The number of infant deaths and the infant mortality rate were at record lows last year, statistics released today shows.
Statistics New Zealand said a total of 256 infant deaths (under one year of age) were registered in 2012, down from 290 in 2011.
The infant mortality rate was 4.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, down from 4.7 in 2011, and 5.6 in 2002.
Population statistics project manager Joel Watkins said the infant mortality rate last year was the lowest ever recorded in New Zealand.
The lower infant mortality was due to a decrease in the number of Maori infants dying - down from 123 in 2011 to 82 last year. The mortality rate for Maori infants dropped to 4.7 in 2012, down from 7.0 in 2011.
The Maori neonatal mortality rate (infants under four weeks of age) was 2.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, down from 3.2 in 2011. The Maori post-neonatal mortality rate also dropped, from 3.8 in 2011 to 2.5 last year.
However Statistics NZ warned the annual fluctuations should be treated with caution, due to the relatively small number of infant deaths each year.
Long-term trends show the infant mortality rate has decreased slower in the last decade than in previous eras. The rate declined from 28.4 in 1952, to 15.6 in 1972, and to 7.2 in 1992.