Story: Population change

Māori fertility rate, 1844–2017

Māori fertility rates declined from 1769 (the year James Cook first landed in New Zealand), probably because Pākehā introduced venereal diseases which affected fertility. Rates picked up from the mid-19th century and remained high for over a century – they fluctuated between 5.9 and 6.9 births per woman between 1901 and 1961, and were over 5 until the early 1970s. The rate then dropped significantly, reaching a low point of 2.14 in 1986. Unlike the Pākehā rate, the Māori fertility rate has never fallen below replacement level (2.1 births per woman).

Note: the gaps in the graph above reflect gaps in data. Māori fertility rates are estimated to 1961, when official counts began.

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Sources: Ian Pool et al., The New Zealand family from 1840: a demographic history. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2007, Fig. 2.1; Statistics New Zealand

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How to cite this page:

Ian Pool and Natalie Jackson, 'Population change - Māori population change', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 September 2023)

Story by Ian Pool and Natalie Jackson, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 23 Aug 2018 with assistance from Natalie Jackson