Auckland is by far the country’s most populous region, with a 2013 population of 1,415,550. One in three New Zealanders live in the region.
As a military base and the colony’s capital, Auckland grew steadily from its foundation in 1840. While many settlers came from Australia and the British Isles, the town also attracted a high proportion of Irish migrants – nearly a third of the population of Auckland in 1851. When the troops left and Wellington became the capital in the mid-1860s, Auckland stagnated. It boomed in the late 1870s and early 1880s as forests were felled, gold was mined at Thames, and business and land speculation thrived.
By 1878, Auckland province’s four main population groups were:
- New Zealand-born – 45%
- English – 27%
- Irish – 13%
- Scots – 6%.
The depression of the late 1880s saw the region’s population fall again, but by 1901 it was drawing ahead of all other regions, and has stayed there ever since.
Growth after the Second World War
From 1926 until the Second World War (1939–1945) Auckland grew slowly. But during the post-war boom the population increased at twice the rate of the rest of the country, reaching 500,000 in 1961. The period saw a large influx of British immigrants to the North Shore and a new community of Dutch arrivals in West Auckland.
As young, rural Māori migrated to the city in search of work, the proportion of Māori grew from 0.9% in 1936 to 8.1% in 1976. In the same period over two-thirds of immigrants from the Cook Islands, Tokelau Islands, Western Samoa and Niue made Auckland their home.
In 1979 and 1980 South Auckland welcomed hundreds of Vietnamese refugees fleeing their war-torn country. In the mid-1980s a change in New Zealand’s immigration policy encouraged thousands of Asian migrants – mainly Korean and Chinese – to settle in the region. Auckland’s population passed 1 million in 1996.
Between 2006 and 2013 the population increased by 110,589, growing at an annual rate of 8.4%. This was the highest in New Zealand, well above the national figure of 5.3%. The fastest increase was in the Waitematā ward (22.6%). This has led to high demand for housing and house prices well above the national average.
Auckland is the most ethnically diverse region in New Zealand. In 2013, 48.4% of residents identified as Asian, Pacific Island or Māori.
Maths no problem
In 2004, aged 14, Kathy Moon arrived in Glenfield with her family from Korea. ‘My first day at school I totally got lost … Because I didn’t know anyone I sat beside a Māori girl who was three times bigger … She laughed at my surname … I wanted to explain the meaning of my name but I couldn’t speak English. I found some recovery in my maths class. The stuff that year 10 [was] learning was simply too easy for me. I learnt it four years ago in Korea!’ 1
The Rodney and Franklin local board areas are predominantly European (90.9% and 85.0% respectively). Māori and Pacific Islanders make up two-thirds of the Manukau ward’s residents, and Asians over half of those in Auckland city.
Samoan is the second language in the Auckland region – in 2013 it was spoken by 4.4% of Aucklanders (compared to 2.2% nationally). Over two-thirds of New Zealand’s Samoan speakers were in Auckland, and 18% of Manukau residents spoke the language. Auckland had high proportions of other foreign-language speakers, including 81.7% of New Zealand’s Tongan speakers, 74.4% of Hindi speakers and 74.2% of Northern Chinese speakers.
A majority of migrants arriving in New Zealand opt to settle in the Auckland region. In 2013, 39.1% of Aucklanders were born overseas (compared with 25.2% for New Zealand overall) – 15.4% in Asia, 8.9% in Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and 8.3% in the Pacific Islands.