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Summary
  • The Pacific population in New Zealand grew from just 2,200 people to 266,000 between 1945 and 2006 and now makes up 6.9 percent of the total New Zealand population. 
  • Samoans are the largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand, numbering 131,100 in 2006 and making up almost half the Pacific population. Their numbers grew by 98 percent between 1986 and 2006. 
  • Tongans have been the fastest-growing Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand in recent years, with their numbers increasing more than threefold between 1986 and 2006. 
  • Three out of five Pacific people living in New Zealand in 2006 were born in this country. Cook Islands people, Niueans and Tokelauans are the most likely to have been born in New Zealand. 
  • The proportion of Pacific people identifying with only one ethnicity decreased from 80 percent in 1991 to 70 percent in 2006. Multiple ethnicities are more common amongst younger Pacific people. 
  • The median age of the New Zealand-born Pacific group is 13 years compared with 39 years for the overseas-born. The Pacific group as a whole has a much younger age structure than the total population, having a median age in 2006 of 21 years (36 years for the total population). 
  • Pacific peoples are highly urbanised, with 97 percent living in urban areas in 2006 and 66 percent living in the Auckland urban areas alone.

Pacific people in New Zealand are a rapidly growing and changing population. From a small immigrant community in the 1940s, they have grown, through migration and a high rate of natural increase, into a population of considerable size and social significance. Today’s Pacific population is mostly New Zealand-born, predominantly young, and highly urbanised. It is also a diverse population made up of many different ethnic groups. Understanding these characteristics provides important context for analysing the social and economic position of Pacific people, which will be covered in further reports to be published in 2010.

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