A baby girl born in the Tasman region in 2012-14 can expect to live 84.1 years and a boy born in the Auckland region to 80.5 years - the highest in the land, according to new figures released by Statistics New Zealand.

Based on death registrations and a new method for deriving the life tables, the statistics are broken down into territorial authority areas.

This showed females in the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board area had the lowest life expectancy at 79.8 years while males in the board area had the lowest at 74.8 years.

Howick Local Board area had the highest life expectancy at birth for males of 83.1 years.
The boards are of a similar size.

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Counties-Manukau District Health Board includes both Howick Local Board and the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board in its catchment.

Board chief executive Geraint Martin said that reducing health inequity was going to be the major focus for the board in its strategic direction for the next three years.

It had introduced the "Localities" programme, which was bringing health services tailor-made to a community's predominant needs, for example , diabetes clinics, and for older people mobilisation clinics and geriatrician visits.

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board chairwoman Lydia Sosene said the total population of 72,000 included those suffering high socio economic deprivation and the board had low household wealth and income.

More than 75 per cent of its population were either Maori or Pacific Island ethnicity.

"The life expectancy figure is quite stark and there are a lot of economic and social challenges.

"But these figures will change, because we are second among Auckland's local boards for growing econonomic development and we have a local action plan."

"I see it as a glass half-full and things are going to change."

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Asked to comment on the long-living prospects of females born in the Tasman region in 2012-14, Tasman Mayor Tony Kempthorne, who lives in the town of Richmond, said the reason would be the diverse rural area.

"It has a good climate for getting outdoors to enjoy life and be physically active.

"I see reasonably fit people in their 70s and my mother, Rhoda, is 90 and she lived in the country until April this year and has a healthy outlook on life, and enjoys visits from friends."

Life expectancy at birth for New Zealand females was on average 83.2 years compared with 79.5 years for males in the 2012-14 period.

Gisborne had the lowest life expectancy at birth at 80.4 years for females and 76.2 for males.

Life expectancy increased in all regions since the life tables were prepared in 2005-07, with Hawkes Bay increasing the most for both males (up 1.5 years) and females up 1.2 years.

The gap between Maori and non Maori life expectancy at birth had decreased in all regions since the last life tables, said Statistics NZ population statistics manager Jo-Anne Skinner.

"In particular, Otago had the highest Maori life expectancy at birth and the smallest gap between Maori and non Maori at birth of all the regions."

Nationally in 2012-14, a Maori was expected to live 7.1 years fewer than a non Maori.
In Otago this gap was just 1.2 years.

Life expectancy at birth for Maori was about 82.3 years for females in Otago and 78.4 years for Maori males.

The new model for obtaining the life tables was reviewed by the Professor of public health at Otago University, Tony Blakely, who was the co author of the book The Healthy Country? A History of Life and Death in New Zealand.

"Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) have used more advanced methods for estimating mortality and life expectancy - a method that stabilizes the normal year to year 'bounce' in death rates due to chance," said Professor Blakely.

"This method is necessary for analyses among small populations - such as by Maori, within region.

"SNZ deserves to be applauded for using these methods.

Professor Blakely said the finding was marked regional variations in life expectancy, both overall - and most interestingly - by ethnicity.

For example, in Otago there was little difference in Maori and non-Maori life expectancy.
There were multiple reasons, and not necessarily well understood.

However, early European contact in the south of New Zealand was a notable feature of NZ history.

Whalers often took Maori wives.

"Curiously, the Maori compared to non-Maori gaps in life expectancy are highest in those areas with the greatest density of Maori population, for example in Northland and Waikato.

"In the context of increasing talk about housing prices in Auckland, and regional variations if life opportunities in NZ, these data are interesting.

"Auckland performs well - non-Maori life expectancy in Auckland outstrips all other regions, just.

"Non-Maori life expectancy tends to be lowest in the south of New Zealand (Otago, West Coast) and central North Island.

"Why? Probably variations in socio economic status, and smoking status. Nevertheless, the fact that there are regional variations is interesting, in light of different regional economic performance."

Bridget Robson, the director of Te Ropu Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pomare at the University of Otago, Wellington, said she was not surprised to see a decrease in the life expectation at birth gap between Maori and non-Maori.

"It's great to see. I think it is probably influenced by decreasing mortality rates in middle/older ages, with improvements in outcomes for chronic conditions such as heart disease mortality, better prevention, including decreasing smoking rates and risk factor management, and improvements in treatments."

Bridget Robson said the narrow gap in life expectancy in Otago reflected the fact that life expectancy is highest in the least deprived areas.

"We know that socio economic status affects life chances."

Although Maori are more likely than non-Maori to live in the most deprived areas, the 'deprivation gap' in Otago was less than in other parts of the country, such as Tairawhiti (Gisborne) where the differences between Maori and non-Maori are extreme.

District Health Board data showed 47 per cent of Maori in Tairawhiti were in the most deprived district decile compared to 17 per cent of non-Maori.