What Is New Zealand Religion

What is New Zealand Religion?

New Zealand is a country of many cultures and beliefs. As diverse as it is, New Zealand is home to a variety of religions, though the majority of New Zealanders identify with Christianity. From the traditional Māori spiritual beliefs to Buddhism and Sikhism, the religious landscape of New Zealand is varied and ever-changing. This article provides an overview of New Zealand religions, including a look at the historical connections between the major faith groups and a closer look at current demographics.

History of New Zealand Religion

When Europeans began to settle in New Zealand in the late 18th century, the major faith traditions brought with them were Anglicanism and Catholicism. Missionary societies were established and dedicated to the spread of these systems of believe throughout the islands. As immigration increased and more settlers arrived, the major denominations—Presbyterianism, Methodism, Congregationalism, and the Liberal Catholic Church—grew in strength. A steady influx of Chinese, Indian, and Pacific Islanders in the 19th and 20th centuries brought with them their own faith traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and even traditional Māori spiritual beliefs.

Christianity in New Zealand

Today, Christianity enjoys the largest following of any religion in New Zealand. According to a 2017 census, 37.6% of New Zealand’s total population identify as members of a Christian church, a 4.4% decrease since the 2013 census. The Anglican Church is the largest Christian denomination in New Zealand, followed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Traditional Māori Beliefs

Traditional Māori spiritual beliefs are strongly associated with ancestor worship and tapu, a concept which centers on the power inherent in objects and spaces that are considered sacred. Over the centuries, these beliefs have changed and blended with elements of Christianity, particularly Catholicism. While it may not constitute a single religion, the concept of Māori spirituality continues to hold great importance for many Māori people in New Zealand.

Buddhism in New Zealand

Buddhism in New Zealand is primarily practiced by the Asian population, many of whom emigrated to New Zealand in the late 20th century. The 2011 census found that 3.6% of the population identified as Buddhists, making it the third-largest religion in New Zealand behind Christianity and Hinduism.


Hinduism is the second-largest religion in New Zealand. According to the 2017 census, 5.5% of the New Zealand population identified as Hindus. The majority of Hindus in New Zealand (75%) are of Indian descent; 22% are of Polynesian and South East Asian descent.

Other Faiths

Other religious faiths practiced in New Zealand include Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism. Each of these religions makes up less than 1% of the total population. In addition, there are a number of smaller faiths with very small gatherings.

Secular Beliefs in New Zealand

A growing number of New Zealanders are either non-religious or identify as agnostic or atheist. According to the census, more than 36% of the population reported no religion in the 2017 census, a figure that is more than double the number of people who identify as Christian. The non-religious are one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, making up 40% of New Zealanders under the age of 30.

Outlook for New Zealand Religions

The remarkable diversity of religions and belief systems in New Zealand is a reflection of the nation’s pluralistic identity. As immigration from Asia and the Pacific continues to grow, it’s likely that the religious landscape of New Zealand will continue to shift and evolve. The increasing secularization of the population is also likely to have an impact, as more young New Zealanders abandon organized religious institutions for more independent spiritual practices or no spiritual practice at all.

Shift of Faith in New Zealand

Since the 1960s there has been a fundamental shift in the way New Zealanders view and experience religious beliefs. There has been an increased move towards more personal and individual spiritual expression as opposed to traditional congregation. For many New Zealanders, this shift has been facilitated by the decrease in churches, mosques, and temples being built in response to the increasing people who identify as non-religious or have no faith.

Animism, Polytheism, and New Religious Movements

In recent years, a number of new religions have grown in popularity amongst New Zealanders, including animism, polytheism, and paganism. Animism is an ancient type of spirituality that holds a belief that all living things, including plants and animals, possess a spiritual essence. Meanwhile, polytheism is the belief in multiple gods or goddesses and can take any form, such as Celtic, Australasian, and Greco-Roman. Finally, New Religious Movements are a broad category of spiritual beliefs that can encompass anything from yoga to meditation, self-help movements, and eco-spirituality. All of these beliefs exist within the context of New Zealand’s religious landscape.

Spiritual Experiences in New Zealand

In addition to these organized religious systems, many New Zealanders identify with more individualistic spiritual practices. Many look towards the power of nature and the environment, tracing their ancestry back to the spiritual practices of their Maori forebears. Meditation and mindfulness have grown in popularity as well, with many seeing it as a way to bring balance to their lives. Despite the diversity of spiritual practices, there is a common thread: a desire to understand the self and the world around us.

Religion and Society

For many New Zealanders, religion is a personal matter that rarely intersects with the public sphere. However, despite the general apathy towards organised religion, there are still certain beliefs that play an active role in New Zealand society. For instance, certain Judeo-Christian principles are embraced by the majority of New Zealanders, such as the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family values.

Religion, Politics, and the Law

Religion and politics often come together in New Zealand. Religious figures, particularly Christian ones, can have an influence on politics, public policy, and even the law. For example, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act includes a provision that protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This law is reflective of the belief of many New Zealanders that no single belief system or religion should dominate society.

Religion and Perceptions of New Zealand

The diverse religious landscape of New Zealand can often cause confusion and misunderstanding to those not familiar with the nation’s multifaceted culture. Many assume New Zealanders to be primarily Christian due to the majority of the population, while in reality, there is a wide range of faith expressions present throughout the country. The combination of traditional Māori spiritual beliefs, the historical connection to Christianity, and the presence of more non-traditional belief systems and spiritual practices bring together a unique religious tapestry that is both beautiful and complex.

Valarie Bristol

Valarie B. Bristol is a passionate writer and researcher from New Zealand. She is committed to sharing her knowledge and love of New Zealand with the world. In her free time, Valarie enjoys exploring the countryside and taking pictures of the beautiful landscapes that make up the country. She also loves spending time with her family and friends, cooking, and reading.

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