Census Important Tool for Population Conference

  • Max Bradford

The most comprehensive census in the history of New Zealand will form an important information base for the Population Conference later this year, Immigration Minister Max Bradford said today.

The 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings, released today, used new technology to create the most comprehensive picture of how we have changed as a nation since the first New Zealand census was conducted in 1851, Mr Bradford said.

"The production of reliable and definitive data is a crucial planning tool in ensuring informed decisions can be made to lead the nation into the 21st century," Mr Bradford said.

The 1996 census information meant the Population Conference would be armed with the latest, most in-depth research and facts about New Zealand's population, as it set out to look at the economic, social and international issues relating to population change and immigration in New Zealand.

"On the surface, our population will grow little in size over the next fifty years. More critical are the factors which lie behind our population statistics - the demographic and social indicators of fertility, mortality, family formation, immigration and migration," Mr Bradford said.

"Our society is changing fast. Long held traditions, social structures and customs are being challenged by an exponential rate of change."

The typical New Zealand family was no longer mum, dad, two to four kids, a dog and a station wagon in a settled family home.

Now, one person households comprised 1 in 5 of the population and are growing faster than any others.

The future New Zealand population would be older with a more mature workforce.

In addition, the Maori population had changed dramatically.

"Their prospects as a race in just two generations have gone from a state of decline to a dynamic vibrancy that has seen Maori life expectancy and, more latterly, educational levels move strongly ahead," Mr Bradford said.

"New Zealanders have significant thinking to do about what elements of population change we can influence - and whether we want or need to. The Population Conference in November will take a hard look at some of those issues. It will be a significant event in planning for the future of New Zealand."