Māori fertility rates declined from 1769 (the year Captain 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. From this period the rate 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 until 1961, when official counts began.
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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