Until recently, people seeking information on New Zealand’s rural population could only access data by ‘rural centre’ or ‘other rural area’. It was difficult to differentiate the complex gradations of rural existence. A rural family living in the remote South Island high country was unlikely to have much in common with a rural family living within driving distance of Christchurch. The latter may even work in the city and consequently enjoy a mix of urban and rural lifestyles.

People wanting data about smaller urban areas faced similar problems. The existing classification grouped urban areas by population size, regardless of their proximity to New Zealand’s main cities. Yet proximity to a city does impact on rural populations. For example, a person in a small remote Northland town and a resident of a small town close to Wellington each face different issues regarding access to complex services such as health care, yet both were classified as ‘minor urban areas’.

“New Zealand: An Urban/Rural Profile” answers some questions on these differences and creates a snapshot of urban and rural New Zealand in 2001. This publication explores the diversity of the social and economic characteristics of people living in all areas of the urban-rural spectrum; from the heart of Auckland, our largest city, to the remote areas of the South Island’s West Coast. The project-specific classification developed for this report re-categorises rural areas on the basis of the significance of urban areas as a source of employment. Smaller urban areas are re-categorised according to the proportion of people that work in a main urban area.

"New Zealand: An Urban/Rural Profile" is based on statistics from Statistics New Zealand and other government agencies, including the 2001, 1996 and 1991 Censuses of Population and Dwellings, the New Zealand Income Survey, the Land Transport Safety Authority's Travel Survey and the Ministry of Health's Social Deprivation Index.

Brian Pink
Government Statistician


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