Sri Lankan New Zealanders

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Sri Lankan New Zealanders
Total population
9,579 (2013)
Regions with significant populations
Most in Auckland, Wellington, with smaller populations in Waikato, Manawatū–Wanganui, Canterbury and elsewhere
English, Sinhalese, Tamil
Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Sri Lankan people

Sri Lankan New Zealanders are New Zealanders of Sri Lankan heritage living in New Zealand. This includes at least three Sri Lankan ethnic groups in New Zealand: the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamil and Burghers. Sri Lankans in New Zealand span over 140 years emigration. In 2013 there were 9,579 Sri Lankans in New Zealand.


Early arrivals[edit]

The early arrivals who came to New Zealand from what was then British Ceylon were a few prospectors attracted to the gold rushes. By 1874 there were a mere 33 New Zealand residents born in Ceylon. Both New Zealand and Ceylon being part of the Commonwealth, New Zealand dutifully imported both people and commodities from Ceylon. After 1890, Ceylon began to surpass China as New Zealand’s supplier of tea. By 1901 the number of Ceylonese residents in New Zealand born in Ceylon had grown to 106.[1]

20th century[edit]

After 1950, under the Colombo Plan, some students and trainees received education in New Zealand. Up until the late 1960s the number of New Zealand residents born in Ceylon remained static. As the demand for skilled professionals in New Zealand grew, it led to a noticeable increase in the number of immigrants around this time. Racial and economic tensions in Dominion of Ceylon, made worse after the declaration of the republic in 1972, also swelled immigrant numbers.[1]

In 1983 the Sri Lankan Civil War began with Sinhalese political dominance being challenged by the militant Tamil Tigers, who sought a separate Tamil state within Sri Lanka.[1] After the 1983 riots in Sri Lanka ushered in an extended civil war, many Sri Lankans, both Tamil and Sinhalese, fled Sri Lanka, and the number of arrivals from Sri Lanka to New Zealand and the Sri Lankan-born population in New Zealand rose dramatically.[2]


As during the 1980s New Zealand had relaxed its immigration policies towards Asians, it was seen as a welcoming destination and convinced them to emigrate permanently. Other Sri Lankans only found temporary employment in Africa and Saudi Arabia, intending to return to Sri Lanka. The number of arrivals continued to increase, and at the 2006 census there were over 7,000 Sri Lankans living in New Zealand.[1]


Population growth of
Sri Lankan New Zealanders
1874 33
1901 106
1951 152
1976 973
2001 6,168
2006 7,257
2013 9,579
Source:Te Ara[3]
Data is based on
New Zealand Government Census.

Sri Lankan New Zealanders comprised 3% of the Asian population of New Zealand in 2001. Out of the Asians, the Sri Lankans were the most likely to hold a formal qualification and to work in white-collar occupations. Sri Lankans mainly worked in health professions, engineering, business and property services, and the retail and manufacturing sectors, in large numbers. Most lived in Auckland and Wellington, with smaller populations in Waikato, Manawatu-Wanganui, Canterbury and others.[4]



  • Linfield Lions Society (Sri Lankan community in New Zealand)
  • New Zealand Society for Peace, Unity and Humam Rights in Sri Lanka Incorporated (SPUR NZ)[5]
  • New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation
  • New Zealand Sri Lanka Friendship Society[4]
  • New Zealand Tamil Society[4]
  • Sri Lanka New Zealand Student Foundation
  • Sri Lankaramaya - New Zealand[6]
  • United Sri Lanka Association Inc (USLA)

Notable Sri Lankan New Zealanders[edit]

  • Brannavan Gnanalingam - novelist and film critic
  • Ahi Karunaharan - actor, writer, director, musician and producer
  • Susantha Nawaratne - President of United Sri Lanka Association, Auckland Branch
  • Mayu Pasupati - New Zealand domestic cricketer
  • Rashmi Pilapitiya - actor
  • Ven. Mugunuwela Anuruddha Thero[7]
  • Kumar Velambalam - President of the New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation[8]
  • Manjula Sanis Walgampola - President of the New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation[9]
  • Varatharajan Mariampillai - TV Broadcaster, Rupavahini - Sri Lankan National TV and Sirasa/Shakthi TV (Sri Lanka)[10]
  • Vanushi Walters - human rights activist and lawyer
  • Rakitha Weerasundara - New Zealand under-19 international cricketer
  • Sharthaar Jameel - Radio / TV Broadcaster, COO- DAN TV (Europe/Sri Lanka) Manager Swarna Oli and Alai FM (Sri Lanka)[11]
  • S. Indra Weerasekera - Sri Lankan Feature Film Director.
  • Mano Weerasekera - Sri Lankan Feature Film Director, Producer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Sri Lankans – Immigration". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "An Immigrant Nation - From Sri Lanka With Sorrow". NZonscreen. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "Sri Lankans – Facts and figures". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Sri Lankans – Community". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "About us". Sri Lankaramaya. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation contacts". New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Message from President" (PDF). NZSLFoundation. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links[edit]