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Births and Deaths: Year ended March 2011
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  17 May 2011

Live births

There were 63,180 live births registered in New Zealand in the March 2011 year, down 770 (1 percent) from the March 2010 year.

The highest number of births ever recorded in any March year was 65,800, in 1962. At that time, New Zealand's population was just 2.5 million, compared with 4.4 million in 2011. 

Nearly 600,000 (597,320) births were registered in the 10 years to March 2011, with the numbers fluctuating from a low of 54,660 in 2003, to 64,160 in 2009. Annual fluctuations in births, in part, reflect changes in the size and age of the population, the age at which women have children, and the number of children they have. In turn, the number of births influences the future size and age of the population.

Fertility rates and mother's age

Age-specific fertility rates measure the number of live births 1,000 women in a particular age-group have in a given period (usually a year).

In the March 2011 year, women aged 30–34 years had the highest fertility rate (125 births per 1,000 women aged 30–34 years), followed by those aged 25–29 years (108 per 1,000) and 20–24 years (76 per 1,000). Compared with the high fertility seen in the early 1960s, women in all age groups now have fewer babies. In 1962, women aged 20–24 years had the highest fertility rate (265 per 1,000), followed by those aged 25–29 years (259 per 1,000), and 30–34 years (152 per 1,000). (Age-specific fertility rates before 1981 are based on December years.)

 Graph, Age-specific fertility rates, 1963–2011.


Median age of mother

The median age (half are younger and half older than this age) of New Zealand women giving birth is now 30 years, compared with 26 years in the early 1960s. The median age dropped to just under 25 years in the early 1970s. Although there has been a significant increase in the median age since the 1970s, it has been relatively stable at around 30 years in the past decade. While there has been a small decrease since the March 2006 year (down from 30.4 to 29.9 years), this is not necessarily indicative of a reversal in the trend towards older childbearing, but reflects changes in age structure within the childbearing age group. The median age of women aged 15–39 years is now about one year younger than in 2001.

 Graph, Median age of mother, 1962–2011.

The median age of women giving birth to their first child (based on children in the current relationship only) was 28 years in the year ended March 2011, and has been relatively stable over the last decade.

Total fertility rate

The total fertility rate summarises the age-specific fertility rates into a single number indicator of fertility. It indicates, on average, the number of babies a woman would have in her lifetime if the age-specific fertility rates in a given period stayed the same throughout her life. The total fertility rate for the March 2011 year was 2.12 births per woman – down slightly from 2.16 in 2010. Annual fluctuations in the total fertility rate do not necessarily indicate changes in family size, but rather changes in the timing of births.

 Graph, Total fertility rate, 1980–2011.

New Zealand's total fertility rate has been relatively stable over the last three decades, averaging 2.02 births per woman. During this period, the total fertility rate varied from 1.90 births per woman (in 2003) to 2.18 (in 2009). In contrast, fertility rates increased dramatically from the mid-1940s, peaking at 4.31 births per woman in 1961. New Zealand then experienced decreasing fertility, with the total fertility rate dropping to 4.05 in 1963, 3.00 in 1972, and 2.12 in 1979. (Total fertility rates before 1980 are based on December years.)

 Graph, Total fertility rate, 1922–2011.  

Māori births

In the March 2011 year, there were 14,190 live births registered to Māori women.

Māori women tend to have higher fertility rates in the younger age groups compared with the total population. In the year ended March 2011, Māori women aged 20–24 years and 25–29 years had the highest fertility rates (around 150 per 1,000 women). The median age of Māori women giving birth was 26 years in the March 2011 year, compared with 30 years for the total population.

The total fertility rate for Māori women in the March 2011 year was 2.80 births per woman, above the rate for the total population (2.12 births per woman). 

Fertility rates for Māori women are available from Statistics NZ's Infoshare database (, under Population on the Browse page.

Regional live births

The Auckland region had the highest number of births in the March 2011 year (23,030), accounting for 36 percent of all live births registered in New Zealand. This was followed by the Canterbury (7,180), Wellington (6,700), and Waikato (6,210) regions. Together, these four regions accounted for just over two-thirds of all live births registered in the March 2011 year, which is consistent with their share of New Zealand's population.

Fertility rates for regions are produced for the census years 1996, 2001, and 2006. You can find these rates on the Births page on the Statistics NZ website.


The number of deaths registered during the March 2011 year was 29,110, up 260 from 28,840 in 2010. There were 410 fewer deaths registered between April and December 2010 but 670 more in the March 2011 quarter, compared with the same period in the previous year. In the March 2011 quarter, more deaths were registered in January (up 180), February (up 260), and March (up 230) when compared with the same month in 2010.

In the March 2011 quarter more deaths were recorded among those aged 15–64 years (up 180 or 13 percent), and those aged 65 years and over (up 490 or 10 percent). The greatest increase was among those aged 90 years (up 250 or 26 percent).

The number of deaths is gradually increasing due to population growth in the older age groups, partly offset by longer life expectancy. Deaths increased from 19,910 in the March 1957 year to 24,980 in 1971 – an increase of just over 5,000 in 14 years. Deaths increased over the next 38 years to 29,150 in 2009. Statistics NZ's mid-range population projections (series 5) indicate deaths will continue to increase, surpassing 40,000 in 2029 and 50,000 in 2042.

Graph, Deaths, 1953–2011.

Regional deaths

Statistics NZ's deaths data are based on the date of registration not the date of death. Not all deaths that occurred in the March quarter were registered in the March quarter and some deaths registered in the March quarter occurred in previous quarters. For example, March quarter 2011 deaths include the victims of the Pike River mining disaster. These deaths were registered following an inquest on 27 January 2011 when the Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean ruled that the deaths of all 29 men occurred on 19 November 2010.

Regional figures are based on the usual residence of the deceased not the place of death. Statistics New Zealand does not compile statistics on place of death.

The Pike River disaster impacted on deaths among the male working age group in the West Coast region in the March 2011 year. Around 60 West Coast men aged 15–64 years died in the March 2011 year up from 30 in 2010. Deaths in the West Coast region numbered 280 in the March year 2011, compared with an annual average of 260 in the previous 10 years.

More deaths were recorded in the Canterbury region in the March 2011 year (up 300 from 4,170 in 2010 to 4,470). There were 1,150 deaths registered in the March 2011 quarter, up 200 from 950 in 2010. Registrations up until the end of March 2011 indicate that 140 Cantabrians died on 22 February 2011 compared with 10 in 2010. Many were victims of the Christchurch earthquake, however the figures do not include nine suspected victims of the earthquake still to be identified. A joint inquest for these victims will be held from 16 to 18 May 2011. Chief Coroner Judge MacLean aims to "hear the best circumstantial evidence available to try and to get to the point where the deaths can be registered and Death Certificates obtained".

Not all of the increase in deaths in Canterbury in the March quarter can be directly attributed to the Christchurch earthquake. Between 1 January and 21 February 2011, 580 Cantabrians died, up 50 (or 9 percent) on the same period in 2010. Between 23 February and 21 March 2011, 310 Cantabrians died, up 60 (or 26 percent) on the same period in 2010. 

Deaths of visitors to New Zealand

Statistics NZ's births and deaths data from 1991 onwards are based on the resident population. This means that overseas visitors are excluded from standard tables. However, a short analysis of deaths of overseas visitors (as determined by the usual residence address on the death registration) is included here.

In general, overseas visitors make up only a small proportion of all deaths in New Zealand (an average of about 150 per year or 5 per 1,000 in the last 10 years). There tend to be more visitor deaths in the March quarter when the average number of daily visitors is at its highest. An average of 60 overseas visitors died in New Zealand in the March quarters between 2001 and 2010 compared with 80 in the March 2011 quarter. 

Deaths and death rates

The crude death rate (deaths per 1,000 mean estimated resident population) is influenced by the age structure of the population, and therefore does not provide a true measure of the trends in mortality. For example, the crude death rate for the Māori population (4.2) was much lower than for the total population (6.6) in the March 2011 year. This lower rate is due to the much younger age structure of the Māori population.

Age-standardised death rates provide an alternative summary of the mortality trends of populations with very different age structures. The standardised death rate for the Māori population (6.3 deaths per 1,000 mean estimated population) was much higher than for the total population (3.8) in the March 2011 year. Standardised death rates for both the Māori and total populations have dropped, down from 8.4 and 4.8 per 1,000, respectively, in the March 2002 year. (Standardised death rates are not available for the March years before 2002.) 

Standardised death rates can only be used to compare mortality trends for populations that have been standardised against the same standard population. Life tables give a more accurate and detailed description of the mortality trends across populations and time.

Life expectancy

According to the provisional New Zealand abridged period life table for 2008–10, a newborn girl can be expected to live, on average, 82.7 years, and a newborn boy 78.8 years. This represents longevity gains of 0.3 years for females and 0.4 males since 2007–09.

Abridged period life tables are produced annually for the total population only. Complete life tables are produced for the Māori, non-Māori, and total populations every five years. Complete life tables present mortality measures for each single year of age, while abridged life tables present mortality measures for age groups. The latest complete life tables, in  New Zealand Life Tables: 2005–07, show that Māori life expectancy was 75.1 years for females and 70.4 years for males in 2005–07, compared with 82.2 years and 78.0 years, respectively, for the total population.

Infant mortality and stillbirths

During the March 2011 year, the number of infant deaths (under one year of age) registered in New Zealand was 320. The infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) has dropped over the last 40 years. In the March 2011 year, the infant mortality rate was 5.1 per 1,000, down from 5.9 in the March 2001 year. The decline in the infant mortality rate has been smaller in the last decade than in previous decades. The rate declined from 16.4 in 1971, to 12.4 in 1981, and 7.8 in 1991. The Māori infant mortality rate was 6.8 per 1,000 in the March 2011 year, down from 24.4 in 1971 and 7.9 in 2001.

 Graph, Infant mortality rate, 1962–2011.

There were 410 stillbirths in the March 2011 year. This corresponds to 6.5 stillbirths per 1,000 births (live and stillbirths combined). 

New Zealand's natural increase

Natural increase represents the excess of births over deaths. Births outnumbered deaths by 34,080 in the March 2011 year, down from 35,110 in the March 2010 year. The rate of natural increase was 7.8 per 1,000 mean estimated resident population in the March 2011 year. The 2009-base mid-range national population projections (series 5) show that natural increase is likely to decline over the next 50 years, dropping to 5,500 in 2061.

 Graph, Natural increase, 1962–2011.

Final figures and revised demographic rates

The vital statistics and infant mortality rates for the March 2011 year included in this information release, and contained in the appended tables, are final. Fertility rates and other death rates for the March 2011 year are provisional.

Vitals articles

Statistics NZ intermittently produces articles that provide extra analysis on selected vitals topics. These can be accessed from the Vitals articles page of the Statistics NZ website ( The most recent articles related to births are:

Nov 2010

Late Birth Registrations examines the characteristics of births registered 'late' (more than two years after the baby was born) for the period July 2004–December 2009, and provides some historical background on late registration in New Zealand.

Sep 2009 

Measuring Fertility describes a range of fertility measures and discusses the limitations of these measures.

For technical information contact: 
Anne Howard
Christchurch 03 964 8700

Next release ...

Births and Deaths: Year ended June 2011 will be released on 16 August 2011.

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