NZ won't reach 5 million milestone this year

New Zealand appears unlikely to reach the 5 million population mark by year's end.

The latest figures, out Thursday, have us at 4.92 million people - that's up 76,000 in the past year. At that rate, we'll fall about 40,000 short of reaching the milestone by Christmas.

"New Zealand's population growth rate remains high by historical and international standards," said Statistics NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers. 

"The world's population is currently growing at 1.1 percent a year. New Zealand has exceeded this growth rate in each of the last five years."

That's thanks to migration. The year to June saw a net inflow of 49,400 people. Natural increase - births minus deaths - was only 26,600. 

Age groups in the NZ population.
Age groups in the NZ population. Photo credit: Statistics NZ

Earlier this year it was projected New Zealand would have 5 million people by the start of 2019, but Statistics NZ has since revised that downwards, after changing its counting methodology to track "actual passenger behaviour" at the border, rather than "intentions", said Theyers.

This resulted in a downward revision of about 50,000 for New Zealand's population, pushing back the 5 million milestone to sometime mid-2019.

Revised migration figures have brought NZ's estimated population down.
Revised migration figures have brought NZ's estimated population down. Photo credit: Statistics NZ

"We are investigating options for future population estimates updates to minimise volatility, while producing the best estimates possible using the most up-to-date migration information," Statistics NZ said.

The population counter on its site has yet to be updated, reporting an incorrect total of close to 4.98 million

Statistics NZ chief executive Liz MacPherson will step down later this year after taking responsibility for last year's botched census, which significant numbers of Kiwis failed to take part in.

The latest population data doesn't use 2018 census data.