Hitched in Tasman but split in city

Last updated 13:00 05/02/2014

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Nelson city has the highest proportion of divorced, separated or widowed people in New Zealand, while Tasman district has the highest proportion of married people in the country.

Newly released 2013 census results show that 21 per cent of the adult Nelson population said they were separated, divorced or widowed, compared with 17 per cent nationally.

At the same time, Nelson was one of the few areas to record an increase in the proportion of married people, which rose slightly from 47.1 per cent to 47.2 per cent of the adult population.

Tasman has the highest proportion of married people in the country. The census showed 54.7 per cent of Tasman residents aged 15 or over saying they were legally married, compared with 48.1 per cent nationwide.

Tasman is also home to the highest proportion of people with no religion and the lowest proportion of Christians in the country. The number of Tasman residents who registered themselves as having no religion rose 26 per cent since the last census in 2006, bringing the new total to 51.4 per cent.

Nationwide, 41.9 per cent of the population - more than 1.9 million Kiwis - are now non-religious, while 47.7 per cent identify with some kind of Christian denomination.

In comparison, just 42 per cent of Tasman residents said they were Anglican, Baptist, Catholic or another Christian denomination in the last census.

Nelson also saw a higher than average number of non-believers, as well as a jump in the number of people abandoning their faith.

Those with no religion made up 41 per cent of the area's population in 2006, but at the last census this had risen to 48 per cent.

Baptist and Pentecostal churches in both areas saw a modest rise in numbers. Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne is an elder at the Richmond New Life Pentecostal church, one of the few denominations to see a moderate rise in numbers.

Baptists, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs from both Nelson and Tasman also escaped the overall decline.

"It's a surprise, but I think the good thing about our region is that everyone looks out for each other anyway," Mr Kempthorne said.

He could not think of a reason why religious adherence had dropped in Tasman, saying it was simply a "fact of our community".

Mr Kempthorne said he was familiar with a number of Richmond churches but had not noticed any decline.

As well as leaving behind their religion, Nelson and Tasman residents have given up tobacco in record numbers.

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Tasman has the lowest proportion of smokers nationwide, with 12.9 per cent of residents aged 15 or over saying they smoke regularly, down from 18.2 per cent in 2006.

In the latest census, 28.1 per cent of Tasman residents said they were former smokers, giving the district the second-highest population of ex-smokers behind Northland.

Nelson's decline was similar, with the proportion of regular adult smokers in the area dropping from 19.6 per cent in 2006 to 13.8 per cent last year.

In particular, Nelson teenagers aged 15-19 put down their cigarettes in record numbers, with a 49.2 per cent drop in the number of regular smokers since 2006. But despite this decrease, 11.2 per cent of Nelson residents aged 15-19 still smoked regularly at the last census.

The census showed 15.1 per cent of adult New Zealanders described themselves as regular smokers in 2013, but New Zealand has seen an overall drop of 23 per cent from 598,000 in 2006.

Nelson Bays Primary Health chief executive officer Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said the results were "lovely".

"There's been a huge push on understanding smoking and putting in brief advice to help people quit," he said. "It's really good to see that the results are there."

He said the PHO aimed to get local doctors to cover the "ABC" - ask if a patient is smoking, offer brief advice on how to quit, and arrange counselling.

PHO smokefree facilitator Claire Gavin said she was not surprised by the drop in the number of teens smoking.

She said the Government's planned increases in the price of cigarettes had affected cash-strapped teenagers more than adults, and she had noticed a definite shift in youth culture around smoking.

"When we actually talk to the kids and say, ‘Is it cool to smoke?' they say, ‘No, not so much'."

WE ARE...

Nelson Divorced, separated, widowed 21.4% Married 47.2% Regular smokers 13.8% Tasman No religion 51.4% Christian 42% Regular smokers 12.9% Married 54.7%

- The Nelson Mail

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