Standards of Living
According to the census of Maori Population and Dwellings, issued by the Department of Statistics in 1964, the estimated Maori population at 18 April 1961 was 167,086, and the European, 2,247,898 – a ratio of 14:1 in favour of the European. There were, however, 3,326 persons aged 65 and over in the Maori total as against 208,649 in the national total, thus giving a ratio of 62·7:1 in favour of the European. These figures underline the widely understood fact that there are radical differences in absolute numbers and in the age structures of the Maori and European sectors of the New Zealand population. In particular, they summarise, as it were, the changing fortunes of the Maori people over the better part of the last 150 years. Inter-tribal wars and wars with the European, plus the ravages of introduced epidemic and infectious diseases, had cut their numbers by upwards of two-thirds – to some 40,000 by the close of the nineteenth century. Subsequent improvements in the birthrate and a continued reduction in the death rate have combined to give a total population which today is greater in number than ever before.
Further factors of importance are, first, that there is a high percentage in the younger age groups, and, secondly, that there are relatively few in the older. Again, in terms of growth, the product of these factors has resulted in a current rate of population increase of 38·1 per 1,000 (cf. 21 per 1,000 for the total population of New Zealand). What this in turn indicates is of some moment for by the year 2000 the Maori population may well total 700,000 and comprise 14 per cent of the New Zealand total, as against that of 7·4 per cent in 1961.
Some modification may be expected in such predictions, based on the assumption that the Maori age structure will slowly approximate to that of the total; that is, there will be some fall in the birthrate and some increase in the crude death rate, in proportion perhaps to the rise in living standards and to an increase in the numbers occupying the older age groups. But it does seem certain that the Maori will increase, both in numbers and in proportion to the total population, for many decades yet.
Relevant to an analysis of the Maori population is the question of what, in fact, constitutes a Maori. For present census purposes he is one who states that he has half or more Maori blood. By the same token, none other than verbal evidence is required to substantiate a claim to his being full Maori and, in the 1961 census, 62·2 per cent of the total Maori population made such a claim. Opinions, based on previous census returns, have been expressed that this figure is a deliberate “overstatement”, which, if true, is of itself an interesting social commentary.