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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Oct. 26) – French Polynesia's new population is 259,596, a 6 percent growth over the past five years based on the results of the latest census conducted in August, French High Commissioner Anne Boquet announced Thursday.

The growth was more moderate than expected, resulting in the population growing at a slower rate between 2002 and 2007 than it did between 1996 and 2002, said Serge Contour, head of the French Polynesia Statistical Institute.

French Polynesia's population grew between 1996 and 2002 at a yearly rate of about 1.8 percent, he said. But during the past five years, that growth rate slowed to about an average 1.2 percent per year.

The result was 14,750 more people in 2007 than the population of 244,846 in 2002.

Two factors explain the slower growth, officials said during Thursday's press conference announcing the census results. The first factor was a natural increase of 16,000 people due to more births than deaths over the past five years. The second factor was a migratory deficit of 1,250 people, which means there were 1,250 more people departing Tahiti than those arriving.

French Polynesia is neither a place where people migrate to nor a place where they immigrate from, according to J.C. Guilloz, head of the INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies).

Instead, he said, French Polynesia has witnessed a lower fertility rate of 2.2 children per woman from 3.8 previously. That is what has slowed down the population growth, according to Guilloz.

The island of Tahiti accounts for 69 percent of French Polynesia's population, with Faa'a remaining the most populated of French Polynesia's 48 communes with 29,851 residents. Papeete is Number 2 with 26,017 residents.

The new census detected a migration of residents from the northern communes on the island of Tahiti to the southern, less populated communes. Thus, while Papeete, Arue and Pirae saw their populations remain stable, those of the southern communes increased 10 percent-15 percent.

Two suburban communes experienced a 7.5 percent population growth, which gave the west coast Commune of Punaauia a population of 25,411 and the north coast Commune of Mahina a population of 14,369.

The Commune of Moorea-Maiao, which includes Tahiti's sister island of Moorea, witnessed a 13 percent growth in population, reaching a new total of 16,500, French Polynesia Statistical Institute reports on its Internet Web site. This could be an indication of a migration from Tahiti's urban communes to Moorea.

Tahiti's south coast Commune of Papara reached a population level of 10,000, which means the municipal council can add another four members.

The census found a dynamic population growth over the past five years in the Leeward Islands, which include Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a, Bora Bora and Maupiti. This group's 1.9 percent population growth per year was sparked by the attractiveness of Bora Bora, which can perhaps be attributed to the growth in the number of deluxe hotels and the resulting greater job opportunities.

Bora Bora's new population is 8,927, a jump of 4 percent per year, according to the French Polynesia Statistical Institute statistics.

The same tendency was found in the Tuamotu-Gambier group, which has more than 1,000 people living on Tahitian cultured pearl farms on various atolls and islands.

The population remained stable in the northernmost Marquesas Islands (8,632) and the southernmost Austral Islands (6,310).

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