Identifying as New Zealander or Pākehā

I am a part of a growing trend to identify as a New Zealander and/or Pākehā. If ethnicity questions don’t include either option I put myself as ‘other’ and write New Zealander if there is a box for nominated ethnicity.

The 2018 census had a category of ‘European’, which I strongly object to for myself, I have no affinity with Europe. I put myself down as ‘other’, but many herd identified as from the other side of the world.

Totals from the 2018 census:

  • European 70.2% (74% in 2013)
  • Māori 16.5% (up from 14.9%)
  • Asian 15.1% (up from 11.8%)
  • Pacific peoples 8.1% (up from 7.4%)
  • Middle Eastern/Latin American/African 1.5% (up from 1.2%)
  • Other 1.2% (down from 1.7%)

So I was part of a very small minority.

But in a recent  Stuff-Massey survey of over 70,000 people the numbers were quite different.

  • NZ European 49.73%
  • New Zealander 32.88%
  • Pākehā 11.86%
  • Asian 2.43%
  • Māori 2.29%
  • Pacifika 0,81%

While the sample was large it was self selected so may not represent a cross section of New Zealand, but this is indicative of a trend for many people to identify as a New Zealander, Pākehā (or probably Kiwi if that was an option).

Stuff – Identity Politics and Hyphenated Identities: What do New Zealanders really want for our political future?

The 2020 Stuff-Massey survey is not representative. It under-represents people of colour, and over-represents whites, and older people.

I’m not sure how they worked that out. It’s possible that many ‘people of colour’ identify primarily as a New Zealander.

So who are the “New Zealanders”, who chose not to qualify their nationality with ethnicity? They are demographically diverse, being only slightly older, more male, more often from the South Island, and less affluent than the overall sample. But the real meaning of this category label is in its association with political attitudes.

Self-identified New Zealanders tended to be National Party supporters, who advocated taking a cautious and sceptical stance towards climate change, while Pākehā were Labour supporters in favour of taking urgent action in response to climate change. NZ Europeans were in between, with 39 per cent for National and 43 per cent for Labour, and they were slightly more in favour of urgent action on climate change (39 per cent) compared to being cautious and sceptical (36 per cent).

Overall, there may be just as much, if not more diversity in the political opinions of different groups of white people in NZ compared to between ethnic groups. For in their attitude profiles, Pasifika resembled Pākehā, Māori looked like Pākehā or NZ Europeans, while Asians were similar to NZ Europeans or New Zealanders, depending on the issue.

That suggests a lot more diversity in opinions here than a few generalised ethnic boxes.

I think that in the census and on official forms we should be able to identify as being a New Zealander. ‘European’ is an out of date classification that could be seen by some as colonialist – I have put that in here as I see it as the best chance of getting a foreign box dropped from ethnicity questions.

Census 2018 – national highlights

Census 2018 data has been released. The process has been a problem, with a quality assessment finding the majority of key data was either very high, high, or moderate quality, but some data is poor or very poor

Key facts

New Zealand’s 34th Census of Population and Dwellings was held on 6 March 2018. We combined data from the census forms with administrative data to create the 2018 Census dataset, which meets Stats NZ’s quality criteria for population structure information.

The census night population count of New Zealand is a count of all people present in New Zealand on a given census night. The census usually resident population count of New Zealand is a count of all people who usually live in and were present in New Zealand on census night. It excludes overseas visitors and New Zealand residents who are temporarily overseas. The following population information is based on the census usually resident population.

Results of the 2018 Census showed:

  • The Māori ethnic group comprised 16.5 percent of the census usually resident population.
  • New Zealand was the most common birthplace, at 72.6 percent. This was followed by England (4.5 percent), the People’s Republic of China (2.9 percent), and India (2.5 percent).
  • The most common languages spoken were English (95.4 percent), te reo Māori (4.0 percent), and Samoan (2.2 percent).
  • More than 9 in 10 households (91.9 percent) in occupied private dwellings had access to a cell or mobile phone, a higher proportion than those with access to the internet at 86.1 percent.


The percentage of the population who identified themselves as belonging to the Māori ethnic group was 16.5 percent.

There was no change in the top five ethnicities between the 2013 and 2018 Censuses: New Zealand European (64.1 percent), Māori (16.5 percent), Chinese not further defined (nfd) (4.9 percent), Indian nfd (4.7 percent), and Samoan (3.9 percent).

The 2018 Census totals by topic – national highlights tables have national counts of ethnicities at the most detailed level of the ethnicity classification. However, 2018 Census population and dwelling counts has broad groupings of ethnicities (that is, European, Māori, Pacific, Asian, MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African), and Other ethnic groups) at various levels of geography.


Of the census usually resident population, 72.6 percent were born in New Zealand. This compares with 74.8 percent in the 2013 Census.

The next most common birthplace was England at 4.5 percent, down from 5.4 percent in 2013.

This was followed by the People’s Republic of China (2.9 percent or 132,906 people) and India (2.5 percent or 117,348 people), both up from 2.2 and 1.7 percent respectively (or 89,121 and 67,176 people) in the 2013 Census.

Languages spoken

Of the top five languages, both te reo Māori and Northern Chinese (including Mandarin) speakers increased slightly since the 2013 Census, from 3.7 to 4.0 percent, and from 1.3 to 2.0 percent respectively.

English was the most common language with which people could hold a conversation about everyday things, with 4,482,135 speakers (95.4 percent of the population).

The next most common languages were:

  • te reo Māori (185,955 people or 4.0 percent)
  • Samoan (101,937 people or 2.2 percent)
  • Northern Chinese (including Mandarin) (95,253 people or 2.0 percent)
  • Hindi (69,471 people or 1.5 percent).

New Zealand Sign Language was used by 22,986 people (or 0.5 percent). In 2013, this was 20,235 people (or 0.5 percent).

Education and training

One in four New Zealanders (24.5 percent) participated in full- or part-time study. Of these, 87.0 percent participated in full-time study.

Of the population, 18.2 percent of adults reported no qualification for their highest qualification, down from 20.9 percent in 2013.

The proportion of adults who had a bachelor’s degree or level 7 qualification for their highest qualification was 14.6 percent, while 5.9 percent had an overseas secondary school qualification.


The proportion of households in occupied private dwellings who owned or partly owned their homes, and made mortgage payments, was 27.8 percent. An additional 18.8 percent owned or partly owned their homes and did not make mortgage payments.

Of households whose dwelling was not owned or held in a family trust, 31.9 percent made rent payments, while a further 3.4 percent lived in a dwelling rent-free.

Of the households who paid rent, 83.5 percent rented from a private person, trust, or business, and 0.3 percent of households who paid rent rented from an iwi, hapū, or Māori land trust.

Heat pumps were the most common form of heating used in New Zealand homes (47.3 percent), followed by electric heaters (44.1 percent), and wood burners (32.3 percent).

Most households in occupied private dwellings had access to a cell or mobile phone (91.9 percent), and 86.1 percent had access to the internet.

2018 Census totals by topic – national highlights

Microsoft Excel Open XML Spreadsheet, 621 KB

Stats NZ:

NZ Public Service diversity – gender and ethnicity

The State Services Commission Public Service Workforce Data 2018:

This information release offers a snapshot of trends in the Public Service workforce. It uses employee payroll data from all 32 Public Service departments.

This document is a useful tool for shining a light on trends and areas that need to improve and informing public debate about important issues such as the representation of women, the number of women in senior leadership and chief executive roles, progress on gender pay, ethnic pay and health and safety in the workplace. It is organised around five main areas of the Public Service: workforce, diversity, career, workplace, inclusion, remuneration and workplace.

This year’s information release shows the Public Service has made significant progress towards increased representation of women in senior management and chief executive roles.

More women are represented in the top three tiers of leadership, now occupying 44% of chief executive positions, up 22% from five years ago (2013).

It also shows progress in other priority areas including closing the gender pay gap, gender equity for chief executives, pay equity and diversity. For the first time, information is presented on the Rainbow community and workplace injuries. The Public Service is becoming more diverse, with increased representation of Pacific and Asian ethnicities in the workforce.

60.9% women overall and 48.8% women in senior management is interesting.

The ethnic mix varies a lot across department. Melissa Carl-R (@HoneyBeegeek) tweeted

I am shocked that the NZ government’s Social Investment Agency employs only pakeha staff, and that the Ministry of Culture and Heritage is one of the most Pakeha organisations we have (only beaten by SIA and DPMC).

Ministry of Culture and Heritage is 9.9% Māori  which doesn’t seem too bad.

The overall mix doesn’t look bad either, nut ‘New Zealander’ is not represented at all!

Overall ethnic mix in New Zealand (2013 census):

  • European 74.0%
  • Māori  14.9%
  • Asian 11.8%
  • Pacific 7.4%


Census Tuesday, and that ethnicity question

Census forms – online or old fashioned paper – are due to be completed by tomorrow, Tuesday 8 March 2018.

If you want paper forms then it’s a bit late to request them given how slow post has become these days.

I did mine online last night:

It was quick and simple. I had to check which side of an earnings band division I was in but otherwise most answers were easy to answer.

The only contentious question was on ‘ethnic group’. There was no standard option for me so I had to tick ‘Other’. I then stated ‘New Zealander’.

Going by the 2013 census that puts me in a small minority, just 2.1% of people in Otago were New Zealanders, and 1.6% nationwide.

Stats NZ on Ethnicity:

Statistics about ethnicity give information by the ethnic groups that people identify with or feel they belong to.

Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation. It is not a measure of race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship. Ethnicity is self perceived and people can belong to more than one ethnic group.

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name
  • one or more elements of common culture, for example religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  • a shared sense of common origins or ancestry, and
  • a common geographic origin.

Apparently we all have a common geographic origin – Africa. But I don’t identify with Africa at all. and I don’t self perceive a European identity or belonging either.