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Population density

New Zealand’s population density is 18 people per square kilometre. By comparison, Japan has a population density of 348 per sq km, South Korea 526 and the UK 271, according to World Bank figures.

However, population density does not give a complete picture of where people live in a country. Some countries have more flat land while others, like New Zealand, have more hilly land which is not so suitable for housing.

It is true, though, that we have a sparse population in many regional areas. We have many big farms. The largest is the Molesworth which is more than 1,800 sq km. It is owned by the government.

New Zealand’s population is approaching 4.8 m. About one quarter of the population lives in the South Island. Three quarters live in the North Island. The population of Auckland is about 1.5m, Wellington is next with just over 400,000 and Christchurch has just under 400,000 people.

Like many other countries, more people are choosing to live in urban areas. It is difficult for regional areas to provide enough jobs. Do young people move to the city for jobs or because they enjoy the life style? Does it matter if cities grow bigger and small towns get smaller?


• density (n) – the number of people in a sq km; the number of items in an area
• sparse (adj) – not very many
• approaching (v) – getting near