Manawatū: an average region?
In 2013 Manawatū (including Palmerston North) had a population of just over 107,500. The 2013 census revealed an extraordinarily ‘ordinary’ Manawatū. On most indicators – age distribution, median income, income distribution, family type, household size, household spending – it was remarkably similar to the New Zealand average. This was particularly marked for Manawatū district (rural areas plus Feilding). The only variations were in ethnicity (notably European, with small Pacific and Asian populations) and slower population growth.
Palmerston North, like the entire Manawatū district, grew only slightly between 1996 and 2006 – much less than New Zealand as a whole.
Horowhenua includes Levin, Foxton and Shannon. Compared to the nation as a whole, the people were older and there were more Māori: one-fifth claimed Māori identity in 2013. More of the population were out of work than in Manawatū or New Zealand as a whole. People were earning significantly less than the average wage.
In 1879 around 2,000 people were living in Manawatū and Horowhenua. About half were Māori, but by 1881 there was a growing non-Māori population – just under 9,000. By 1921 this had swelled to just over 46,000. Fewer than 1,500 were Māori.
Between 1921 and 1961 the population almost doubled, to nearly 88,000. Only about one-quarter lived in rural areas. The Māori population had picked up, but the numbers were small and unevenly distributed. There were larger groups in Horowhenua and Palmerston North than in rural Manawatū.
Between 1961 and 2013 the population grew to 137,000, but this mostly happened before 1976. From 1996 to 2006, there was an increase of just over 2,000 – all in Palmerston North. Between the 2006 and 2013 censuses the population increased in rural areas and small towns as well – Palmerston North contributed 59% of growth in that period, rural Manawatū (including Feilding) 35% and Horowhenua 6%.