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Pacific mobility in New Zealand
Overview of Pacific migration

Historical context

People of Pacific ethnicities have a long history of settlement in New Zealand, and ongoing migration from the Pacific, which started several centuries earlier with the first flows from Polynesia. Several waves of migration occurred from various parts of the Pacific throughout the last century and a half, with significant periods of immigration during the 1960s and 1970s. Pacific people in New Zealand are now a diverse group with ancestral links to many parts of the Pacific. The communities have settled throughout New Zealand but prefer to live in particular areas, such as South Auckland. The majority are New Zealand-born.

How many Pacific people moved?

More than 47 percent of people of Pacific ethnicities have moved within New Zealand between 2001 and 2006.

In 2006, there were 266,000 people who identified with one or more ethnicities in the Pacific ethnic grouping. Of these, 255,000 people told us where they had lived 5 years earlier at the time of the 2001 Census.

Table 1

People of Pacific ethnicities
By address five years ago
2006 Census
Number of people of Pacific ethnicities
Male Female Total
Same as usual residence 46,461 50,283 96,744
Elsewhere in New Zealand or no fixed abode 50,790 52,541 103,332
Not born five years ago 17,916 16,932 34,848
Overseas 9,657 9,615 19,272
Not stated 6,186 5,589 11,775
Total 131,010 134,964 265,974


Among the people aged five years and over who gave us this information, 47 percent had moved at least once in NZ within the previous five years, 44 percent had not moved and 9 percent had arrived or returned from overseas.

People of Pacific ethnicities are increasingly mobile, though remain less mobile than either their Māori or Asian counterparts.

Table 2

People of Pacific ethnicities
Percentage distribution by address five years ago
1986–2006 Censuses
Census year
Address five years ago 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006
Percent of Pacific population
Same as usual residence 52.7 47.0 48.4 43.4 44.1
Elsewhere in New Zealand 34.6 40.8 43.1 45.7 47.1
Overseas 12.7 12.2 8.6 10.9 8.8
Total 100 100 100 100 100
Percent of Pacific internal migrants
Stayers 60.3 53.6 52.9 46.1 48.4
Movers within New Zealand 39.7 46.6 47.1 53.9 51.6
Total internal migrants 100 100 100 100 100
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