Where are Kiwis from? Study investigates

One of our top scientists has just completed the largest ever study of New Zealanders' genetic origins.

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith from Otago University has tested thousands of Kiwis to try to work out where we come from.

"The majority of the diversity that we see worldwide we actually have represented here in our New Zealand population," she says.

Prof Matisoo-Smith tested at random, but also went to marae and ethnic communities such as Auckland's Dalmatian population, Lebanese in Dunedin and the descendants of Chinese miners in central Otago.

"In terms of the deep ancestry of New Zealanders, Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington look pretty much the same. Auckland and Hamilton are quite different, a much larger Maori and Pacific component."

The study also looked at prominent Kiwis including Sir Jerry Mateparae, who discovered relatives in surprising places.

"There's another line which heads over to Madagascar. So I met a person from over that way whilst I was Governor General and just pointed out that well we may have been a little more closely related than we thought," he says.

He also found that - like many of us - his ancestors weren't just modern humans but also the now extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans.

But Sir Jerry says the most important revelation is that in a world so divided, we are all far more closely related than we might realise.

"It gives us not only insights into ourselves but why the world matters, why humanity matters and why we should be helping people across the globe," he says.

But Prof Matisoo-Smith's work is far from over as she now plans to interview each of the major genetic lineages revealed by the research, to tell the story of our journey from Africa to Aotearoa.

She says to expect a tell-all book in the next couple of years.