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Royal Society looks beyond census data to NZ's future

Royal Society of New Zealand looks beyond census data to New Zealand’s future

The Royal Society of New Zealand sees a future where multiple ‘national’ identities exist, we face an ageing but increasingly active older population, and a relatively large and youthful Māori and Pasifika population offers a ‘demographic dividend’.

New Zealand is also likely to face population growth that is entirely dependent on immigration and susceptible to unforeseen surges, continued growth in Auckland, and challenges for rural areas in maintaining service levels for an aging and possibly dwindling population.

Our Futures: Te Pae Tāwhiti, released today by an expert panel of the Royal Society of New Zealand, brings together data and analysis from the 2013 census and other sources, together with input from a wide range of researchers, to provide some evidence-based pointers to the future of New Zealand society.

Professor Gary Hawke, chair of the panel, says the review is unique in that it is multi-disciplinary and focused on the big picture.

“We wanted to highlight what an evolving New Zealand society might look like, what is underlying these changes, and the challenges and opportunities these present.”

The panel identified seven key themes from the census data and analyses—diversity, population growth, tangata whenua, migration, households and families, regional variation
and work—around which Our Futures: Te Pae Tāwhiti is structured.

Professor Hawke says that the review did not result in sweeping predictions for the future, but offered comment on trends and implications based on what we know today and the pressures for change.

“What we have brought together should enable a more informed approach to both policy debate and political discussion.”

In his foreword, Sir David Skegg, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, says he believes the report will be of interest to anyone who cares about the future of New Zealand.

“I would love to see it in the hands (or on the screens) not only of decision-makers but also of the Year 13 students who will be our future leaders.”

Our Futures: Te Pae Tāwhiti is available to download at http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/our-futures

The paper was authored by a Royal Society of New Zealand panel chaired by Professor Gary Hawke FRSNZ. The panel members were: Professor Richard Bedford QSO FRSNZ, Dr Tahu Kukutai, Dr Malcolm McKinnon, Professor Erik Olssen FRSNZ and Professor Paul Spoonley FRSNZ.

Summary from Our Futures: Te Pae Tāwhiti, The 2013 Census and New Zealand's changing population

“Ko te pae tata, whakamaua, kia tīnā, Ko te pae tāwhiti, whaia, kia tata” – “Secure the horizons that are close to hand and pursue the more distant horizons so that they may become close”


· New Zealand has always had minority communities – both ethnic and religious – but in the last twenty years, the country has become diverse in new ways: increasing migration from Asia and an increasing proportion of the population born overseas.
· The implication for New Zealand is that it is, increasingly, a country with multiple cultural identities and values.

Population change

· People are living and staying active longer, and the proportion of the population in the older age groups will increase.
· The implications for New Zealand are that people will need income for longer, and keeping the birth rate above replacement level will be a challenge.

Tangata whenua

· Māori have a distinctive but rapidly changing population structure with significant assets, as well as labour.
· Māori culture and institutions continue to endure and evolve along with demographic change, but the maintenance of Te Reo Māori faces challenges.


· New Zealand’s population is the product of two long-established migration flows: immigration and circulation of citizens of other countries, and emigration and circulation of New Zealanders.
· The implications for New Zealand could include immigration surges from the diaspora, such as the 650,000 New Zealanders who live in Australia, and from the 23 million Australians that have right of access to the New Zealand labour market and welfare. The contribution migration makes to population growth is likely to increase, relative to that from natural increase from the mid-2030’s as the gap between births and deaths continues to shrink with rising numbers of deaths and falling birth rates.
Households and families

· Household patterns have changed little in the 21st century.
· There has been a rise in two-family households, and many children live in households which have limited income and assets.

Regional variation

· New Zealand is regionally diverse and interconnected, with Auckland accounting for over half the population growth between 2006 and 2013. Internal migration has decelerated between regions.
· The implication for New Zealand is a pattern of greater relative growth for Auckland, a few centres with slower growth, and population decline in much of rural New Zealand, with implications for maintaining service levels for an ageing and possibly dwindling population.


· Employment is shifting in terms of location and the rise and fall of occupations and industries. This has been accompanied by changes in labour supply, resulting in part from the ageing of the population, the contraction in entry level cohorts and the reliance on immigrant labour.
· The implications for New Zealand are that the growing diversity of the nature of paid employment will continue, so that there will be less security and participation will be more precarious.


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