Ethnicity and cultural diversity

The city's population is becoming more ethnically diverse.

Ethnic diversity

  • All of the major ethnic groups in Christchurch City have increased as a proportion of the city's population, except for the 'European' ethnic group.
  • The European ethnic group is the largest in Christchurch, although has decreased from 93% in 1991 to 78% in 2018.
  • The Asian ethnic group surpassed Māori in 2006 to become the second largest ethnic group in the City, and in 2018 comprised 15% of the City's population.
  • Around 10% of the city's population identify with the Māori ethnic group, which is almost double the proportion it was in 1991.
  • Almost 4% of the city's population identify with the Pacific Peoples ethnic group, double the proportion of 1991.
  • The 'Other' ethnic group has fluctuated, in particular peaking in 2006 following public debate and discussion(external link) prior to the census encouraging people to respond with 'New Zealander'.


  • The most commonly spoken language in Christchurch City is English.
  • In 2018, 4% of the city's population were unable to have a conversation about everyday things in English.
  • 2.1% of the City's population could speak te reo Māori (lower than the national figure of 4%).
  • 0.6% of the City's population could have a conversation about a lot of everyday things in NZ Sign Language.
  • Other commonly spoken languages in Christchurch City include Chinese language variants (Northern, other Sinitic, and Yue), Indian language variants (Hindi and Panjabi), Tagalog (a Philippine language), French, and Samoan.
  • The proportion of residents able to have a conversation about a lot of everyday things in more than one language has been increasing since 2001, when 12% of residents could do so. By 2018 this proportion had increased to 17%, most likely reflecting the increase in migrants from countries where English is not the primary language.


  • In 1996, 16% of the city's population were born overseas and by 2018 this had increased to 27%.
  • In 2018, around 12% of the city's total population (and 43% of the city's overseas-born population) were born in the Asia region. The Philippines, China, India and Korea (Republic) were the top source countries from Asia.
  • A further 6% of the city's population were born in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
  • The top birth countries for Christchurch residents born overseas were: England (16,800), the Philippines (10,350), China (10,300), India (7400) and Australia (6500).


  • In 2018 for the first time, the proportion of the city's population who answered they belonged to 'no religion' (51%) exceeded those who identified with a religion.
  • In 2001, less than one third of the population answered 'no religion', while in the same year almost 60% identified with a Christian religion.
  • By 2018, the proportion of the population identifying with a Christian religion decreased to 36%.
  • Other religions that residents affiliate with include Hindu (1.8%), Islam/Muslim (1.1%), Buddhist (1%),  Spiritualism and New Age religions (0.5%), Māori Christian religions (0.4%), and Judaism/Jewish (0.1%). 


Further information

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Explore more data

Interactive data and visualisations are available on Statistics New Zealand's website:

1. View and download census data relating to ethnicity and cultural diversity from Statistic New Zealand's 2018 Census page(external link).

 2. View and download customisable ethnic population projection tables from Statistics New Zealand's NZ.Stat tool(external link)(external link):

  • Includes high, medium and low projections for major ethnic groupings.
  • Can be selected by age, sex and measures such as births, deaths and inter-ethnic mobility (migration).

Information about this data

Statistics New Zealand defines ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation. It is not a measure of race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship. Ethnicity is self-perceived and people can belong to more than one ethnic group. Further information is available here(external link).

  1. Census usually resident population count(external link) aims to count everyone in New Zealand on census night (and determine where in New Zealand they usually reside), but it excludes residents temporarily overseas on census night.
  2. Population estimates(external link) at 30 June are produced annually and are based on the 5-yearly census usually resident population count. The estimated population includes residents not counted on census day (e.g. temporarily overseas) and is updated annually to include births, deaths and net migration.
  3. Population projections(external link) use population estimates as a starting point and are based on different combinations of fertility, mortality, and migration assumptions (low, medium, and high).

Further information outlining the difference between the three population measures is available on the Stats NZ website(external link).

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