Story: Northland region

Page 13. Richer and poorer

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Despite Northland’s steady development over recent years, it remains one of the country’s poorest regions.

Employment and income

In 2013 Northland had an unemployment rate of 9.7%, the highest in the country. Personal and household median incomes are some of the lowest in New Zealand. There is also wide variation in personal incomes and standard of living. Inland townships such as Kawakawa, Kaikohe and Moerewa, with high unemployment, compare unfavourably with towns nearer the coast like Kerikeri and Paihia.

Contributing factors include:

  • a higher proportion of low-paid workers
  • a low level of school-leaver qualifications
  • young people leaving the region for better training and job opportunities elsewhere.

Health and deprivation

In the 2010s Northland continued to have special health needs, some of them a reflection of the high Māori population and its lower life expectancy. Māori life expectancy in Northland was nine years less than that of the region’s non-Māori. Nationally, the difference was 7.6 years. On average, Māori admitted to the region’s hospitals were 13 years younger than non-Māori.

The Northland population as a whole was more socio-economically deprived than other areas. In 2013, 43% of Northlanders were on the most deprived or lowest band of the national deprivation index, compared with 20% of all New Zealanders. The Far North District Council had the most deprived population of any local authority.


Housing in the north has long been a source of concern. The first surveys of Māori housing in the 1930s showed appalling conditions. A series of fatal fires in the early 2000s drew attention to the continuing issue of unsafe housing: no electric power, poor sanitation and other problems.

In 2001 Housing New Zealand, with other agencies and tribal organisations, began a five-year programme to eliminate substandard housing. This involved household assessments and property repairs, with improved wiring, installation of septic tanks, and access to safe drinking water. Moves were also made to provide some rental housing and low-deposit loans for purchasing homes.


Northland and its people are still recovering from the 1980s and 1990s, when many urban unemployed were drawn back into the north’s rural areas. The local economy was also severely affected in the last two decades of the 20th century by government restructuring. When the forestry sector became a state-owned enterprise, for example, many people lost jobs, especially Māori who were a high proportion of the forest work force. Employment opportunities remain limited.

How to cite this page:

Claudia Orange, 'Northland region - Richer and poorer', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 July 2024)

Story by Claudia Orange, published 12 Dec 2005, updated 1 May 2015