Story: Māori

Page 1. People and culture today

All images & media in this story


In 2018 Māori comprised approximately 16.5% (775,836 people) of New Zealand’s population. 


In the 2000s the Māori people were more diverse and dispersed than at any other time in their history. Some continued to live in their traditional tribal areas. Most, however, lived elsewhere, usually in urban centres. In 2006, 84% of Māori were living in urban areas, and only 16% in rural areas. Many Māori lived overseas, with over 70,000 in Australia and up to 10,000 in Britain.


The Māori language is an official language of New Zealand, and in recent years has undergone a revival. However, it is still threatened and, according to the 2006 census results, was spoken by only one in four Māori. Approximately 25,000 non-Māori could speak the language.


Māori culture is going through enormous change, with the establishment of new institutions and organisations. These include:

  • the creation of Māori educational institutions where teaching and learning is conducted substantially in the Māori language. In 2001 there were over 500 kōhanga reo (language nests), teaching over 10,000 preschool children; over 50 kura kaupapa Māori (teaching schoolchildren in full Māori-language immersion programmes); and three whare wānanga (tertiary institutes).
  • the rearrangement and strengthening of tribal structures and councils
  • the recapitalisation of tribally owned assets
  • the establishment of over 20 Māori radio stations and two television channels
  • Māori political representation, with 29 MPs of Māori background in Parliament in 2018.

Prominent people

In the early 2000s a number of Māori individuals were regarded as major national figures or had international reputations in their chosen fields. Among them were the opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, film director Lee Tamahori, child actor Keisha Castle-Hughes, golfer Michael Campbell, artist Ralph Hōtere, and writers Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera.

How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Māori - People and culture today', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 April 2024)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 Feb 2005