Story: Wellington region

Page 12. Population

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The decline of Māori in Wellington

When the New Zealand Company acquired Wellington from the chiefs Te Puni and Te Wharepōuri in 1839, Māori outnumbered Europeans. But within a year there were 1,200 Europeans living alongside 800 Māori around Port Nicholson (Wellington Harbour).

By 1857 only 63 Māori remained in the town of Wellington. Many had left for remote land reserves, granted in partial compensation for the loss of their Wellington land. Others returned to tribal homelands in Taranaki and elsewhere. In that year, 396 Māori lived in the lower Hutt Valley and 124 in the Upper Hutt district.

European influx

From the 1860s onwards Wellington grew rapidly, mainly because of immigration from Britain, and the growth policies of central government. In 1864 it had 4,741 European residents; by 1901 Wellington had become a city of 49,344 people. Half of these were New Zealand-born.

Māori migration

Attracted by jobs and city life, Māori migrated to the Wellington area after the Second World War – at an average of 100 per year between 1945 and 1956. Between 1961 and 1965 this rose to an average of 457 per year.

British arrivals

British immigration also increased after the war. Many migrants settled in state housing in the Hutt Valley and Porirua. These centres grew strongly until the 1980s, when economic restructuring reduced job opportunities.

Boomtown

Wellington city’s population more than doubled between 1901 and 1936 (to 115,705). After that it grew quite slowly.

In the 1990s further growth was fuelled by economic deregulation and a desire by some to be close to city amenities and culture. In 1991 there were 136,911 residents; by 2013 the city’s population had reached 190,959.

The larger Wellington region’s population also grew during this period, from 343,054 to 430,197. Much growth occurred on the Kapiti coast.

Living for the city

A notable trend in Wellington has been the increase in people living in inner-city apartments. Between 2001 and 2013 the number of inner-city residents (from Willis Street to Cambridge Terrace) jumped from 2,994 to 7,329 – an increase of 145%.

Cultural diversity

In the 2000s many new Wellingtonians came from overseas, especially Asia, reflecting New Zealand’s more flexible immigration policy. In 2013, 76% of the region’s residents described their ethnicity as European. The next largest group were Māori (12.7%), followed by Asian (11.3%), Pacific peoples (8.6%) and then Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (1.6%).

While ethnic minorities reside across the region, there are also clusters. Nearly a third (30.5%) of the region’s Māori live in Hutt city, making up 20.8% of its population. Almost two-thirds of the region’s Asians (61.5%) live in Wellington city (15.7% of the city’s population) and over a third (36.4%) of Pacific peoples live in Porirua city (26.2% of the city’s population).

The least ethnically diverse area is the Kapiti district. While 13.2% of residents are Māori, only 6.4% of the population identified as Pacific, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American or African.

A cluster of cities

In 2013 the Wellington region consisted of four cities and one district:

  • Wellington city (190,959 residents)
  • Hutt city (98,238)
  • Upper Hutt city (40,179)
  • Porirua city (51,717)
  • Kapiti Coast district (49,104).

The region is the third most populous in the country, after Auckland and Canterbury.

How to cite this page:

Chris Maclean, 'Wellington region - Population', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/wellington-region/page-12 (accessed 20 November 2017)

Story by Chris Maclean, published 9 Jul 2007, updated 1 Aug 2015