Northland's population is tipped to increase, with a sociologist expecting an influx of people leaving Auckland to drive the growth.
Northland population is an estimated 159,900 residents, but is expected to rise by 20 per cent over the next 18 years to 192,300.
The births and deaths figures for 2012, released by Statistics NZ, show 61,178 babies were born nationally last year, including 2311 to Northland mothers. About 30,000 people died nationally, including 1372 from Northland.
Of the Northland births, 1372, or 59.3 per cent, were Maori, while 373 of the deaths (24.5 per cent) were Maori.
Massey University sociologist Professor Paul Spoonley said the people leaving Auckland for cheaper cities could push Northland's population up even higher than predictions.
"I think there's anecdotal evidence to suggest Aucklanders are moving to towns like Whangarei but that's got to be balanced by the statistics which show very modest growth at best," he said.
"Whangarei has been losing its population, particularly to Australia, at quite a high rate."
He predicted many of New Zealand's regional areas would struggle in the next 20 years.
"The challenge for regions is how do you keep jobs and how do you keep people?"
Prof Spoonley said more people were looking to New Zealand's largest city for better opportunities - a pattern set to continue.
"Auckland has a big city effect, in that it tends to suck in those people in jobs."
According to Stats NZ, by the time New Zealand's population attains 5 million in 2026, about 38 per cent (1.9 million) of the population will live in Auckland.
About one-in-three Kiwis call the City of Sails home.
He warned that "one-industry" towns would face the biggest battle for survival in the next two decades.
Keeping the birth rate high was also important, he said, but without job opportunities, younger people would be hard-pushed to find reasons to remain in many provincial areas.
Despite predicted increases in immigration numbers, which are expected to help overall population growth, Prof Spoonley warned that regional areas were unlikely to benefit.
"Migrants don't want to go to small town New Zealand," he said.
One of the biggest challenges facing national population growth was competition from across the Tasman.
Stats NZ senior analyst Kim Dunstan said the mass exodus to Australia was one of the greatest contributors to last year's population growth of just 0.7 per cent - the lowest in 10 years.