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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - New Zealand

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - New Zealand, 6 July 2011, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Maori are the original inhabitants of New Zealand (Aotearoa), who today comprise approximately 15 per cent (575,000) of New Zealand's population of 4.25 million.

The government of New Zealand has made significant strides in advancing the rights of Maori people in comparison to the experiences of other indigenous peoples around the world, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (who visited the country in 2010). However, the Special Rapporteur also noted that Maori peoples continue to experience extreme disadvantage in a range of social and economic areas in comparison to the rest of New Zealand society.

Across a range of indicators, Maori women experience poorer economic, health and social outcomes than other New Zealand women. Almost 20 per cent of Maori women reported being assaulted or threatened by an intimate partner, three times the national average. Maori women also make up nearly 60 per cent of the female prison population.

The New Zealand government announced in December 2010 that it will conduct a wide-ranging review of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. The review, expected to last three years, will cover a range of issues. Importantly, among these it will consider the role of the Treaty of Waitangi, the country's core founding instrument that established the partnership between Maori and the New Zealand government, in New Zealand's constitutional framework.

The Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives in late 2010, to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act (2004), which controversially extinguished any Maori customary title over coastal and marine areas. The new bill is expected to be passed into law in early 2011, and will restore the customary interests extinguished by the Foreshore and Seabed Act, subject to proof of Maori use and occupation of the area according to custom (tikanga), without substantial interruption from 1840 to the present day.

In April 2010, at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New Zealand declared its endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Other minority groups

Over the last 10 years, net migration has accounted for around a third of New Zealand's population growth. By 2021, it is projected that minority groups, including those who identify as Maori, Asian or Pacific Islander, will make up a large proportion of the New Zealand population. Across these ethnic groups is a consistent pattern of a slightly higher percentage of females than males.

In recent decades in particular, there has been significant migration from the Pacific Islands (primarily from Polynesia) to New Zealand. The seven largest Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand are Samoan, Cook Islands Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Fijian, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan. According to the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, by 2026, it is projected that Pacific people will be 10 per cent of the population, compared to 6.5 per cent in 2001. The largest urban concentration of Pacific Islanders living outside their own countries is in Auckland, sometimes referred to as the 'Polynesian capital of the world'.

Pacific Islanders, who today constitute up to 7 per cent of the population, experienced societal discrimination in 2010. Recognizing this, the Ministries of Justice and Pacific Island Affairs have developed a programme to identify gaps in delivery of government services to Pacific Islanders.

Asians, who make up 10 per cent of the population, also reported discrimination. The government has appointed a Race Relations Commissioner and has developed a Diversity Action Programme aimed at the Asian, Maori and Pacific Island communities. The programme includes an annual Diversity Forum to challenge race-based discrimination.

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