Religion in New Zealand

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Major religions in New Zealand, 2013 Census[1]

  Catholicism (12.61%)
  Anglicanism (11.79%)
  Presbyterianism (8.47%)
  Other Christianity (15.14%)
  Hinduism (2.11%)
  Buddhism (1.50%)
  Islam (1.18%)
  Other religions (1.53%)
  Undeclared (4.44%)
  No religion (41.92%)

Religion in New Zealand encompasses a wide range of groups and beliefs. Christianity is the most common religion with almost half (48 percent) of the population at the 2013 New Zealand census declaring an affiliation.[1] Around six percent of the population is affiliated with non-Christian religions, with Hinduism being the largest at over two percent, while 42 percent of New Zealanders stated they had no religion in the most recent census, and 4 percent made no declaration.

New Zealand has no state religion or established church, although Anglicanism is required to be the religion of the monarch of New Zealand (who is described as "Defender of The Faith"). Freedom of religion has been protected since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.[2] The first Christian service was conducted by the chaplain of the French ship Saint Jean Baptiste, Father Paul-Antoine Léonard de Villefeix, on Christmas Day, 1769.[3]

Before European colonisation the religion of the indigenous Māori population was animistic, but the subsequent efforts of missionaries such as Samuel Marsden resulted in most Māori converting to Christianity. The majority of 19th-century European migrants came from the British Isles, establishing the three dominant denominations in New Zealand – Anglicanism, Catholicism and Presbyterianism. The tendency for Scottish migrants to settle in Otago and Southland saw Presbyterianism predominate in these regions while Anglicanism predominated elsewhere; the effect of this is still seen in religious affiliation statistics today. While 47.5 percent of New Zealanders affiliate with Christianity, regular church attendance is probably closer to 15 percent.[4]

The number of people affiliated with Christianity has declined since the 1990s, and those stating that they have no religious affiliation have increased. With increased immigration to New Zealand, especially from Asia, the number of people affiliating with non-Christian religions has largely increased.


The first Christian services conducted in New Zealand were carried out by Father Paul-Antoine Léonard de Villefeix, the Dominican chaplain on the ship Saint Jean Baptiste commanded by the French navigator and explorer Jean-François-Marie de Surville. Villefeix was the first Christian minister to set foot in New Zealand, and he celebrated Mass near Whatuwhiwhi in Doubtless Bay on Christmas Day in 1769. He is reported to have also led prayers for the sick the previous day and to have conducted Christian burials.[5][6]

This 1820 painting shows Ngāpuhi chiefs Waikato (left) and Hongi Hika, and Anglican missionary Thomas Kendall.

New Zealand's religious history after the arrival of Europeans saw substantial missionary activity, with Māori generally converting to Christianity voluntarily (compare forced conversions elsewhere in the world).[7] The Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) sent missionaries to settle in New Zealand. Samuel Marsden[8] of the Church Missionary Society (chaplain in New South Wales) officiated at its first service on Christmas Day in 1814, at Oihi Bay in the Bay of Islands.[6] The CMS founded its first mission at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands in 1814 and over the next decade established farms and schools in the area. In June 1823 Wesleydale, the first Wesleyan Methodist mission in New Zealand, was established at Kaeo, near Whangaroa Harbour.[9] Jean Baptiste Pompallier arrived in 1838 and became the first Catholic bishop in New Zealand. With a number of Marist Brothers, Pompallier organised the Catholic Church throughout the country.[10] In 1892 the New Zealand Church Missionary Society (NZCMS) formed in a Nelson church hall and the first New Zealand missionaries were sent overseas soon after.[11]

Christ Church in Russell, built in 1835, is one of the oldest churches in New Zealand.[12]

Though in Britain the Anglican Church was an established state church, by the middle of the 19th century even the Anglicans themselves sometimes doubted this arrangement, while the other major denominations of the new colony (Presbyterians, Methodist and Catholics, for example) obviously preferred that the local situation allowed for all their groups.[13]

The first recorded communal Jewish service in New Zealand was held on 7 January 1843 in Wellington, although individual Jews were amongst earlier explorers and settlers.[14]

Waves of new immigrants brought their particular (usually Christian) faiths with them. Initial denominational distribution very much reflected the fact that local immigrant communities started small and often came from comparatively small regions in the origin countries in Great Britain. As a result, by the time of the 1921 census, no uniform distribution existed amongst non-Māori Christians, with Presbyterians as the dominant group in Otago and Southland, Anglicans in the Far North, the East Cape and various other areas including Banks Peninsula, while Methodists flourished mainly in Taranaki and the Manawatu. Catholicism meanwhile was the dominant religion on the West Coast with its many mining concerns, and in Central Otago.[13] The Catholic Church, while not particularly dominant in terms of pure numbers, became especially known throughout the country in the early and middle 20th century for its strong stance on education, establishing large numbers of schools.[13]

Beginning in the mid-1960s church membership and attendance declined,[15] and in 2013 42% of the population said they had no religion.[16] Immigration since 1991 has led to rapid growth in the number of adherents of religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, particularly in Auckland.[17]


Religious affiliations of New Zealanders in the last five censuses.
Irreligion in New Zealand is highest among males and younger generations; with the exception of the 10-14 age bracket, the majority of New Zealanders under 35 are irreligious.

Religious affiliation[edit]

New Zealand censuses have collected data on religious affiliation since 1851. Statistics New Zealand state that:

Religious affiliation is a variable of strong interest to religious organisations, social scientists, and can be used as an explanatory variable in studies on topics such as marriage formation and dissolution, fertility and income.[18]

One complication in interpreting religious affiliation data in New Zealand is the large proportion who object to answering the question, roughly 173,000 respondents in 2013. Most reporting of percentages is based on the total number of responses, rather than the total population.[19]

In the early 20th century New Zealand census data indicates that the vast majority of New Zealanders affiliated with Christianity. The total percentages in the 1921 non-Māori census were: 45% Anglicans, 19.9% Presbyterians, 13.6% Catholics, 9.5% Methodists and 11.2% Others. Statistics for Māori became available only from 1936, with 35.8% Anglicans, 19.9% Ratana, 13.9% Catholics, 7.2% Ringatu, 7.1% Methodists, 6.5% Latter Day Saints, 1.3% Methodists and 8.3% Others recorded at this census.[13]

The population increased 7.8% between the 2006 and 2001 census. The most notable trend in religion over that time is the 26.2% increase in the number of people indicating no religion.

Religious affiliation statistics[edit]

The table below is based on religious affiliation data recorded at the last three censuses for usually resident people. Note that figures and percentages may not add to 100 percent as it is possible for people to state more than one religion.[16] Note also that the trend indicators are based on the change in percentage of the population, not the number of adherents.

Religion 2013 census[a] 2006 census 2001 census Trend (%)
Number % Number % Number % 2001–13
Christian 1,858,977 47.65 2,027,418 54.16 2,043,843 58.92 Decrease
    Catholic 492,105 12.61 508,437 13.58 485,637 14.00 Decrease
    Anglican 459,771 11.79 554,925 14.82 584,793 16.86 Decrease
    Presbyterian, Congregational and Reformed 330,516 8.47 400,839 10.71 431,139 12.43 Decrease
    Christian (not further defined) 216,177 5.54 186,234 4.97 192,165 5.54 Steady
    Methodist 102,879 2.64 121,806 3.25 120,546 3.48 Decrease
    Pentecostal 74,256 1.90 79,155 2.11 67,182 1.94 Steady
    Baptist 54,345 1.39 56,913 1.52 51,423 1.48 Decrease
    Latter–day Saints 40,728 1.04 43,539 1.16 39,915 1.15 Decrease
    Brethren 18,624 0.48 19,617 0.52 20,397 0.59 Decrease
    Jehovah's Witnesses 17,931 0.46 17,910 0.48 17,829 0.51 Decrease
    Adventist 17,085 0.44 16,191 0.43 14,868 0.43 Steady
    Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist 15,381 0.39 13,836 0.37 11,016 0.32 Steady
    Orthodox 13,806 0.35 13,194 0.35 9,576 0.28 Increase
    Salvation Army 9,162 0.23 11,493 0.31 12,618 0.36 Decrease
    Protestant (not further defined) 4,998 0.13 3,954 0.11 2,787 0.08 Increase
    Lutheran 3,903 0.10 4,476 0.12 4,314 0.12 Steady
    Church of Christ and Associated Churches of Christ 2,145 0.05 2,991 0.08 3,270 0.09 Steady
    Uniting/Union Church and Ecumenical 999 0.03 1,419 0.04 1,389 0.04 Steady
    Asian Christian 132 <0.01 195 0.01 195 0.01 Steady
    Other Christian 3,714 0.10 3,798 0.10 3,558 0.10 Steady
Hinduism/Hindu 89,319 2.11 64,392 1.72 39,798 1.15 Increase
Buddhism/Buddhist 58,404 1.50 52,362 1.40 41,634 1.20 Increase
Māori Christian 52,947 1.36 65,550 1.75 63,597 1.83 Decrease
    Rātana 40,353 1.03 50,565 1.35 48,975 1.41 Decrease
    Ringatū 13,272 0.34 16,419 0.44 15,291 0.44 Decrease
    Māori Christian (not further defined) 222 0.01 219 0.01 237 0.01 Steady
    Other Māori Christian 333 0.01 360 0.01 426 0.01 Steady
Islam/Muslim 46,149 1.18 36,072 0.96 23,631 0.68 Increase
Spiritualism and New Age Religions 18,285 0.47 19,800 0.53 16,062 0.46 Steady
    Spiritualist 7,776 0.20 7,743 0.21 5,856 0.17 Increase
    Nature and Earth Based Religions 5,943 0.15 7,125 0.19 5,838 0.17 Steady
    Satanism 840 0.02 1,164 0.03 894 0.03 Steady
    New Age (not further defined) 441 0.01 669 0.02 420 0.01 Steady
    Church of Scientology 318 0.01 357 0.01 282 0.01 Steady
    Other New Age Religions 3,015 0.08 2,871 0.08 2,784 0.08 Steady
Judaism/Jewish 6,867 0.18 6,858 0.18 6,636 0.19 Steady
Other Religions 34,245 0.88 24,450 0.65 18,780 0.54 Increase
    Sikh 19,191 0.49 9,507 0.25 5,199 0.15 Increase
    Other Religion (not further defined) 5,202 0.13 4,830 0.13 4,641 0.13 Steady
    Baha'i 2,634 0.07 2,772 0.07 2,988 0.09 Steady
    Māori Religion 2,595 0.07 2,412 0.06 1,995 0.06 Steady
    Theism 1,782 0.05 2,202 0.06 1,491 0.04 Steady
    Zoroastrian 972 0.02 1,071 0.03 486 0.01 Steady
    Chinese Religions 906 0.02 912 0.02 1,269 0.04 Steady
    Japanese Religions 423 0.01 384 0.01 303 0.01 Steady
    Jainism 207 0.01 111 <0.01 57 <0.01 Steady
    Other Other Religions 333 0.01 258 0.01 351 0.01 Steady
Total people with at least one religious affiliation 2,146,167 53.64 2,271,921 60.69 2,232,564 64.36 Decrease
No Religion 1,635,345 41.92 1,297,104 34.65 1,028,049 29.64 Increase
Object to answering 173,034 4.44 242,607 6.48 239,241 6.90 Decrease
Total people stated 3,901,167 100.00 3,743,655 100.00 3,468,813 100.00
Not elsewhere included[b] 347,301 292,974 287,376
Total population 4,242,048 4,027,947 3,737,277
  1. ^ The 2011 census was cancelled due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake; the 2013 census replaced it.
  2. ^ Includes don't know, religion unidentifiable, response outside scope, and not stated.

Significant trends[edit]

The Al Noor Mosque in Riccarton, Christchurch (pictured in 2006). Built in 1984–1985, it was the world's southernmost mosque until 1999.[20]

Mirroring contemporary trends in immigration to New Zealand, immigrant religions increased fastest between the 2006 and 2013 censuses; Sikh by 102% to 19,191, Hindu by 39% to 89,319, Islam by 28% to 46,149, and Buddhist by 11% to 58,404. Hinduism emerged as the second-largest religious group in New Zealand after Christianity in the 2006 census.

Mainstream Christian denominations, while still representing the largest categories of census-categorised religious affiliation, have not kept pace with population increases. While New Zealand's total population increased from 4,027,947 in 2006 to 4,242,048 in 2013,[citation needed] Anglican numbers fell by 95,154 to 459,771 (11.79% of the overall population) over the same period, and Presbyterian adherents decreased by 69,936 to 330,903 (8.47%). Catholic numbers decreased by 16,053 to 492,384 (12.61%). The only other religious groups above 100,000 members are "Christian (not further defined)" and Methodist. Compare this with numbers in 1901, when 42% of people identified with the Anglican denomination, 23% with Presbyterianism, and 14% with Catholicism.[citation needed] At that time 1 in 30 people did not identify with any religion - compared with 1 in 3 as of 2013.

Of the major ethnic groups in New Zealand, people belonging to European and Māori ethnicities were the most likely to be irreligious, with 46.9 percent and 46.3 percent stating so in the 2013 census. Those belonging to Pacific and Middle Eastern/Latin American/African were least likely to be irreligious at 17.5 percent and 17.0 percent respectively.[21]

In 2008 Massey University conducted an International Social Survey Programme survey in New Zealand. Around one thousand New Zealanders above the age of 18 sent mail responses to questions on religious belief and practice. Results indicated that 27% of the population strongly believed in God, 45% believed in God or a higher power at least some of the time or to some extent, 15% were agnostic, and 13% were atheist (with a 3% margin of error).[22]

Regional trends[edit]

Dominant Christian denominations in each territorial authority, 2013 census.
Chatham Islands is tied largest between Anglicans and Catholics.

Immigration and settlement trends have created religious differences between the regions of New Zealand. The 19th-century settlement of Scottish immigrants in Otago and Southland is still reflected today in the dominance of Presbyterianism in the lower South Island. The English mainly settled in the North Island and Upper South Island, reflecting the dominance of Anglicanism in these areas.

In the 2013 census, two of New Zealand's sixteen regions had a Christian majority: Southland (51.9 percent) and Hawke's Bay (50.5 percent) and two regions had a non-religious majority: Tasman (51.4 percent) and Nelson (51.0 percent).[16]

Christian denominations by region, 2013 census[16]
Region Anglican Catholic Presbyterian
Num. % Num. % Num. %
Northland 19,836 14.7 3,743 10.2 7,293 5.4
Auckland 117,843 9.1 172,110 13.3 95,889 7.4
Waikato 45,687 12.3 41,148 11.1 27,885 7.5
Bay of Plenty 31,674 13.0 26,817 11.0 19,938 8.2
Gisborne 7,998 20.5 3,195 8.2 2,523 6.5
Hawke's Bay 22,800 16.5 15,729 11.4 12,879 9.3
Taranaki 13,584 13.5 15,654 15.5 7,815 7.7
Manawatu-Wanganui 29,190 14.2 25,719 12.5 16,269 7.9
Wellington 51,819 11.9 64,497 14.8 30,222 6.9
Tasman 6,147 13.9 3,261 7.4 2,622 5.9
Nelson 5,763 13.3 3,885 9.0 2,484 5.7
Marlborough 7,182 17.8 4,536 11.2 3,561 8.8
West Coast 4,101 14.0 4,929 16.8 1,941 6.6
Canterbury 74,277 14.8 63,858 12.7 48,378 9.6
Otago 15,741 8.4 21,492 11.5 31,998 17.1
Southland 6,015 6.9 11,421 13.1 18,804 21.6
New Zealand total 459,771 11.8 492,105 12.6 330,516 8.5

Jedi census phenomenon[edit]

Encouraged by an informal email campaign, over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census (over 1.5% of responses). If the Jedi response had been accepted as valid it would have been the largest non-Christian religion in New Zealand, and second-largest religion overall. However, Statistics New Zealand treated Jedi responses as "Answer understood, but will not be counted".[23] The city of Dunedin (a university town) had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita[citation needed]. In the 2006 census only 20,000 people gave Jedi as their religion.[24]

Abrahamic religions[edit]


After the arrival of large numbers of European immigrants (most of whom were British), Māori enthusiastically adopted Christianity in the early 19th century, and to this day, Christian prayer (karakia) is the expected way to begin and end Māori public gatherings of many kinds. Christianity became the major religion of the country, with the Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches all establishing themselves strongly. The arrival of other groups of immigrants did little to change this, as Pacific Islanders and other primarily Christian ethnic groups dominated immigration until the 1970s.

In the following decades, Christianity declined somewhat in percentage terms, mostly due to people declaring themselves as having no religion as well as by the growth of non-Christian religions. The five largest Christian denominations in 2001 remained the largest in 2006. The Catholic and Methodist denominations increased, but the Anglican denomination, the Presbyterian, Congregation and Reformed denomination, and undefined Christian denominations decreased. While smaller groups, there were larger percentage increases in affiliations with other Christian denominations between 2001 and 2006: Orthodox Christian religions increased by 37.8 percent, affiliation with Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist religions increased by 25.6 percent, and affiliation with Pentecostal religions increased by 17.8 percent.[19]

Despite strong affiliation to Christianity by New Zealanders throughout the country's history, church attendance in New Zealand has never been high compared to other Western nations.[25] Estimates of church attendance today range from 10–20%, while research by the Bible Society of New Zealand in 2008 indicated that 15% of New Zealanders attend church at least once a week, and 20% attend at least once a month.[4]


Islam in New Zealand began with the arrival of Muslim Chinese gold prospectors in the 1870s.[26] The first Islamic organisation in New Zealand, the New Zealand Muslim Association, was established in Auckland in 1950.[27] 1960 saw the arrival of the first imam, Maulana Said Musa Patel, from Gujarat, India.[28] Large-scale Muslim immigration began in the 1970s with the arrival of Fiji Indians, followed in the 1990s by refugees from various war-torn countries.[26] In April 1979 the three regional Muslim organisations of Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland, joined together to create the only national Islamic body – the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.[28] Early in the 1990s many migrants were admitted under New Zealand's refugee quota, from war zones in Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq.[citation needed] Since the 11 September attacks there was a spike in conversions to Islam among Maori prisoners in jail.[29][30]

At the 2013 census, 1.2 percent of the population, or 46,150 people, identified themselves as Muslim. Over two-thirds (67.5 percent) live in the Auckland region. Just over one-quarter (25.7 percent) are New Zealand born.


The history of the Jews in New Zealand begins in the 1830s including noted early settler Joel Samuel Polack and continued to grow from immigration.[31] Prominent New Zealand Jews in history include 19th-century Premier Julius Vogel and at least five Auckland mayors, including Dove-Myer Robinson. Former Prime Minister John Key of the National Party is of part Ashkenazi Jewish descent, although he does not practice Judaism.

The 2013 census found there was a Jewish population of 6,867, an increase from the 2001 census figure of 6,636.[32][33]

The majority of New Zealand Jews reside in Auckland and Wellington,[32] though there is also a significant Jewish community in Dunedin which is believed to have the world's southernmost permanent synagogue.[34] In 2006, 0.2% of the population identified as Jewish/Judaism.[35]

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

The first Bahá'í in the Antipodes was Englishwoman Dorothea Spinney who arrived in Auckland from New York in 1912.[36] About 1913 there were two converts – Robert Felkin who had met `Abdu'l-Bahá in London in 1911 and moved to New Zealand in 1912 and is considered a Bahá'í by 1914[37] and Margaret Stevenson who first heard of the religion in 1911 and by her own testimony was a Bahá'í in 1913.[38] The first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1926[39] and their first independent National Spiritual Assembly in 1957.[40] By 1963 there were four Assemblies.[41] At the 2006 census 0.07% of the population, or 2,772 people, identified themselves as Bahá'í.[35] There are some 45 local assemblies and smaller registered groups.[42]

Other religions[edit]

At the 2006 census around 5% of the New Zealand population affiliated to a non-Christian religion.[35] Statistics New Zealand report that about 80% of the largest non-Christian religious groups are composed of immigrants, almost half of whom have arrived in New Zealand since 2000.[19] The exceptions to this are traditional Maori religion, Judaism (24% immigrant) and Bahá'í (20% immigrant).[43]

Māori religion[edit]

Traditional Māori religion, that is, the pre-European belief system of the Māori, was little modified in its essentials from that of their tropical Eastern Polynesian homeland, conceiving of everything, including natural elements and all living things, as connected by common descent through whakapapa or genealogy. Accordingly, all things were thought of as possessing a life force or "mauri". Very few Māori still identify themselves as adhering to traditional Māori beliefs (2,412 people at the 2006 census).[35]

Two specific Māori branches of Christianity, Rātana and Ringatū are widely followed by many in the Māori community.


Hinduism is the second largest religion in New Zealand after Christianity, with over 89,000 adherents according to the 2013 census.[44] The number of Hindus in New Zealand grew modestly until the 1990s when the Immigration Act 1987, the Immigration Amendment Act 1991 and India's Economic Liberalisation in 1991 changed immigration laws and India's standard of living. The eased immigration laws resulted in the number of Hindus growing from 18,000 in 1991 to 40,000 in 2001.[45] Hinduism currently makes up 2.1% of the New Zealand population, and is the fastest growing religion in the country (for religions with more than 20,000 adherents).[46] The growth of Hinduism has been almost in line with Indian immigration, which has resulted in various enclaves (known as Little India) appearing.


Buddhism is the third largest religion in New Zealand, at 1.3% of the population.[35] In 2007 the NZ$20 million Fo Guang Shan Temple was opened in Auckland for the promotion of Humanistic Buddhism. It is the largest Buddhist temple in New Zealand.


Image of a Gurudwara, the Sikh place of worship, South Auckland.

Sikhs have been in New Zealand for more than a century, with the first arriving in Hamilton in the 1880s. The Sikhs grew almost four-fold between 2001 and 2013 and comprised 0.43% of the population as of 2013. Today they have a strong presence in Auckland, and especially in South Auckland and Manukau with the current National Party's Member of Parliament for Manukau Kanwal Singh Bakshi being a Sikh.[19] There were thirteen gurdwaras (the Sikh place of worship) in New Zealand in 2010. The largest Sikh Gurdwara, the NZ$10million Kalgidhar Sahib, is situated in Auckland at Takanini.[47]

Spiritualism and New Age religions[edit]

This collection of religious beliefs is represented by around 0.5% of the New Zealand population.[35]

Religion in culture and the arts[edit]

Although New Zealand is a largely secular country, religion finds a place in many cultural traditions. Major Christian events like Christmas and Easter are official public holidays and are celebrated by religious and non-religious alike, as in many countries around the world. The country's national anthem, God Defend New Zealand, mentions God in both its name and its lyrics. There has been occasional controversy over the degree of separation of church and state, for example the practice of prayer and religious instruction at school assemblies.[48]

The architectural landscape of New Zealand attests to the historical importance of Christianity in New Zealand with church buildings prominent in cities, towns and the countryside.[49] Notable Cathedrals include the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch and Saint Paul's Cathedral, Wellington and the Catholic St Patrick's Cathedral, Auckland, Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Hamilton, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Palmerston North, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch, St. Joseph's Cathedral, Dunedin. The iconic Futuna Chapel was built as a Wellington retreat center for the Catholic Marist order in 1961. The design by Maori architect John Scott, fuses Modernist and indigenous design principles.

Christian and Maori choral traditions have been blended in New Zealand to produce a distinct contribution to Christian music, including the popular hymns Whakaria Mai and Tama Ngakau Marie.[50][51] New Zealand hosts one of the largest Christian music festivals in the Southern Hemisphere, the Parachute Music Festival.

Religion in politics[edit]

Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Movement has spoken out against secularist changes.

Religion has played and continues to play a 'significant and sometimes controversial role' in the politics of New Zealand.[52] Most New Zealanders today consider politicians' religious beliefs to be a private matter.[53]

Agnostic individuals in politics[edit]

Former Prime Ministers John Key and Helen Clark were agnostic,[54][55] as is current prime minister Jacinda Ardern.[56][57]

Christian individuals in politics[edit]

A large number of New Zealand prime ministers have been professing Christians, including Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger, Geoffrey Palmer, David Lange, Robert Muldoon, Walter Nash, Keith Holyoake, and Michael Joseph Savage. Former Prime Minister Bill English is Catholic and has acknowledged that religious groups should contribute to political discourse.[58]

Sir Paul Reeves, Anglican Archbishop and Primate of New Zealand from 1980 to 1985, was appointed Governor-General from 1985 to 1990.[59]

Murray Smith was a member of the New Zealand Parliament from 1972 to 1975. His interest in governance continued when he later enrolled in the Bahá’í Faith and contributed in national and international roles within the Bahá'í Community.[60][61][62]

Christian political parties[edit]

Christian political parties have usually not gained significant support, a notable exception being the Christian Coalition (New Zealand) polling 4.4% in the 1996 general election. Christian parties have often been characterised by controversy and public disgrace. Many of these are now defunct, such as the Christian Democrat Party, the Christian Heritage Party which discontinued in 2006 after former leader Graham Capill was convicted as a child sex offender,[63] Destiny New Zealand, The Family Party and the New Zealand Pacific Party whose leader, former Labour Party MP Taito Phillip Field was convicted on bribery and corruption charges.[64] United Future was more successful, and although not a Christian party, had significant Christian backing. The two main political parties, Labour and National, are not religious, although religious groups have at times played a significant role (e.g. the Rātana Movement). Politicians are often involved in public dialogue with religious groups.[65][66] The Exclusive Brethren gained public notoriety during the 2005 election for distributing anti-Labour pamphlets, which former National Party leader Don Brash later admitted to knowledge of.[67]

Separation of church and state[edit]

New Zealand has no state religion or established church.[2] However the following anomalies exist:

At the discussions leading to the Treaty of Waitangi Governor Hobson made a statement (albeit one which had no particular legal or constitutional significance) in defence of freedom of religion—sometimes called the 'fourth' article.[71] In 2007, the government issued a National Statement on Religious Diversity containing in its first clause "New Zealand has no official or established religion." The statement caused controversy in some quarters, opponents citing that New Zealand's head of state, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is required to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.[72] However, the Queen does not act in that capacity as the Queen of New Zealand. A poll of 501 New Zealanders in June 2007 found that 58% of respondents did not think Christianity should be New Zealand's official religion.[73]

There has been increasing recognition of Māori spirituality in political discourse and even in certain government legislation. In July 2001 MP Rodney Hide alerted parliament to a state funded hikitapu (tapu-lifting) ceremony at the opening of the foreign embassy in Bangkok. It was revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had a standard policy of employing Māori ritual experts for the opening of official offices around the world.[74] The Resource Management Act 1991 recognises the role of Māori spiritual beliefs in planning and environmental management.[74] In 2002 local Māori expressed concerns that the development of the Auckland-Waikato expressway would disturb the taniwha, or guardian spirit, of the Waikato River, leading to delays and alterations to the project.[75]

Before March 2019, blasphemous libel was a crime in New Zealand,[76] but cases can only be prosecuted with the approval of the Attorney-General and the defence of opinion is allowed: "It is not an offence against this section to express in good faith and in decent language, or to attempt to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever on any religious subject." The only prosecution, in 1922, was unsuccessful.[77] In 1967, Presbyterian minister Professor Lloyd Geering faced charges of heresy brought by the Presbyterian Church, but the trial became stalemated and was abandoned.[78]

The New Zealand Parliament opens its proceedings with a prayer. In November 2017 Christian language, including reference to Christ, was removed from the prayer.[79]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity – Religious affiliation". Stats NZ – 15 April 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Religious Diversity in New Zealand - Statement on Religious Diversity" (PDF). New Zealand Human Rights Commission and Victoria University. 2007.
  3. ^ King, Michael. The Penguin History of New Zealand. Auckland: Penguin, 2003.
  4. ^ a b Opie, Stephen (June 2008). Bible Engagement in New Zealand: Survey of Attitudes and Behaviour (PDF). Bible Society of New Zealand. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  5. ^ King, Michael (2003). The Penguin History of New Zealand. Auckland: Penguin.
  6. ^ a b "Samuel Marsden's first service". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 20 December 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  7. ^ Stenhouse, John. "Religion and society - Māori and religion". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  8. ^ Marsden, Samuel. "The Marsden Collection". Marsden Online Archive. University of Otago. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Wesleyan mission established". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 21 December 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  10. ^ Simmons, E. R. (November 2010) [1990]. "Pompallier, Jean Baptiste François". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography – via Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  11. ^ "NZCMS". New Zealand Church Missionary Society. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  12. ^ Orange, Claudia. "Northland places - Russell". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
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External links[edit]