David Ian Pool: The Father of Aotearoa New Zealand Demography: (22 November 1936 – 28 April 2022)

Waikato Times May 21 2022

The University of Waikato made an inspired choice when it appointed Ian Pool to a chair in sociology in 1978. Strictly, he was not a sociologist. His masters degree had been in geography at the Auckland University College; his 1964 PhD in Demography was at the Australian National University under its Professor of Demography, New Zealander Mick Borrie. (While in Auckland he had worked with Bob Chapman, providing the quantitative input into the project on the evolving political-social structure of New Zealand.)

The decision meant that Waikato University is New Zealand’s premier academic centre for population studies. The Population Studies Centre which Ian founded evolved into the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA), now called Te Ngira: Institute for Population Research.

Last year the university celebrated its forty years as a centre of demographic teaching and research with Ian rightly at the centre of a conference attended by a galaxy of his students, many of whom are now senior members of the demography profession throughout the world.

After Canberra, Ian went to work in at universities in Ghana, Canada and the United States, and also for a number of international agencies, with whom he continued to work throughout his professional life. He became an expert on population and demography especially in Africa – he was fluent in French. In his later years he extended such studies to other developing countries and was an invited lecturer at universities in Asia, Australia, Britain, Europe, Asia and North America.

However, his greatest scholarly contribution was to New Zealand population studies. It began with his doctorate which was the first significant analysis of Māori population changes using contemporary demographic techniques. The thesis was subsequently published, and then revised and updated as Te Iwi Māori: A New Zealand Population Past, Present and Future in 1991. This analysis of the Māori population was extended in Colonisation and Development in New Zealand between 1769 and 1900: the Seeds of Rangiatea.

His research on all aspects of New Zealand population was informed by his overseas experience but was astutely adapted to local circumstances. After all, the population experiences of Māori and non-Māori (in all their diversities) are quite different while sharing universal elements. His work placed New Zealand in a broader international context, for there was always an international dimension in his work. In the mid-1990s, Ian led a team of colleagues and students in New Zealand’s first major survey of fertility and reproductive behaviour, which was a part of an international series of surveys in ‘European’ countries. The result was The New Zealand Family from 1840: A Demographic History, written with his colleague Arunachalam Dharmalingam and with his wife Janet Sceats, also a demographer. They have two children, Felicity and Jonathan, and four mokupana.

Demography is a foundational part of the social sciences interacting with its other disciplines. It is no surprise that Ian did too, notably with the health sector, often in joint work with Janet. There is a lot of sociology in The New Zealand Family from 1840. Population has an important influence on the economy; Ian and his research played a crucial role in this writer’s economic history, Not in Narrow Seas. His legacy includes a manuscript completed just before his death which tells the story of the peopling and development of Aotearoa New Zealand from 1769 to 2020. It is being prepared for publication by his wife and former colleagues.

Over the years he accumulated numerous awards and accolades, including being elected as a Fellow of the New Zealand Royal Society in 1994, receiving a James Cook Fellowship from the RSNZ in 2004 and its Te Rangi Hiroa medal in 2009. He was made a Life Member of the Population Association of New Zealand in 2007 and a 2011 special issue of the New Zealand Population Review was a festschrift to him. After formally retiring as Professor of Demography in 2009, he was made an Emeritus Professor of the University of Waikato; he continued to work after retirement as long as his health would let him. In 2013 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to demography. Ian participated vigorously in public life, especially on population-related subjects.

Māori, with whom he worked, liken the death of a great person to the falling of a totara. The bush below, which the tree has nurtured, grateful and inspired by the rangatira, is left uncovered. That well summarises the contribution of Ian Pool, the Father of Aotearoa New Zealand Demography.

Dick Bedford, Elizabeth Caffin, Len Cook, Geoff Hayes, Natalie Jackson, Tahu Kukutai and Janet Sceats assisted with the preparation of this obituary.