Background

New Zealand society is becoming increasingly diverse. Auckland is our most culturally diverse city with over 100 ethnicities and more than 150 languages spoken daily. ERO has previously reported more generally on schools’ response to linguistic diversity in Auckland, and has also published an article on emerging changes nationally.

The New Zealand school roll is more ethnically diverse than the population as a whole. In particular, there are a greater proportion of Pacific students, compared with the overall population. As of 2018, 78,630 students identified as Pacific, representing nearly 10 percent of the school roll, compared with seven percent of the overall population identified as Pacific at the time of the 2013 Census. The Pacific student population increased in almost all regions across New Zealand between 2009 and 2018. The bulk of the Pacific student population is in Auckland, but there were considerable relative increases in many regions, as shown in a full table in Appendix 2. Auckland saw the Pacific roll increase by 2116, from 52,443 in 2009 to 54,559 in 2018. In Wellington, the Pacific roll decreased by 538, from 8,529 in 2009 to 7,991 in 2018. Despite this, Wellington remains the region with the second highest number of Pacific students.

Figure 1 below shows the regions, other than Auckland and Wellington, with more than 1000 Pacific students (as of 2018), and how the population has changed between 2009 and 2018.

Figure 1: Pacific roll growth in selected regions of New Zealand 2009-2018

This bar graph shows the Pacific roll growth from 2009-2018 in selected regions.  The Y axis runs from 0 to 4500 in leaps of 500.  The x axis is six regions they are as follows from left to right; Otago region, Bay of Plenty region, Hawkes Bay region, Manawatu-Wanganui region, Waikato region and Canterbury region.  The figures are as follows; Otago 2009 - 810, 2018 - 1230.  Bay of Plenty 2009 - 1089, 2018 - 1466. Hawkes Bay 2009 - 1331, 2018 - 1532. Manawatu-Wanganui 2009 - 1327, 2018 - 1827. Waikato 2009 - 2443, 2018 - 3222 and lastly Canterbury 2009 - 3060, 2018 - 4183.

The 2013 Census recorded a total of 295,941 Pacific people living in New Zealand. The majority (194,958 people or 66 per cent) live in Auckland. The Pacific population is growing, and is projected by Statistics New Zealand to reach 480,000 by 2026. As of 2013, the main Pacific languages spoken in New Zealand were Samoan (86,403 speakers), Tongan (31,839 speakers), Cook Islands Māori (8,124) speakers, Fijian (6,273 speakers), Niuean (4,548 speakers), and Tokelauan (2,469 speakers) (Statistics New Zealand, 2013).

While the Pacific population growth was previously driven predominantly by migration, and migration from Pacific nations to New Zealand continues to be a factor, the majority of Pacific people living in New Zealand now are born here, and many are second and third generation New Zealanders. Unfortunately, a growing number of New Zealand born Pacific children are not being exposed to their languages, which could lead Pacific groups to occupy the same situation as Māori in the 1970s, fighting to bridge an intergenerational language gap in the community (McCaffery and McFall-McCaffery 2010).

The Government has indicated, through the Pacific Reset strategy announced in March 2018, a renewed commitment to partnership with Pacific nations based on the recognition of New Zealand’s Polynesian character.