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People born overseas

Overseas-born people make up an increasing proportion of the New Zealand population. At the time of the 2006 Census there were 879,500 overseas-born people living in New Zealand, making up 23 per cent of the country’s population compared with 19 per cent in 2001 and 17 per cent in 1996.

The composition of New Zealand’s overseas-born population is also changing, reflecting the changes in New Zealand’s immigration patterns. The United Kingdom and Ireland – historically the major sources of New Zealand’s immigrants – still account for the largest share of New Zealand’s overseas-born population, but at 29 per cent in 2006 this is considerably lower than the 1996 figure of 38 per cent. Over the same period there were also falls in the proportion of overseas-born residents who were born in Australia, the Pacific Islands and the other countries of North-West Europe.

The largest growth was in the North-East Asia category. This was mainly because of an increase in the number of people born in the People’s Republic of China from 19,500 to 78,100 between 1996 and 2006. The Southern and Central Asia category also increased markedly, reflecting a more-than-threefold increase in the Indian-born population from 12,800 to 43,300. The largest proportionate increase was in the sub-Saharan Africa group, largely the result of an almost fourfold increase in the South African born population, from 11,300 to 41,700.

Table P1 Birthplaces of the overseas-born population, 1996 and 2006

Birthplace Census year
1996 2006
Number % Number %
Australia 54,711 9.0 62,742 7.1
Pacific Islands 99,258 16.4 135,852 15.4
United Kingdom and Ireland 230,049 38.0 251,688 28.6
North-West Europe 39,168 6.5 44,103 5.0
Southern and Eastern Europe 16,431 2.7 23,964 2.7
North Africa and the Middle East 7,245 1.2 16,533 1.9
South-East Asia 37,332 6.2 58,266 6.6
North-East Asia 61,179 10.1 135,168 15.4
Southern and Central Asia 19,410 3.2 57,699 6.6
The Americas 22,629 3.7 34,383 3.9
Sub-Saharan Africa 17,439 2.9 59,118 6.7
Total with overseas birthplace specified 604,851 100.0 879,516 100.0

Source: Statistics New Zealand (2007e) Table 7

Significant proportions of New Zealand’s immigrant population are relatively recent arrivals in the country. In 2006, almost a third (32 per cent) of overseas-born residents had lived here less than five years, while a further 17 per cent had lived here between five and nine years.

New Zealand’s immigrant population is disproportionately concentrated in the Auckland region. In 2006, over half (52 per cent) of the population who were born overseas lived in Auckland. People born in Pacific and Asian countries had particularly high concentrations in Auckland (73 per cent and 66 per cent respectively). Overseas-born people were under-represented in all other regions with the exception of Wellington, which was home to 11 per cent of both the overseas-born and the total populations.

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