Moving Within New Zealand

The cities and towns New Zealanders prefer to relocate to

Okay, you’re probably pretty keen on moving to New Zealand.


we are moving

New Zealanders have been moving too though. We discover where New Zealanders prefer living in New Zealand. The results will probably surprise you.

We’re Leaving

New Zealanders have been on the move during the last few years. Most of the movement has been focussed on better weather, better prospects or lower house prices.

The three regions people have been keenest to leave are:

• Auckland, North Island
• Manawatu-Wanganui, North Island
• Southland, South Island

The earthquake in February 2011, resulted in large departures from Christchurch. In 2013, as the city is rebuilt, people have moving back to the extent that good quality rental accommodation can be hard to find.

Auckland’s house prices have risen to extraordinary heights in the last few years, and Christchurch’s have also surged upward in the last year or two. Most people benefit financially from selling up and leaving Auckland, provided they don’t lose too much income. Retired people can often release a large capital sum by leaving Auckland and moving to a cheaper location. Many retirees move to the Waikato, a region to the south of Auckland, or Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty.

Southland is a rural area with no large cities and it has suffered from depopulation. Thankfully, owing to a revival in the fortunes of the dairying industry, there is more optimism in New Zealand’s rural areas than there was a few years ago. Export prices for dairy products in the twenty-first century have been substantially higher than they were during much of the depressed 1990s. As a result of this, farm incomes and the value of dairy farms – and agricultural land in general – have risen substantially.

Prior to the revival, many rural regions had been depressed and people had been moving elsewhere in New Zealand or moving to Australia. New Zealanders enjoy automatic residence rights in Australia, so it’s an easy move to make.

Would the last person to leave please switch off the lights?

Between 1998 and 2000 more people left New Zealand than arrived. In fact, over 450,000 New Zealanders live in Australia. The flow of departures for Australia was stemmed for a few years because of the improving economic situation in New Zealand, particularly increased job opportunities.

The flow has increased again since then because the average working family from New Zealand is financially better off living in Australia than in New Zealand. Australia’s economy has continued to do well relative to most Western economies because of continuing demand for its mineral and mining exports. The net immigration loss New Zealand saw in 2012 was due to migration of New Zealanders to Australia. The picture changed in 2013 as a result of Australia’s economy slowing down.

In the graph below, we show the number of people New Zealand has gained or lost through migration in each of the last 21 years. Even in the years of outward migration, New Zealand’s population continued to grow because births exceeded deaths and departures.

New Zealand’s Population Changes through Migration

immigration gains and losses
Year: August – July

The Best Places To Live In New Zealand

The 2006 census figures from StatisticsNZ – these are the most recent available, because the 2011 census was cancelled following the Christchurch earthquake – reveal four regions New Zealanders have been keenest to move to. These are:

• Canterbury, (Christchurch)
• Bay of Plenty, (Tauranga)
• Waikato
• Otago

Many people are surprised that Auckland does not feature as the main destination for relocating New Zealanders. Auckland’s population is indeed growing quickly, fuelled by immigration and births, and half of all migrants to New Zealand live in the Auckland area.

But, as we have seen above, more New Zealanders have been moving out of the Auckland Region than moving in, particularly people aged 30 years and over. Canterbury, Bay Of Plenty, Waikato and Otago are the regions where New Zealanders prefer to relocate to in New Zealand.

Between 2001 and 2006, Canterbury gained more than 8,000 residents from other parts of New Zealand, while Bay of Plenty and Waikato each gained over 5,000 and Otago gained 4,500.

(This continues a trend seen in the previous five-year period when, between 1996 and 2001, Canterbury and Bay of Plenty each gained more than 8,000 people from relocation within New Zealand.) At the same time, Auckland lost about 2,500 people to other New Zealand regions.

The Bay of Plenty, and especially its main town of Tauranga, have become popular retirement areas owing to their warm, sunny climate.

Canterbury is now home to more than half of the South Island’s population. Christchurch, the main city, is often said to be the precision engineering and electronics capital of New Zealand.

Waikato has a number of pleasant, small towns close to the city of Hamilton and Otago offers very affordable housing close to or in the university city of Dunedin.

Last Updated: August 2013


More to read:

8 must-knows before you even THINK about moving to New Zealand
22 Ways to Slash Your Cost of Living in New Zealand
10 MUST-DOs for a New Zealand CV/Resume that will get you an interview

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