30 May 2024

Census data: 'Pacific and Maori are future of NZ'

11:23 am on 30 May 2024
Stylised illustration of different people standing on a map of Aotearoa.

Photo: RNZ

A growing youthful population of Māori and Pasifika is the future of Aotearoa New Zealand, a former Pacific peoples minister says.

Stats NZ data from the latest census has revealed an increase in Pacific population groups from 8.1 in 2018 to 8.9 percent in 2023.

It also showed the median age for Pacific people is 25.

The former minister and community leader Aupito William Sio said the data is a confirmation.

"I have always known for a very long time that we are a very fast growing population which paints a picture that Pasifika as well as Māori are the future of New Zealand," he said.

The Pasifika population has grown rapidly, about twice the rate of New Zealand's population, according to 2006-2023 census data.

Pacific people now make up 442,632 people compared to 381,642 in 2018.

The New Zealand population has grown to nearly five million in total.

The matter of Indo-Fijians/Fijian-Indians claiming Pacific Islander in the census as their ethnicity must also be considered, Fiji Girmit NZ president Krish Naidu said, noting what has been a long-standing issue.

"They do have a Fijian passport. I will always include them but there is a different matter when it comes to Fijian. They are divided and it is a matter," Sio said.

RNZ Pacific asked the Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti on whether Indo-Fijians were included in Ministry of Pacific Peoples as Pacific people.

In a statement, his office said: "The Ministry for Pacific Peoples is undertaking ongoing policy work to better understand this issue."

During this month's Girmit celebrations in Auckland, Prime Minister Chris Luxon did not address the issue despite "clarity" being directly called from this coalition government being called for by the Girmit community.

Under the coalition government there is no Pacific representation in Parliament.

Budget and tax cuts

Meanwhile, around 5000 public sector roles have been axed by the coalition government's priority to make national tax cuts.

Over 60 jobs from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples are included in this, but 31 roles were already vacant.

"The job cuts at the moment is causing uncertainty, it is causing a real sense of low morale within the public sector workforce," Sio said.

"It's tough times for many facing redundancies."

RNZ Pacific has spoken to one public sector worker who did not wish to be named.

They had already lost "two jobs in one year."

After the elections, they wanted to "create change" and help their community by working within the public sector.

Despite many of their colleagues leaving because they did not align with the values of New Zealand new coalition leaders, they said staying in good faith has resulted in her job being on the line.

The public sector worker said it was a "disappointing" outcome.

Sio said he felt "suspicious about New Zealand's upcoming budget" and was unaware of Pacific community leaders being invited to any pre or post budget events.

Following last year's scrutiny over a pre-budget breakfast blowout, the Ministry of Pacific Peoples was criticised by ACT leader David Seymour for "overspending" taxpayer money.

Opposition's deputy leader of Labour and spokesperson for Pacific peoples Carmel Sepuloni has been approached for comment.