Ethnic profile

This section describes the ethnic distribution of the New Zealand population.

Some ethnic groups are more susceptible to environmental changes than others.

New Zealand has a diverse ethnic mix

Māori are the indigenous population of New Zealand. New Zealand also has a large migrant population, bringing a wide range of different ethnicities. One fifth of the population was born overseas.

In 2013, the New Zealand population included [1]:

  • 74 percent European (2,969,400 people)
  • 15 percent Māori (598,600 people)
  • 12 percent Asian (471,700 people)
  • 7 percent Pacific (295,900 people)
  • 1 percent Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (MELAA) (47,000 people).

Maori and Pacific peoples have younger populations

Māori and Pacific people have a younger age profile than total New Zealand.

For information on the age profiles of ethnic groups in New Zealand, go to the age profiles webpage

For population pyramids for different ethnic groups, go to Statistics New Zealand's webpage on major ethnic groups in New Zealand.

Regional differences in ethnic groups

The Māori population is concentrated in the upper and central North Island. In 2013, the majority of people identified as being Māori in the territorial authorities of Wairoa (63 percent of the population), Kawerau (62 percent), Opotiki (61 percent) and Chatham Islands (59 percent).

Two-thirds of the Pacific population live in Auckland (195,000 Pacific people). Other centres with larger communities of Pacific peoples include Porirua City (12,700) and Lower Hutt City (10,260).

Figures 1 and 2: Percentage of the population by total response ethnicity 2013

Māori and Pacific peoples are more vulnerable to environmental risks

Māori are often more vulnerable to environmental risks, like indigenous populations in many other countries.  There are several reasons.

  • Māori can be more exposed to environmental risks, for example second-hand smoke (in part due to the higher smoking rate among Māori).
  • Māori can be more sensitive to environmental changes. For example, the Māori economy is especially reliant on primary industries like farming [2], which are sensitive to climate change [3].
  • Māori can have less capacity to respond to environmental risks. For example, Māori have disproportionately low incomes compared to many other ethnic groups.

However, these causes of vulnerability need to be balanced against factors that will increase their coping capacity.  In general, Māori have strong and supportive whānau/community networks.  Many Māori also possess traditional knowledge about the environment that is a valuable asset in a changing environment.

Pacific peoples living in New Zealand may also be at higher risk from environmental hazards. Reasons include:

  • Pacific peoples may be more exposed to environmental risks, for example second-hand smoke and household crowding, and the urban environment.
  • Pacific peoples have disproportionately low incomes compared to other people, which may make them less able to cope with the effects of environmental hazards.


1. Statistics New Zealand. 2014. 2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity - tables. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand. 

2. Te Puni Kōkiri. 2007. A Time for Change in Māori Economic Development. Wellington: Te Puni Kōkiri.

3. Reisinger A, Kitching R, Chiew F, Hughes L, Newton P, Schuster S, et al. 2014. Australasia. In V Barros, C Field, D Dokken, M Mastrandrea, K Mach, T Bilir, M Chatterjee, K Ebi, Y Estrada, R Genova, B Girma, E Kissel, A Levy, S MacCracken, P Mastrandrea and L White (Eds.), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

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