2023 census results: New Zealand’s population growing, diversifying and aging

The release of 2023 Census data will be phased in at least through August 2025. Photo/Supplied

New Zealand’s population has grown by 6.3 per cent and is getting older and more diverse. The latest data shows that the oldest section of the population is in the North Island, while the fastest territorial authorities are in the South Island.

Since the 2018 census, New Zealand’s population has increased by almost 300,000 people. The latest results show that the majority of people live in the North Island and our population continues to age and diversify ethnically.

The number of people of Māori descent is growing rapidly, reaching almost one million, up 12.5 per cent on the previous census in 2018.

The census population count, which includes people who were in New Zealand on census night, was 4,993,923, almost 300,000 more people than the 2018 census.

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Population growth was slower between 2018 and 2023.

The majority of people lived in the North Island (76.3 per cent or three in four people) and a third (1.66 million) lived in Auckland.

Populations have grown in all regions. Auckland’s population growth rate was 5.4 per cent, almost half the growth rate of the Tasmanian region (10 per cent). The slowest population growth occurred in Wellington (2.8 per cent) and Southland (2.7 per cent).

The fastest growing territorial authorities (towns or districts) were Selwyn and Queenstown. Stats NZ said the slower population growth could be attributed to border closures, slower migration and low fertility rates.

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New Zealand’s population is aging and the average median age has increased from 37.4 years in 2018 to 38.1 years.

Thames-Coromandel is the oldest area in New Zealand, where 34 per cent of people are over 65 years old. In Kaikōura and Kāpiti, 27 percent of the population is over 65 years old.

The youngest population is the Manurewa local board area of ​​Auckland, where 24 per cent of the population is under 15 years old.

In 2023, one in five people in New Zealand were of Māori descent. In a statement, Te Kāhui Raraunga, the operational arm of the Data Iwi Leaders Group, described the growth of the Māori heritage population as a “transformative change”.

The data shows that 19.6 per cent or 978,246 of the country’s population are of Māori descent, up 12.5 per cent from 2018.

Māori also make up a larger proportion of the country’s younger population, with almost one in three people under 25 identifying as Māori.

Te Kāhui Raraunga pou arahi/aho tapu Kirikowhai Mikaere said the data showed the Māori population was “young, resilient and rapidly growing”.

“This would suggest that we will see Māori become a dominant part of Aotearoa’s future workforce, improving diversity, promoting new ideas and stimulating creative solutions across industries.”

This is 12.5 per cent higher (108,396 more people) than recorded in the 2018 census and brings New Zealand’s Māori population to almost one million people (978,246).

The majority of New Zealand’s population was European at the 2023 census (67.8 percent); however, the ethnic composition of our population has continued to diversify.

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Māori, Asian, Pacific peoples and groups from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa grew “significantly faster” than European ethnic groups, Stats NZ said.

This will be the last census in its current form.  Photo / Bevan Conley
This will be the last census in its current form. Photo / Bevan Conley

Today Stats NZ released the first round of data from what could be the last census as we know it.

Consultations are already underway on how the 2028 Census will be conducted. Stats NZ is considering moving away from the traditional “full enumeration” of census data.

New plans could include a complete overhaul of the way the national survey is conducted. The health and safety of census collectors, the rise of alternative data sets, the increasing cost of getting responses from New Zealanders and the agency’s social license have raised questions about the current census model.

Staggered census releases will continue at least until August next year.

The census is a five-yearly nationwide count of everyone in New Zealand and where they live or stay. The first official census was carried out in 1851.

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