Within New Zealand, Maori experience a greater burden than non-Maori from childhood communicable diseases and from adult non-communicable diseases, for which malnutrition is recognised to have an important role in causality. The nutritional status of Maori is poorer than non-Maori. A larger proportion of Maori newborns are small for gestational age. Weight gain during the first 2 years of life is then more rapid than for non-Maori, and the proportion of Maori that are obese is higher than non-Maori through childhood and into adulthood. Across the age range from infancy to women of childbearing age, iron deficiency is more prevalent, and vitamin D status is poorer in Maori than non-Maori. Over the past two decades, the nutritional status of Maori has improved at birth and during childhood. The proportion of Maori infants small for gestational age and the mean body mass of Maori children aged 2–14 years have decreased. These improvements have been larger than in non-Maori. Further reduction in disparities in nutritional status between Maori and non-Maori must be a priority if the health status of New Zealand's population is to improve. The interventions must address the role that poverty plays in malnutrition, need to be rooted in local food systems and be community driven. If population health status is to improve, New Zealand must secure access to nutritious food for pregnant women, infants and children living in low-income families.