Spectacular growth in the Asian population, which now makes up nearly one in 10 New Zealanders, is changing the face of the country.
People who identified themselves as Asian recorded 48 per cent growth and now make up 9.2 per cent of the population.
This means they have overtaken those who identify as Pacific Islanders, at 6.9 per cent, and are catching up with Maori, at 14.6 per cent.
In a detailed snapshot of New Zealand’s make-up, the 2006 census also shows there is a man drought, with almost 100,000 more women than men, Canterbury is the second-highest growth region in the country behind Auckland, and shop assistants continue to be the most populous occupation.
The total New Zealand population on census day in March was 4,027,947, a 7.8 per cent increase since 2001. That compares with growth of 3.3 per cent between 1996 and 2001.
Migration boosted the population, particularly in Auckland and Canterbury.
Europeans remain the largest group at 67 per cent, down from 80 per cent in 2001.
Asian leaders say projections that Asians could overtake Maori numbers in 15 years are incorrect because tougher immigration rules have led to a sharp drop in the number of Asian immigrants in recent years.
National Party ethnic affairs spokeswoman Pansy Wong said tougher English-language requirements, changes to the skilled and business migrant categories and a drop in the number of international students meant Asian growth had slowed considerably.
Wong said she liked to think the Asian population growth would not cause any concern, let alone a backlash from other New Zealanders, but a racially motivated attack on a New Zealand-born Chinese youth in Wellington last weekend and Families Commission research on harassment and discrimination faced by South Korean immigrants in Christchurch showed there was still work to do.
“I am quite firm about reminding Asian New Zealanders to stand up and complain because they have a rightful place like anybody in New Zealand,” she said.
Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter said racially motivated attacks on Muslim women in Auckland this week showed the country had to be “constantly mindful” of the challenges of ethnic diversity.
“Under no circumstances do we want the sort of difficulties in New Zealand that have arisen in parts of Australia,” said Carter, referring to race riots in Sydney this year.
He said the Government was developing an initiative to improve understanding between cultures.
Japanese woman Minori Uchiyama first arrived in Christchurch as a student more than 10 years ago, before returning for a 10-week visit in 2000.
Three years ago she moved to Christchurch, and she gained permanent residency in November last year.
“I wanted to live and work here. I think Christchurch is not too big and not too small,” she said.
Living in New Zealand was enjoyable, the reason many Asians chose to live here.
“There is free parking and it is free to play tennis. It is beautiful,” she said.
She had noticed more Asian people in Christchurch in recent years, but they were mainly South Korean or Chinese.
Uchiyama met her husband, Junichi, also Japanese, in Christchurch. They had their first child, Julie, last year and are expecting a second in June.
For the first time, the census recorded those who answered “New Zealander” to the ethnicity question.
They amounted to 11.1 per cent of the population—a five-fold increase from 2001—and were likely to comprise a range of ethnicities.
The census showed women outnumbered men by 96,711.
Thirty-something women bemoaning the lack of Mr Right will take no solace from statistics in the 30 to 35 age group, where there were 145,677 women and 130,884 men.
Canterbury grew by 8.4 per cent, second only to Auckland, which grew by 12.4 per cent.
The South Island had the three fastest-growing districts in the country, with Queenstown Lakes recording a 60 per cent population increase, followed by the Selwyn District at 23.3 per cent and Waimakariri at 16.1 per cent.
Other trends show 60 per cent of New Zealand households have access to the internet, up from 37 per cent in 2001, and in the first measure of cellphone availability, 74 per cent of households said they had access to one.
NZ AT A GLANCE
Total population: 4,027,947, up 7.8 per cent since 2001.
Median age: 35.9.
Ethnicity: 67.6 per cent European, 14.6 per cent Maori, 9.2 per cent Asian, 6.9 per cent Pacific Island.
Ethnic change: the Asian population has increased by 48.9 per cent since 2001 to 354,552, replacing Pacific people as the third-largest group.
More than one-fifth of New Zealanders were born overseas, the largest group in England.