Work opportunities in the burgeoning tourism and forestry sectors has seen nearly 20,000 Māori moving to Northland in just five years— the biggest of any ethnic groups— latest census figures show.
A Māori leader said the numbers were not surprising given the work undertaken by iwi leaders and other stakeholders to get Māori into the skilled labour market, including enticing those working elsewhere to come back home and contribute to the local economy.
The comments by Te Rarawa Runanga chair Haami Piripi follow the 2018 Census results that show Northland's population rose 18 per cent or by 27,387 since 2013 to sit at 179,076.
Over the same period, the Māori population shot up from 44,931 to 64,458— an increase of 19,527 or 43 per cent.
The increase was bigger than the national percentage rise of nearly 30 per cent.
In comparison, the number of Europeans in Northland rose just 14 per cent, from 114,828 to 130,904 over the same period.
Pacific islanders came third and their population went up by from 4854 to 5730.
These figures were up until the end of 2018 and it's not clear how much they fluctuated – particularly after the latest developments under Covid-19 – as no recent data is available.
The next census is due in 2023.
Piripi said a growth in the primary sector in Northland in the last few years had attracted a lot of Māori to the region.
"It's also a generational thing. Māori who are coming back have parents who live in Northland and they have maintained contact with each other over the years and now their adult children have decided to move back home for better opportunities.
"Them moving up benefits Northland because they bring in fresh ideas, new blood, and new skills learnt elsewhere which enables our region to thrive and grow," Piripi said.
The extent of increase in Māori population came as no surprise, he said, as a lot of work has been and continued to be undertaken by iwi to bring their people with skills and expertise to Northland and those efforts were paying dividends.
Most of those moving to Northland were between the ages of 30 and 50, he said.
Census stats also show those from the United Kingdom and Ireland were the highest number of migrants to Northland, followed by Asians and Australians.
Uruguayan Nataly Cardoso was among the foreign nationals that made Northland her home and although she found it tough at first, the mother-of-one has settled in well.
An overseas stint was a blessing in disguise for the Uruguayan army sergeant who met her future husband, a Kiwi, and both ended up settling in Whangārei.
Cardoso, from Montevideo, met Hayden Fulton from the New Zealand Army in Sinai where they worked transporting food and water to observation posts in 2012.
Both left the army, ended up in Whangārei in 2014, got married in 2016, and are now living in Hikurangi.
Cardoso works as the volunteer coordinator at Multicultural Whangārei while her husband is a Fonterra tanker driver.
The couple have a 1-year-old boy.
She misses wood-fire barbecues, traditional confection alfajores, and dulce de leche which is a milk caramel from Uruguay and is found in most supermarkets.
"Finding South American people in Whangārei was not that easy so I created a public Facebook group called 'Latinos en Whangarei' which has helped, as well as Multicultural Whangārei who have put me in contact with other South Americans.
Cardoso also misses the night life with food and music galore.
Other information in the census stats show the number of females in Northland in 2018 was 90,375 while males were 88,701.
The number of occupied and non occupied houses were 80,082.
An unoccupied house is classified as 'empty' if it clearly had no current occupants and new occupants were not expected to arrive or move in on, or before, census night.
Unoccupied houses that are being repaired or renovated are defined as empty, as are baches and holiday homes with no occupants on census night.
Nearly half the number or 49.7 per cent of Northlanders said they had no religion compared with 41.6 per cent in 2013.
The percentage of regular smokers in Northland (18.2 per cent) was higher than the national figure of 13.2 per cent.
Northland's population growth snapshot:
General population— up from 151,689 in 2013 to 179,076
Māori population— up from 44,931 to 64,458
Females 90,375, males 88,701
Number of occupied and non-occupied residential properties— 80,082