Māori fertility rates declined from 1769 (the year James Cook first landed in New Zealand), probably because Pākehā introduced venereal diseases which affected fertility. Rates picked up from the mid-19th century and remained high for over a century – they fluctuated between 5.9 and 6.9 births per woman between 1901 and 1961, and were over 5 until the early 1970s. The rate then dropped significantly, reaching a low point of 2.14 in 1986. Unlike the Pākehā rate, the Māori fertility rate has never fallen below replacement level (2.1 births per woman).
Note: the gaps in the graph above reflect gaps in data. Māori fertility rates are estimated to 1961, when official counts began.
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Sources: Ian Pool et al., The New Zealand family from 1840: a demographic history. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2007, Fig. 2.1; Statistics New Zealand