During the period 1951–61 the total population of the region increased by 13.75 per cent, well below the national average of 24.50 per cent. The increase was concentrated in the Gisborne area. The European population in the four northern counties declined by 578 persons and the Maori population increased by only 146 persons. The total increase of Maori population in the region as a whole was 2,223, even though the population is reckoned to have a birthrate approaching 45 per thousand and was capable of achieving in 1961 a natural increase, that is, an excess of births over deaths, of 481. Migration therefore must be assuming significant proportions. On a rough calculation and allowing for an average natural increase of 450 Maoris per annum, the total natural increase, 1951–61, would have been of the order of 4,500. Approximately 2,300 young Maoris must therefore have migrated during this period, representing one in every five of the Maoris in existence in 1951. As a feature of development, migration is not necessarily to be condemned, so long as the conditions in the reception areas are satisfactory and so long as the young Maori migrants receive a proper vocational preparation before their departure. On both issues, the latter particularly, there is considerable doubt. The Maori leaders have not been unaware of the economic and cultural difficulties faced by their people and, following the lead of men like Sir Apirana Ngata, they have sought to improve the agronomic and institutional conditions of the community, particularly in overcoming difficulties associated with the management of fragmented holdings. Whatever success has been attained it has not been commensurate with the needs.
The Gisborne Employment District, which corresponds exactly to the limits of the region, has a very low percentage of its labour force engaged in manufacturing, only 15.27 per cent, compared with the New Zealand figure of 26.04 per cent. Of these, 36 per cent are engaged in the food, drink, and tobacco industries. During the period April 1953 to April 1961, the labour force in manufacturing grew by only 10 per cent (cf., New Zealand, 24.14 per cent) and the total labour force by only 8.27 per cent (cf., New Zealand, 18.24 per cent).