Region's cultural diversity grows - but only a little

Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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The ethnic makeup of the Waikato is becoming more diverse as the population continues to grow - although a Waikato demographer says it lags behind other regions, such as Auckland.

The biggest set of data from the 2013 Census, released yesterday, shows the Waikato region followed the national trend of an increasingly diverse population.

Government number crunchers revealed one out of five people in the Waikato are Maori, with a total population of 83,742; while the region had the third highest percentage of Asian people at 6.9 per cent, or 26,382.

The European population was 296,097; Pacific peoples numbered 14,700; and the combined tally of Middle Eastern, Latin American and African people grew to 3564.

Demographer Tahu Kukutai, from Waikato University's National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis said the Asian population in Waikato was well behind Auckland's 23 per cent.

"Yes, Waikato has become more diverse in 2013 relative to what it was in 2001. In terms of how Waikato compares to, say, Auckland, we are not very diverse."

She said it was important to compare the Waikato's ethnic diversity with the European population and also to compare it with other regions and the national average.

Waikato showed a decrease in European population from 82 per cent to 77 per cent between 2001 and 2013.

"In terms of how Waikato compared to New Zealand as a national average, we have a slightly higher proportion of Europeans and we have a much lower proportion of Asians."

Census figures revealed 11,298 people from the Waikato moved to Auckland, but 15,678 reversed that drift with a net gain to Waikato of 4380 people.

The two regions sit side by side but were distinctly different and Dr Kukutai said the number of ethnic minorities in the region would continue to grow.

"We're going to be brought into close contact with the Waikato Expressway and going forward in the future Waikato will be intimately connected to Auckland.

"It's a small shift in that direction but if you think about it, how far are we from Auckland? Not that far."

Languages spoken here have also changed, with Hindi taking over from French as the third most spoken language behind English and Maori - almost doubling from 2064 to 3855.

Waikato has the second highest number of Maori language speakers, with more than 20 per cent of Maori able to hold a conversation in te reo Maori. The overall number of speakers had dropped 4.8 per cent since 2006, however.

Professor Natalie Jackson said the population grew more slowly and was older than expected.

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The Thames Coromandel district had the oldest population in the country with 27 per cent aged 65 and over, compared with 14.3 per cent nationally.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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