(dpa) - Asians are the fastest-growing group in New Zealand's population and were expected to come close to outnumbering the indigenous Maoris in 18 years, according to government projections released Wednesday.
The Asian population, driven by migration, is forecast to increase by 3.4 per cent a year from 400,000 at the last census in 2006 to 790,000 in 2026, when it would account for 16 per cent of the total, Statistics New Zealand said.
The number of native Maoris is tipped to rise by 1.4 per cent annually from 620,000 to 820,000, or 17 per cent of the population.
People of Pacific island descent are projected to increase by 2.4 per cent per year from 300,000 to 480,000, or 10 per cent of the total.
The majority white, or European population, is forecast to show the smallest rate of increase at 0.3 per cent from 3.21 million to 3.43 million, dropping from 77 per cent of the population to 69 per cent.
The figures exceed 100 per cent because some people identify with more than one ethnicity, government statistician Geoff Bascand said.
The projections assume a net inflow of about 240,000 immigrants from Asia over the 20-year period while growth of the Maori and Pacific populations, which are younger and have higher fertility rates, is driven by births.
The slower growth of the European population largely reflects lower fertility rates and an older age structure, Bascand said.
The nationalist New Zealand First party said the figures showed that the face of New Zealand was changing without a coherent population policy and without consultations with the people.
"No other country follows blind policies of importing people and exporting jobs like New Zealand, and it is time this foolishness was ended for the sake of the people who live here now," said its spokesman and member of parliament Peter Brown.
"If we continue this open-door policy, there is real danger we will be inundated with people who have no intention of integrating into our society," he said.