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 close to the New Zealand average. This was particularly marked for Manawatū district (the 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, its 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 median wage.
In 1879 around 2,000 people – about half of them Māori – were living in Manawatū and Horowhenua. In 1881 the non-Māori population was 9,000. By 1921 non-Māori numbers had swelled to over 46,000, with fewer than 1,500 Māori.
Between 1921 and 1961 the population almost doubled, to nearly 88,000. Only about one-quarter now lived in rural areas. The Māori population had increased, but numbers were still small and unevenly distributed. There were larger groups of Māori in Horowhenua and Palmerston North than in rural Manawatū.
By 2013 the population had grown to 137,000, with most of the increase before 1976. From 1996 to 2006, there was an increase of just over 2,000 – all in Palmerston North. Between 2006 and 2013 the population also increased in rural areas and small towns – Palmerston North contributed 59% of the growth in that period, rural Manawatū (including Feilding) 35% and Horowhenua 6%.