewer women aged between 20 and 34 years. The lower death rate may be related to the smaller proportion of people aged 65 years and over in these areas. Older people tend to move closer to care facilities in more urbanised environments as they age, thus reducing the apparent death rate.

The infant mortality rate for highly rural/ remote areas (an average of 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births for 1999 to 2003), was lower than the national average of 5.5 deaths per 1,000. It is not clear why infant mortality would be lower in rural areas. Approximately one third of all infant deaths occur on the first day of life. It is possible that at-risk women or those with a seriously ill infant might change residence temporarily, and this may affect the registration of the child’s residence. The numbers of births and infant deaths were the lowest of all profile areas, which means that any variations in births or deaths over time may affect the data to a greater extent than in a larger population area.

In 2001, almost 9 in 10 people (63,021 people or 86.9 percent) living in highly rural/remote areas identified with European ethnicity, compared with 8 in 10 people throughout New Zealand (2,871,432 people or 80.1 percent). The majority of people living in these areas stated they belonged to either the European and/or Māori ethnic groups. The percentage of people identifying with any other ethnic group was extremely low in highly rural/remote areas.

Ethnicity(1) (Grouped total responses)
Census of Population and Dwellings, 2001

Graph, Ethnicity.

(1) As people may specify more than one ethnicity, the sum of the different ethnicities may be more than 100 percent.

Proportions of Māori living in highly rural/remote areas were much higher in the North Island than in the South Island. Three of every four people (2,385 people or 75.4 percent) in the Gisborne region who lived in a highly rural/remote area said they identified with the Māori ethnic group in the 2001 Census. This large percentage of highly rural Māori in the east of the North Island was consistent with the history of the area.

Highly rural/remote areas had the highest proportion of Māori speakers at the time of the 2001 Census (7.1 percent, compared with 4.5 percent of all New Zealanders). More than 1 in 10 people living in these areas in the North Island spoke Māori (4,497 people) compared with 582 people, or approximately 1 in 100, in the South Island. Approximately 1 in 3 people living in highly rural/remote areas in the Gisborne and Bay of Plenty regions spoke Māori. Ethnicity is just one of a number of variables which reinforce the considerable differences between highly rural/remote areas in the North Island and the South Island.

Percentage of People Identifying with Māori Ethnicity in Highly Rural/Remote Areas
By region, 2001

Graph, Percentage of People Identifying with Māori Ethnicity in Highly Rural/Remote Areas.

The majority of people living in highly rural/remote areas were New Zealand born (67,101 people or 92.5 percent in the 2001 Census). This was the highest proportion for any profile area. There were 5,445 people in these areas who stated that they were born overseas. Most were from Europe or North America, with over half being from the United Kingdom or Ireland. This may be related to the value placed on rural life in Western European culture.

At the time of the 2001 Census, highly rural/remote areas had the highest proportion of people identifying with a religion. The rate of people identifying with the Christian religion was higher than the national average (68.2 percent, compared with 63.3 percent). This profile area had the highest proportion of people identifying with Presbyterian, Congregational, and Reformed denominations (20.2 percent, compared with 13.4 percent nationally). Affiliation with non-Christian religions was the lowest of any profile area, which may be linked with the low proportion of people identifying with ethnic groups other than European and Māori.

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