The population of New Zealand in 2017 is 4,747,485.

This estimate was taken from New Zealand’s constantly updated population clock in January 2017 (see below for more information) and is based on the official estimate for June 2016 of 4,693,000.

New Zealand is the 123rd largest country in the world by population and the third largest in Oceania (after Australia and Papua New Guinea).

New Zealand’s North Island has a population of 3,519,800 people, and its South Island has a population of 1,076,300. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand, with a population of 1,454,300 people.

How many people live in New Zealand today

The latest official estimate is that the population of New Zealand was 4,693,000 in June 2016.

Statistics New Zealand, the government statistical office who produced this estimate, also publishes a New Zealand population clock which shows up to the minute predictions of how many people live in New Zealand.

New Zealand Population Chart

New Zealand’s population is growing at a rate of 0.8% per annum. Or, put another way, this means that there is one birth in New Zealand every nine minutes and one death every fifteen minutes. In addition net migration (immigration minus migration) produces a new resident every six and a half minutes.

For a developed nation, New Zealand has a relatively high population growth rate. This is partly because of high levels of immigration (estimated at 60,000 per year) and partly because it has a higher birth rate than most developed countries.

Although growth is expected to slow slightly in coming years, New Zealand’s population is likely to reach 5 million by 2026.

Largest cities in New Zealand

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand. The capital city is home to 1,454,300 people (June 2015 estimate). It is the only city in New Zealand with a population of more than one million people. Auckland’s people are younger and more ethnically diverse than the national average.

Other cities in New Zealand with a population of more than 200,000 people are Wellington (398,300), Christchurch (381,800) and Hamilton (224,000).

Auckland is the largest city on New Zealand’s North Island and Christchurch is the largest city on South Island.

City Population (2015) Region
Auckland 1.454,300 Auckland
Wellington 398,300 Wellington
Christchurch 381,800 Canterbury
Hamilton 224,000 Waikato
Tauranga 130,800 Bay of Plenty
Napier-Hastings 129,700 Hawke’s Bay
Dunedin 117,400 Otago
Palmerston North 83,500 Manawatu-Wanganui
Nelson 64,800 Nelson
Rotorua 56,800 Bay of Plenty

New Zealand census

New Zealand holds a census every five years.

The most recent census was scheduled to take place in 2011, but it was postponed because of the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. Instead, the most recent New Zealand census was held in 2013. The next census will take place in 2018.

Much of the information in this article is derived from the 2013 census results.

Ethnic groups and immigration

There are four major ethnic groups in New Zealand – Maori, Europeans, Pacific Islanders, and Asian.

European74.0%
Maori14.9%
Asian11.8%
Pacific Islander7.4%
Middle Eastern / Latin American / African1.2%

Source. Note: totals add up to more than 100% because people were able to select more than one ethnicity in the 2013 census.

The Maori were the first group to arrive in New Zealand. No one is sure of the exact date of their arrival but recent scientific evidence, including radiocarbon dating, indicates that they arrived from East Polynesia somewhere between 1250 and 1300 AD.

Europeans first ’discovered’ New Zealand in the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that the first permanent settlers arrived. While European settlers prospered, a combination of disease and war between Europeans and Maori led to a dramatic decline in the Maori population – from around 86,000 at the time of the first European settlement to just 42,000 in 1896. Life expectancy at birth fell from over 30 years before European arrival to an estimated 25 years for Maori men and 23 for women.

In the years that followed, immigration from Europe (mainly Great Britain) and Australia saw the overall population of New Zealand increase to almost 1 million people at the end of the 19th century. Restrictions on immigration were imposed – first in the 19th century to restrict the number of immigrants arriving from China and, later, in the 1920s and 1930s to restrict immigration from anywhere but Great Britain.

New Zealand’s close ties with its Pacific Island colonies led to increasing immigration from the 1940s onwards. Although increasingly independent, many Pacific islands (for example the Cook Islands) have a constitutional relationship with New Zealand and their citizens are New Zealand citizens able to settle freely anywhere in the country. Today, around 300,000 (7.4%) of New Zealand’s population is counted as Pacific islander.

In recent years New Zealand’s immigration policy has undergone a dramatic shift and is now based on a points system. As a result, immigration from Asia has increased significantly – to the extend that 471,708 (11.8%) of New Zealanders reported in the last census that their ethnicity was Asian.

In total, more than 25% of New Zealanders reported in the 2013 census that they were born outside of New Zealand.

Religion

Christianity is the largest religion in New Zealand, although it is in decline. The percentage of Christians has fallen from 58.9% in 2001 to 47.6% in 2013.

Christian 201347.6%
Christian 200158.9%

This corresponds with a rise in the number of people who report that they have no religion – up from 29.6% in 2001 to 41.9% in 2013.

No religion 201341.9%
No religion 200129.6%

Other religious groups of significant size are Hindu (2.11%), Maori Christian (1.4%), Buddhist (1.5%) and Islam (1.2%).

Religion 2013 2001
Christian 47.65% 58.92%
No religion 41.92% 29.64%
Object to answering 4.44% 6.90%
Hindu 2.11% 1.15%
Buddhist 1.50% 1.20%
Maori Christian 1.36% 1.83%
Islam 1.18% 0.68%
Jewish 0.18% 0.19%
Other religions 0.88% 0.54%

Catholics are the largest group of Christians in New Zealand, with 12.6%, followed by Anglican (11.8%) and Presbyterian (8.5%).

Catholic12.6%
Anglican11.8%
Presbyterian8.5%

Languages

English is the most common language in New Zealand – it is spoken by 96.1% of people. This is followed by Maori (3.7%), Samoan (2.2%) and Hindi (1.7%).

English96.1%
Maori3.7%
Samoan2.2%
Hindi1.7%%

For many years, the use of Maori was discouraged in New Zealand and the number of speakers declined dramatically.

However, the Maori language has undergone a resurgence in recent years. In 1987, Maori was declared an official language of New Zealand and a number of Maori language TV channels are now broadcast.

Samoan is the most prominent non-official language, followed by a number of other languages spoken by immigrants to New Zealand – for example, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, French and German.

Literacy rate and Education

New Zealand’s literacy rate (reported by UNESCO) is 99% for both men and women.

Education in New Zealand is compulsory for children aged 6-16. Most are taught in free state funded schools but there is also a number of private schools and home schooling is allowed.

New Zealand invests heavily in tertiary (university) education. There are 469,107 students in tertiary education in New Zealand (2009 data) and more than 50% of New Zealanders hold a tertiary qualification.

New Zealand spends 6.2% of GDP on education.

Population density

New Zealand’s territory is 268,021km2 (or 103,483 m2).

This gives a population density (based on the New Zealand 2016 population) of 17.2 people per km2 or 44.4 people per km2.

New Zealand is one of the least densely populated countries in the world and is roughly as densely populated as Zambia or Sudan.

Other New Zealand demographics

Life expectancy

Latest data (2012-14) shows that life expectancy for females in New Zealand is 83.2 years. Life expectancy for males in New Zealand is slightly lower, at 79.5 years.

Life expectancy female83.2 years
Life expectancy male79.5 years

Non-Maori females have the highest life expectancy – at birth they can expect to live to 83.9 years. Non-Maori males can expect to live until 80.3 years.

Non-Maori life expectancy female83.9 years
Non-Maori life expectancy male80.3 years

Life expectancy for Maori in New Zealand is lower than for non-Maori, although the gap is narrowing. In 2012-14, the average life expectancy at birth is 77.1 years for a Maori female and 73.0 years for a Maori man.

Maori life expectancy female77.1 years
Maori life expectancy male73.0 years

Pacific Islanders also have a lower than average life expectancy, although slightly higher than the Maori life expectancy. Pacific Islander life expectancy at birth (2012-14) is 78.7 years for a female and 74.5 years for a male.

Pacific Islander life expectancy female78.7 years
Pacific Islander life expectancy male74.5 years

Statistics New Zealand have a handy calculator that you can use to estimate your life expectancy.

Median age

Median age in New Zealand is 38.0 years. Female median age is 38.9 years and male median age is 36.9 years.

Birth rate and death rate

New Zealand’s birth rate is 13.27 births per 1,000 people.

This compares with a lower death rate of 6.87 deaths per 1,000 people.

Birth rate13.27 per 1,000 people
Death rate6.87 deaths per 1,000 people

Fertility rate

New Zealand’s fertility rate is 1.99 births per woman.

New Zealand population pyramid

Here is a New Zealand population pyramid (2016).

New Zealand Population Pyramid 2016

We also recommend taking a look at this interactive New Zealand population pyramid.

New Zealand population growth table

Year Population % change +/-
1926 1,429,700 2.03%
1927 1,450,400 1.45%
1928 1,467,400 1.17%
1929 1,486,100 1.27%
1930 1,506,800 1.39%
1931 1,522,800 1.06%
1932 1,534,700 0.78%
1933 1,547,100 0.81%
1934 1,558,400 0.73%
1935 1,569,700 0.73%
1936 1,584,600 0.95%
1937 1,601,800 1.09%
1938 1,618,300 1.03%
1939 1,641,600 1.44%
1940 1,633,600 -0.49%
1941 1,631,200 -0.15%
1942 1,636,400 0.32%
1943 1,642,000 0.34%
1944 1,676,300 2.09%
1945 1,727,800 3.07%
1946 1,781,200 3.09%
1947 1,817,500 2.04%
1948 1,853,900 2.00%
1949 1,892,100 2.06%
1950 1,927,700 1.88%
1951 1,970,500 2.22%
1952 2,024,600 2.75%
1953 2,074,500 2.22%
1954 2,118,400 2.11%
1955 2,164,800 2.43%
1956 2,209,200 2.05%
1957 2,262,800 2.43%
1958 2,316,000 2.35%
1959 2,359,700 1.89%
1960 2,403,600 1.86%
1961 2,461,300 2.40%
1962 2,515,800 2.21%
1963 2,566,900 2.03%
1964 2,617,000 1.95%
1965 2,663,800 1.79%
1966 2,711,300 1.78%
1967 2,745,000 1.24%
1968 2,773,000 1.02%
1969 2,804,000 1.12%
1970 2,852,100 1.72%
1971 2,898,500 1.63%
1972 2959,700 2.11%
1973 3,024,900 2.20%
1974 3,091,900 2.21%
1975 3,143,700 1.68%
1976 3,163,400 0.63%
1977 3,166,400 0.09%
1978 3,165,200 -0.04%
1979 3,163,900 -0.04%
1980 3,176,400 0.40%
1981 3,194,500 0.57%
1982 3,226,800 1.01%
1983 3,264,800 1.18%
1984 3,293,000 0.86%
1985 3,303,100 0.31%
1986 3,313,500 0.31%
1987 3,342,100 0.86%
1988 3,345,200 0.09%
1989 3,369,800 0.74%
1990 3,410,400 1.20%
1991 3,516,000 1.18%
1992 3,552,200 1.03%
1993 3,597,800 1.28%
1994 3,648,300 1.40%
1995 3,706,700 1.60%
1996 3,762,300 1.50%
1997 3,802,700 1.07%
1998 3,829,200 0.70%
1999 3,851,100 0.57%
2000 3,873,100 0.57%
2001 3,916,200 1.11%
2002 3,989,500 1.87%
2003 4,061,600 1.81%
2004 4,114,300 1.30%
2005 4,161,000 1.13%
2006 4,209,100 1.16%
2007 4,245,700 0.87%
2008 4,280,300 0.81%
2009 4,332,100 1.21%
2010 4,373,900 0.96%
2011 4,399,400 0.58%
2012 4,425,900 0.60%
2013 4,475,800 1.13%
2014 4,554,600 1.76%
2015 4,647,300 2.04%

Further reading

In parts, this work is based on/includes Statistics New Zealand’s data which are licensed by Statistics New Zealand for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. We would like to thank them for providing such a detailed resource. They have a comprehensive and easy to understand series of articles on their site that contain data and information about the population of New Zealand and we recommend visiting.

We also recommend visiting the Population Association of New Zealand and Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.