Correction: The original title of this article was misleading and has been updated to reflect the facts about population growth as opposed to the total population.
New Zealand may have to look abroad to help its population increase as the latest figures shows that growth is at is lowest for the time of year since March 2001.
Data from Statistics New Zealand also show that it has an ageing population and experts believe there may need to be a drive to recruit younger people who want to work and live in New Zealand as more people are leaving than arriving.
The country’s population was 4,430,400 at the end of March 2012 having grown just 0.6% or 27,700 in the last year, the figures show. The population growth is the lowest for a March year since 2001, when the population increased 0.5% or by 21,000.
An excess of 31,100 births over deaths caused population growth during the March 2012 year. There was a net migration loss (departures exceeded arrivals) of 3,400.
‘A combination of fewer births, more deaths, and more people leaving New Zealand has resulted in the country's lowest population growth since 2001,’ said Andrea Blackburn, Population Statistics manager.
The country’s population continues to age. There were proportionally more people aged 65 years and over in the population at 31 March 2012, 14% compared with 12% in 2002. In contrast, the population aged less than 15 years decreased from 22% to 20%.
Those aged 65 and older now exceed 600,000, a number that experts say is set to rise. Within the older age group, those 80 years and over are the fastest growing group.
‘In the next 40 years, the number of people aged 80 years and over is expected to more than triple from 160,000 to exceed half a million,’ said Blackburn.
One of the areas worst hit is Canterbury. The number of live births in Canterbury decreased in the year ended March 2012 the most. There were 6,539 live births registered in Canterbury for the year, a decrease of 9% from the March 2011 year.
‘The decrease in births in Canterbury was bigger than for any other region. Births decreased in all regions except Otago and the West Coast,’ said Blackburn.
Deaths increased slightly in the March 2012 year. There were 29,811 deaths registered in New Zealand in the year, up 2% from the March 2011 year. The increase in deaths is not unexpected. The number of deaths is gradually increasing due to population growth in the older age groups, although this is partly offset by longer life expectancy.
Live births, combined with the deaths, resulted in a natural increase (live births minus deaths) of 31,049, down from 34,077 in the March 2011 year.