Religion in New Zealand

Iconic ChristChurch Cathedral in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand was seriously damaged by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
Iconic ChristChurch Cathedral in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand was seriously damaged by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

As a multicultural country with its identity firmly rooted in immigration, New Zealand is home to many religions and spiritual beliefs. Due to heavy immigration from Britain in the 19th century, the dominant religion in New Zealand is Christianity, with approximately half of the country reporting some variation of Christianity as their primary religion.

Despite this, less than fifteen percent of New Zealanders attend church, and religion is rarely a key force in the country's politics or culture. Over a third of New Zealanders report having no religion, and an increasing number of New Zealanders are adopting non-Christian religions as immigration from Asian countries such as Korea and China continues.

Due to this mix of religions, New Zealand has a great deal of religious sites and interesting cultural spots for visitors. Historic churches were built rapidly during the country's early settlement by UK-based missionaries, particularly in Northland. The famous 'bullet church' in Russell, Bay of Islands, offers a unique look into the clashes between early Christian missionaries and Maori settlers.

Other historical churches dot the cities of New Zealand, and its early Christian roots are felt in the names of streets, suburbs, and even entire cities. Local governments, particularly in Wellington and Christchurch, have taken efforts to preserve historical churches from the country's early settlement period. Most of New Zealand's major churches are of Anglican or Catholic denomination.

In Auckland, major churches include St Pauls, located in Symonds Street, and also the Holy Trinity Catholic Cathedral, located in Parnell district. The city's central district is also home to several old churches, many of which still have services on Sundays and during the week. Due to Auckland's large Asian immigrant population, several Buddhist temples and centers are also found in the city.

The largest of these, the Fo Guang Shan Temple in East Tamaki, is New Zealand's largest Buddhist temple, and the home of Buddhist life in Auckland. Despite the inconvenient location for visitors, it is frequently used for local Buddhist services and offers meditation and education classes for non-Buddhists. For Muslim visitors, the Masjid e Umar mosque is located in Mount Roskill district, the city's largest Islamic neighborhood.

Wellington and Christchurch, the country's two next-largest cities, unfortunately offer significantly less religious diversity for visitors. Due to their smaller immigrant populations, most religious sites in Wellington and Christchurch are limited to those of the Christian faith. Wellington's most popular churches are both based on Willis Street with walking distance from one another.

Christchurch, known for its famous churches and Anglican architecture, is home to a famous central cathedral – the Christchurch Cathedral. Unfortunately, the building was severely damaged in recent earthquakes and is undergoing a complete rebuilt process. Similarly, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic cathedral, is currently being rebuilt and strengthened against earthquakes.

Christchurch and Wellington are both home to Buddhist centers, albeit neither dedicated Buddhist temples. Christchurch's Buddhist Center is located on Riccarton Road and is easily accessible by bus, while Wellington's is located on Cambridge Terrace in the city's central business district. Both offer introductory services for non-Buddhist along with meditation and spirituality courses.

While religion forms an interesting part of New Zealand's history, particularly its early 19th century history, it's of relatively little influence in New Zealand's current culture. Despite this, visitors that wish to practice their religion in New Zealand – be it Christianity or one of many less represented religions – will have no problem finding like minded people and spiritual centers in most cities.