Dunedin and Otago's once dominant Presbyterian tradition is
slipping further into the past.
More people hold no religious belief in Dunedin than those
who do, 2013 census data released yesterday shows.
The number of those with a religious affiliation dropped to
53,376 from 61,608 in 2006, while those who had no religion
increased to 55,233 from 45,111.
Of the major religious groups, Presbyterianism had the
greatest drop as people who affiliated with the denomination
fell to 17,455 from 22,290 in 2006.
However, it remains easily the largest denomination in
Dunedin and Otago.
While Dunedin mirrored the trend of decreasing religiosity
throughout New Zealand, it and Queenstown Lakes district were
two of only five territorial authorities where the
irreligious outnumbered the religious.
Of those, Dunedin City had the largest population and was the
least religious of New Zealand's major centres.
In New Zealand there were 2.146 million people with a
religious affiliation (down from 2.271 million in 2006) and
1.635 million people with no religion (up from 1.297 million
University of Otago associate professor of philosophy and
religion Greg Dawes said it was difficult to know what caused
the trend towards lower religiosity, but he believed Dunedin
being a ''university town'' might be a factor.
''There's no simple correlation between education and
non-belief, but ... because Dunedin is a university town
there may be more people that associate as being
non-believers,'' he said.
While the number of those who were religious would probably
continue to decline, those who remained religious could
become more galvanised in their belief.
''When the overall rate of participation in religion declines
there's a tendency for those who are involved to become more
committed and even more extreme in their views,'' Dr Dawes
Debates about issues such as teaching religion in schools and
creationism could become ''lively'' as the religious
population continued to decline, he said.
Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism had moderate increases
in believers, most of which could be attributed to
demographic change, but the increase in Judaism was
interesting, as ''Dunedin ... once had quite a significant
Jewish population'', he said.
The data released yesterday also showed more people in Otago
affiliated themselves with an iwi, drove more cars and earned
The number of people who affiliated themselves with an iwi
grew to 17,838 from 16,122 in 2006. Most of that increase was
as a result of 627 more people affiliating themselves with
There was an increase in the number of people who owned one
vehicle, two vehicles and three or more vehicles and a
decrease in the number who did not own a vehicle.
The data also showed median household income in Otago had
risen to $56,400 from $44,400 in 2006, but it was still short
of the national median average of $63,800.
The number of households earning $100,001 or more was up to
14,343 from 8286.