Census snapshot: cultural diversity

Key Statistics - article, March 2002, p. 9

This article discusses some key findings of the 2001 census such as increasing ethnic diversity, increasing numbers of people born overseas, and an older population.

Census snapshot: Cultural diversity1

The thirty-first New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings was held on 6 March 2001. The following snapshot highlights some of the key findings from tables prepared for the National Summary topic-based report due to be published at the end of March 2002.

How have people identified themselves in the 2001 Census?

Increasing ethnic diversity

  • The census counted more people of Asian ethnicity than Pacific peoples ethnicity.
  • Almost 240,000 or 1 in 15 people were of Asian ethnicity.
  • Counts of people of Asian ethnicity have more than doubled between 1991 and 2001.
  • There were 231,801 people of Pacific peoples ethnicity.
  • The count of people of European ethnicity has declined from 83 percent of the total in the 1991 Census to 80 percent in 2001.
  • 1 in 7 people (526,281) are of Mäori ethnicity.
  • Two-thirds of people of Asian ethnicity live in the Auckland region and 1 in 8 live in the Wellington region.
  • Two-thirds of the people of Pacific peoples ethnicity live in the Auckland region.
  • In the Auckland region, 1 in 8 people are of Asian ethnicity, 1 in 8 of Pacific peoples ethnicity and 1 in 10 of Mäori ethnicity.
  • Nearly 9 out of 20 people in the Gisborne region are of Mäori ethnicity.
    Graph, Change in Ethnic Groups.
  • The fastest growing of the top 50 ethnic groups in 2001 were:
    Table, Fastest Growing Ethnic Groups.

More people born overseas

  • Almost 1 in 5 New Zealand residents were born overseas compared with 1 in 6 in 1991 and 1 in 3 in 1901.
  • In the Auckland region, 1 in 3 people were born overseas.
  • In the Auckland region, 1 in 9 people were born in Asia.
  • Almost three-quarters of people born in the Pacific Islands and two-thirds of those born in Asia live in Auckland.
  • Almost 1 in 4 people in the Wellington region were born overseas, while fewer than 1 in 15 people in the Southland region were born overseas.
  • The main countries of overseas birthplace were:
    Table, Main Countries of Overseas Birthplace.
    Graph, Overseas-born - International Comparison.
  • While the number of New Zealand residents born in Europe has shown a small decline since 1996, there have been large increases from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
  • The greatest increase in counts of overseas birthplace between 1996 and 2001 were for:
    Table, Greatest Increase in Counts of Overseas Birthplace.

More multilingual people

  • The number of multilingual people increased by 20 percent from the 1996 Census to 562,113 or nearly 1 in 6.
  • English is the predominant language spoken.
  • Excluding children under 5 years of age, 1 in 50 people do not speak English.
  • The languages most widely spoken after English were:
    Table, Languages Other than English Most Widely Spoken.

Increase in non-Christian religions

  • Over two million people are Christian.
  • The main Christian denominations are Anglican (584,793 or 17 percent of people), Catholic (486,012 or 14 percent) and the Presbyterian group (417,453 or 11 percent).
  • The number of Catholics increased by 12,900 between 1996 and 2001, while the number of Anglicans (-46,971) along with the Presbyterian group (-38,895) decreased.
  • The count of Anglicans exceeded that of the other denominations in all regions except Auckland (where Catholics were largest) and Otago and Southland (where the Presbyterian group was the largest).
  • The main denominations in the 1901 Census were Church of England (41 percent of people), Presbyterian (23 percent), Catholic (14 percent), and Methodist (11 percent).
  • At the 1901 Census only 1 in 30 people did not give a religious affiliation.
  • Almost 4 out of 10 people did not specify a religious affiliation in the 2001 Census.
  • There has been an increase in people whose religion is non-Christian:
    Table, Non-Christian Religions.

The population is older

  • The median age of the population has increased from 31 years at the 1991 Census to 35 years in 2001.
  • In the 1901 Census the median age was 22 years.
  • 450,426 or nearly 1 in 8 people are aged 65 years and over compared with 1 in 25 in 1901.
  • The Marlborough region has the highest proportion aged 65 years and over with nearly 1 in 6.
  • The Auckland region has the lowest proportion aged 65 years and over with 1 in 10.
  • The Gisborne region has the highest proportion of those aged under 15 years with more than 1 in 4.
  • There was an increase of 26 percent in the number of people aged 85 years and over between 1996 and 2001.
    Graph, Median Age.

Females outnumber males

  • There were 95.2 males for every 100 females compared with 97.1 in 1991. The 2001 ratio is less than that in the 1945 Census.
  • In the 1901 Census there were 111 males to every 100 females.
  • Of those people aged 85 years and over, 7 in 10 are female.
  • The West Coast is the only region where the count of males exceeds the count of females.
    Graph, Age-Sex Structure.

More information

The counts for this 2001 Census snapshot are taken from tables prepared for the National Summary topic-based report due to be published at the end of March 2002. These tables are under ‘Cultural diversity tables’. Further information about the 2001 Census of Population and Dwellings can be found here.


1 This snapshot was prepared by Frank Nolan of the Social and Population Statistics Group of Statistics New Zealand.

Printable version

The downloadable file is in Adobe Acrobat format. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader you may download the reader to view or print the contents of this file.