Ethnic profile

This section describes the ethnic distribution of the Aotearoa 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. More than a quarter of the population was born overseas (27.4%).

In 2018, the New Zealand population included:

  • 70.2% European (3,297,860 people)
  • 16.5% Māori (775,840 people)
  • 15.1% Asian (707,600 people)
  • 8.1% Pacific peoples (381,640 people)
  • 1.5% Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (MELAA) (70,330 people). 

Note: Total response ethnic groups have been used (where everyone is included in every ethnic group they identify with) so percentages will add to more than 100%.  

Regional differences in ethnic groups

The Māori population is concentrated in the upper and central North Island.

In 2018, the majority of people identified as being Māori in the territorial authorities of Chatham Islands (66.1% of the population), Wairoa (65.7%), Ōpōtiki (63.7%), Kawerau (61.7%), and Gisborne (52.9%) (Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Māori population, by territorial authority, 2018 (% of the total population) 


In 2018, almost two-thirds of the Pacific population lived in Auckland (243,970 Pacific people, 15.5% of the population).

Other territorial authorities with larger communities of Pacific peoples include Porirua (14,870 people, 26.3%), Christchurch (14,180 people, 3.8%), Lower Hutt (12,000, 11.5%), Wellington (10,390 people, 5.1%) and Hamilton (9,740 people, 6.1%) (Figure 2). 

Figure 2: Pacific population, by territorial authority, 2018 (% of the total population) 


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 [1], which are sensitive to climate change [2].
  • 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 iwi, whānau, and 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.

Information about the data

Census usual resident population count, by ethnic group
Source: New Zealand 2018 Census of Populations and Dwellings 

Definition: This data comes from the 2018 Census of Populations and Dwellings. The 2018 Census had a lower than expected response rate, resulting in Stats NZ introducing new methods to produce the dataset, including using data from alternative sources. Stats NZ and the 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel (EDQP) have produced a rating system to help the users understand the quality-related issues and impacts of the 2018 Census dataset.

EHI have decided to update the population statistics on this webpage, based on the documentation relating to these indicators. The Census variable of 'ethnicity' had an EDQP rating of 'moderate', particularly for levels of the ethnicity classification below Level 1 (note that Level 1 ethnic groups are presented on this webpage) [3]. Further information about the Stats NZ and EDQP documentation can be at:


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

2. 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.

3. EDQP. 2019. Initial Report of the 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel. URL: (accessed 24/08/20).

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