We explored the contribution of stage at diagnosis to ethnic disparities in cancer survival in New Zealand. We linked 115811 adult patients with invasive cancer registered on the cancer registry (1994 to 2002) to mortality data. Age-standardized, 5-year relative survival rates were lowest for Maori, intermediate for Pacific people (otherwise known as Pacific Islanders), and highest for non-Maori/non-Pacific people for many cancers. Stage at diagnosis accounted for only part of these differences. Possible factors responsible for ethnic inequalities might include access to specialized cancer services and the quality of care received.