Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a catastrophic and costly result of both intentional and unintentional injury. We present data from the Health Statistics Services files of New Zealand for the year 1988 on the epidemiology of SCI resulting in morbidity. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of SCI in the western world and since 1979 this has been increasing. It occurs most often to young, caucasian men and is typically the result of motor transport crashes. The ethnicity adjusted rates show high rates for Maori males. Children in New Zealand have greater than 4 times the risk of an SCI than American children. The rehabilitation and hospital costs for SCI are among the highest for all injuries. There were a higher number of high cervical injuries than reported in previous series and 92% of SCI were incomplete indicating the high rehabilitation potential of the sample. Some measures are suggested to reduce the incidence of SCI.