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Birth statistics measure the number of births registered in New Zealand. Statistics New Zealand is the principal agency responsible for processing and publishing vital statistics in New Zealand, including birth statistics. It seeks to provide information that meets the legal, public policy and community requirements for up-to date official statistics at the local, regional and national level.


Under the provisions of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995, every birth occurring in New Zealand must be registered. Birth statistics provide local authorities, health authorities, and research institutions with information needed to plan future and current social services. Within Statistics New Zealand, births data are used to calculate population estimates, population projections and fertility rates.

Citation Information



Alternate Title

Birth Registrations Vitals


Statistics New Zealand


Statistics New Zealand

Coverage Information

Temporal Coverage

  • 1848 to present

Topical Coverage

  • Health
  • Population and migration
  • Birth
  • Fertility
  • Pregnancy
  • Stillbirth
  • Fertility
  • Fertility rate
  • Multiple births
  • Parity
  • Gestation
  • Vital statistics


Hot of the Presses

Significant events impacting this study series

Important Dates Relating to Birth Statistics

1844 - Vital Statistics first published as part of “Statistics of New Zealand” (blue book).

1847 - Registration Ordinance Act. This made provision for a record of births and deaths being kept by the state.

1848 - Non-compulsory registration of births and deaths introduced. Notification of births and deaths was compulsory.

1858 - The Registration Act. This act provided for compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages.

1859 - Compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages introduced.

1875 - The Registration of Births and Deaths Act. This act required further information regarding births and deaths to be provided at the time of registration.

1893 - New Zealand's official yearbook first published in its present form.

1894 - Legitimisation Act. Under this Act any child born out of wedlock whose parents later married, was legitimised by the marriage on the birth being registered in the manner prescribed by the Act.

1908 - Re-enactment of Legitimisation Act.

1910 - Collection of Vital Statistics entrusted to the Government Statistician (formerly the responsibility of the Registrar-General).

1912 - Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act. Established regulations for the registration of Māori births and deaths and also made provision for the registration of stillbirths. Māori births and deaths were recorded on a separate register from non-Māori.

1913 - Compulsory registration of Māori births and deaths established. Also compulsory registration of stillbirths established.

1914 - Monthly Abstract of Statistics first published.

1921 - Vital Statistics report first published. Previously vital statistics were published in the blue book.

1921-22 - Legitimisation Amendment Act. Repeated stipulation that legitimisation could be affected only if at the time of the birth of the child there existed no legal impediment to the marriage of the father and mother.

1924 - Births and Deaths Registration Act. Consolidated and revised previous legislation regarding the registration of births and deaths.

1928 - New Zealand Pocket Digest of Statistics first published.

1930 - Births and Deaths Amendment Act. This act directs the omission of the word ‘illegitimate’ from the register when the birth of an illegitimate child is registered.

1939 - Legitimisation Act. This act repealed previous legislation on the subject and stipulated that every illegitimate person whose parents have married shall be deemed to be legitimised from birth by reason of the marriage.

1942 - Commencement of collection of Māori stillbirths.

1951 - The Births and Deaths Registration Act. This act set down the regulations regarding birth and death registration. It also contained provisions for the registration of adopted children.

1955 - Adoption Act. This act contains the regulation for the registration of adopted children.

1961 - The Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act. This act repealed the definitions of a Māori with respect to birth and death registration. It also modified the regulations regarding illegitimate births and adoptions.

1962 - Abolition of Māori birth and death registers. The format of the vitals report was changed. All tables were now compiled for Total and Māori populations rather than Non-Māori and Māori populations.

1984 - Review Committee on Fertility and Related Statistics made significant recommendations for changes to the birth registration forms.

1984 - Review Committee on Ethnic Statistics initiated by Government Statistician.

1987 - Last year of publication of annual volume on vital statistics, some information incorporated into Demographic Trends.

1988 - The Review committee on Ethnic Statistics produced a report which had significant implications for the collection of birth and death registration information.

1995 - Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995. Introduced new birth and death registration forms. A major change was the introduction of new ethnicity and Māori descent questions (consistent with those used in the 1996 Census).

1995 - As part of government restructuring the public registries group of Department of Justice was split up from October 1st. Internal Affairs was given responsibility for births, deaths and marriages.

1995 - The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995, which took effect from 1 September 1995, redefined what constituted a stillbirth. Stillbirths recorded after 1 September 1995 include some stillbirths which would have fallen outside the definition of the previous act.

1996 - Following the 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings, Statistics New Zealand changed its standard statistical concept for deriving population estimates and projections from the de facto population to the resident population.

1998 - Ministry of Health ceased requiring vitals data from Statistics New Zealand. As a result some information no longer coded (locality of birth, birth weight, length of gestation, parents' occupation).

1998 - Internal Affairs computerised the vitals collection system from 1 January. Data now provided electronically to Statistics New Zealand and supply of birth, death and marriage registration forms phased out. Data from 1 July processed by Statistics New Zealand using new LAN-based system.

1998 - Births in 1998 are lower than expected because of a small change to the rate at which births were registered during 1998.

2004 - As of 1 February 2004, Internal Affairs send their first reminder letters out 28 days from the child's date of birth (instead of 42 days). (The timing of the second reminder letter remains unchanged at 60 days.)

2004 - The number of stillbirths registered in the March 2004 quarter is higher than expected due to changes in the follow-up procedures used for outstanding registrations by the Department of Internal Affairs. An unknown number of stillbirths registered in the March 2004 quarter would have been expected to be registered in previous quarters up to two years earlier.

2005 - Ethnicity question changed to that asked in the 2001 Census.

2006 - From 1 January 2006 ethnicity has been coded according to the 2005 ethnicity classification.

2006 - From 1 January 2006 children born in New Zealand will only be NZ citizens if either of their parents are NZ citizens or entitled to permanent residency. Questions on the parents citizenship and residency are now included on the registration form. In addition, questions on the parents marital status now include civil union and de facto relationship options.

2006 - Banks Peninsula District amalgamated with Christchurch City on 6 March 2006. Births and deaths registered to people resident in the Banks Peninsula District prior to 6 March 2006 are included with the Christchurch City figures.

2009 - Changes to the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995 came into effect on 25 Jan 2009 requiring both parents to sign the registration form except in prescribed circumstances.

2016 - Births and deaths data from the March 2016 year onwards has been randomly rounded to protect confidentiality. Individual figures may not add up to totals, and values for the same data may vary in different tables. Median ages from the March 2016 year data have been recalculated using randomly rounded data. We are committed to ensuring confidentiality by not releasing information that could identify individuals. Random rounding is used to disguise small counts, but all cells in a table are randomly rounded. Counts that are already a multiple of three are left unchanged. Those not a multiple of three are rounded to one of the two nearest multiples. For example, a one will be rounded to either a zero or a three. Each value in the table is rounded independently. This means counts may not sum to totals, but ensures that published totals are within two of the original number.

Changes to ethnic statistics from the birth registration form

Before September 1995 - Prior to September 1995, the birth registration form collected information on the degree of Māori or Pacific Island blood and the tribe or island of the newborn's mother and father. If the parents were not of Māori or Pacific Island descent no ethnic details were required. For statistical purposes this residual group was generally categorised as 'non-Māori', 'non-Pacific Island'. However, if any Māori or Pacific Island parents failed to answer the question then the birth was also categorised as 'non-Māori', 'non-Pacific Island'.

The question produced two types of responses: Māori or Pacific Island people (defined as those who had half or more Māori or Pacific Island blood) and non-Māori and non-Pacific Island people. It was recognised as limiting as there was no way of separately identifying other ethnic groups (eg Asian, European). Also, from 1986 (when the census ethnic question embraced the concept of self-identification), the inconsistencies between the ethnic vitals question and the ethnic census question became marked. The two data sets (registration-based vital events and census population) were based on different concepts and this added to the complexities of accurately measuring ethnic differentials in fertility.

From September 1995 - The introduction of a new birth registration form in September 1995 marked a major milestone in ethnic statistics. The new birth registration form included an ethnic question consistent with the concept of ethnic self-identification. In addition a question on Māori descent is included. The registration form includes ethnicity and Māori descent questions for the mother, father and child.

Initially, the ethnic question on the birth registration form was the same as that asked in the 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings. It asked the respondent to tick as many circles as needed to show which ethnic group the mother, father and child belonged to. During 2005, the ethnic question was changed on the birth registration form to be consistent with that in the 2001 Census of Population and Dwellings. It asked the respondent to tick the box or boxes which applied.

The ethnic question based on self-identification resulted in:

  • A small increase in the number of births belonging to one, or both, of the Māori and Pacific ethnic groups.
  • A much greater range of ethnic groups being identified. For example, it is now possible to identify ethnic groups such as Chinese, Indian or NZ European.
  • Multiple ethnic responses being generated as a result of respondents having the opportunity to select more than one ethnic group.
  • The ability to monitor the level of non-response to the ethnicity question.

The implications of these results are:

  • It is now possible to generate ethnic-specific fertility rates as well as to calculate population estimates and projections for a wider range of ethnic groups.
  • It will be possible to more accurately gauge the specific needs of ethnic groups and, for the first time, detail on smaller ethnic minorities will be available.

These changes are an important outcome of the ongoing evaluation of statistical concepts and definitions designed to introduce consistency to ethnic questions and classifications across a range of statistical surveys.

From January 2006 - From 1 January 2006 ethnicity is coded according to the 2005 ethnicity classification. The new classification consists of six broad ethnic groups (European, Māori, Pacific, Asian, MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American and African) and Other) compared with five under the previous classification (European, Mäori, Pacific, Asian and Other). In addition, a new ethnicity 'New Zealander' has been created within the Other group. Previously 'New Zealander' type responses (eg Kiwi) were coded to New Zealand European.


3) Quarterly

Usage and limitations of the data

Examples of Uses: Population estimates Population projections Life tables Analysis of trends in age-specific, ethnic-specific and total fertility rates Infant mortality International comparisons

Limitations of birth registration data

Children of this Relationship The birth registration form asks whether there are any other children of this relationship. However, it is possible that children from previous relationships are included. Unfortunately, this question does not produce an accurate measure of all live births to a woman (needed for accurate measures of birth parity). For privacy reasons it is deemed unacceptable to ask women about children outside their current relationship.

Reminder notices: Up to two reminder notices are sent to parents to ensure a birth registration form is completed. The timing of these reminder notices has varied over time. This change in timing can affect the lag time between the date of a birth and the date of its registration.

Main users of the data

Statistics NZ, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, District Health Boards, Local Government

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