Quake exodus sees Kiwis flock to Australia in April; Net migration to NZ negative for 2nd month in a row, Stats NZ says

High levels of Christchurch residents leaving New Zealand to live permanently in Australia made net migration to New Zealand negative for the second month in a row, figures released by Statistics New Zealand show.

ASB economist Jane Turner said she expected the trend of migration outflows to continue through the year, before reversing once reconstruction activity in Christchurch, which is expected next year, got underway. The outflows would reduce pressures on housing shortages that had arisen as a result of the February 22 earthquake, Turner said.

A net 100 people left the country in April permanently or long-term (PLT), following a net 500 departures in March as the numbers of those leaving Christcurch doubled in April from a year ago, seasonally adjusted figures show.

"Departures of Christchurch residents remained high in April 2011, numbering 800 – double the 400 departures from the city in April 2010. Since the earthquake on 22 February, the city has experienced 1,000 more departures and 300 fewer arrivals than in the same period of 2010," Government Statistician Geoff Bascand said.

"New Zealand had a net migration gain of 5,500 in the year ended April 2011, down from 20,000 the previous year, and below the average annual net migration gain of 12,000 over the last 20 years. The decrease in net migration compared with 2010 was mainly due to an increase in departures to Australia," Bascand said.

'Frustration building in Christchurch'

Prior to the earthquake, the trend of leaving to Australia due to the stronger labour market was already in place, Turner said.

"The February earthquake has added to this momentum. We expect that departures to Australia will remain elevated this year. Departures will continue as Christchurch residents become increasingly frustrated with delays in the rebuilding process.  Also many may be waiting for insurance payouts before opting to relocate," Turner said.

"The outflow will help ease some of the pressures on housing shortages that have arisen as a result of the earthquake. Over time, once reconstruction activity gets underway there is likely to be a reversal, particularly as the rebuilding activity attracts additional labour from offshore.  In addition, some Cantabrians may opt to return after a couple of years," she said.

Students from India

In the April 2011 year, the highest net inflow of migrants was from India (6,000). This was followed by the United Kingdom (4,900), and China (4,000).

The net PLT outflow to Australia was 27,000 in the April 2011 year – between the outflows in 2009 (32,000) and 2010 (14,800). The latest net outflow resulted from 42,400 departures to Australia being partly offset by 15,400 arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.

Annual PLT migration by citizenship

There was a net outflow of 27,200 New Zealand citizens in the April 2011 year, up from 12,500 in the April 2010 year. The net inflow of 32,700 non-New Zealand citizens was just above the previous year's figure of 32,400.

PLT arrivals of New Zealand citizens numbered 24,200 in the April 2011 year, above the average of 23,500 recorded for the 1979–2010 December years, but below the peaks of the March 1991 year (29,600) and the October 2003 year (27,800). Arrivals of New Zealand citizens tend to show relatively little variation year-to-year, and the variation that does occur often follows trends in departures of New Zealand citizens a few years earlier.

PLT departures of New Zealand citizens show much more annual variation than arrivals of New Zealand citizens. The highest number of departures of New Zealand citizens was 64,300 in the October 1979 year, but by the January 1984 year, this had decreased to a low of 24,400. PLT departures of New Zealand citizens numbered 51,400 in the year ended April 2011.

PLT arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens were less than 30,000 a year between 1979 and 1992, then doubled to reach a peak of 58,800 in the July 1996 year. Another peak of 72,800 was reached in the February 2003 year. The changes in arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens reflect changes in arrivals of temporary workers (including working holidaymakers) and overseas students staying for 12 months or more; as well as arrivals for residence. The 59,300 non-New Zealand citizen arrivals in the April 2011 year were up from 57,200 arrivals in the previous year.

PLT departures of non-New Zealand citizens have generally been increasing since 1984, corresponding with the general increase in arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens. In the April 2011 year, there were 26,500 PLT departures of non-New Zealand citizens, up from 24,800 in the April 2010 year.

In the April 2011 year, 28,300 PLT arrivals were Australian or New Zealand citizens. Of the remaining 55,200 migrants, most arrived on:

  • work visas (20,700)
  • student visas (16,800)
  • residence visas (12,800)
  • visitor visas (4,200).

Compared with 2010, more migrants arrived on student (up 1,700), work (up 400), and visitor (up 200) visas. Fewer migrants arrived on residence visas (down 600).

(Updates with ASB comments, more from Stats NZ)

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It takes a lot to tick that box at the airport  "Leaving permanently". I wonder if the figure isn't actually much higher, as those that go for a 'look-see' stay on....

Hugh : I got back to Chch in early February , and folk then were highly pissed off at the glacial pace of re-build & repair after the first 'quake .  A mere 29 consents for re-builds were granted by the CCC between September 4 and February 22 .

.... The pollies have no clue as to the depth of hatred towards them , from the victims of the quakes . Lives and livelihoods are placed on indefinite hold , as the Nanny state and the incompetent CCC , decide their future .

When did it come to pass that Kiwi's cannot make their own decisions regarding their own homes and businesses .....

...... When did socialism finally take over ?

When are you leaving?

New Zealand had a net migration gain of 5,500 in the year ended April 2011

An Influx then!

Hugh. being a fellow Cantab I could not agree with you more...the time it will take to strip the infrastructure out and then get ground right and then put the infrastrcuture back to start the rebuilding will be a very very very long process...it would be ten times quicker putting in new subdivisions.

My mother is in Waimak they been told earliest they will be back into there houses will be 2013..and they are the blueprint for the rest of CHC..be at least 5 years before a large number will get back into there houses..when they realise this..thats when the real exodus will happen i suspect.

Well said Hugh ! ......And George Balani , there's a ZB blast from the past , wonder what he's up to ?

......... I know guys in the Waimak who're champing at the bit to fix , to repair , to re-build something ...... and they're not allowed to .

Who're the bozos that gave all the work to Fletchers ?

........... CD are beyond useless , they've gone off into a twilight zone of idiocy . I saw how frustrated business owners were with them in Feb & March .


The budget is based on Treasury forecasts of 4% annual growth in the economy. They must be dreaming. 


 Rebuilding Christchurch does not add to overall growth – investment is simply transferred from the rest of the country to Christchurch, and hence puts a damper on growth everywhere else. (The broken windows fallacy.) While this transfer is partially offset by overseas insurers these overseas funds are only a partial offset against total costs. And future insurance premiums, paid to those same overseas insurers, will rise, and increase costs, in the longer term.


Our local councils control the toll-gates that determine whether growth occurs or not.

The toll-gates are firmly closed.

 For example, we are building only half the houses we need to meet existing demand.

It seems remarkable that the Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury continue to object to several residential developments in recent weeks, largely because of “greenbelt” issues, and to allow time for the CERA recovery strategy to be in place (by January 2012) and taken into account.

This leaves the developers in limbo. One might have hoped the Councils would have recognized the need to maintain momentum, endorsed the applications, and passed on a strong recommendation to CERA. Must action wait on planners to agree on their plans?

In New Orleans it proved to be a long wait.

The case for sub-local government, where neighbourhood associations deal with their own resource consents, grows stronger by the day.

Unless this local stranglehold on growth is addressed, anti-growth council staff will not allow 1% growth – let alone 4%.


The number one issue for oursleves at the moment is Christchurch worth investing a future in and why not just leave. -Probably true about NZ in general. Personally it's not the business side of the equation, since we don't need to keep our office based here per se, it's whether we feel there is opportunity to create a positive life out of the rubble.

At the moment it's not particularly evident why that would be the case especially given the continuing obfuscation through layers of bureaucracy and I can't see it getting much better. IMHO The council virtually strangled the city centre to death previously anyway and like most of NZ, land and houses had become overpriced and vested interests wanted to keep it that way blocking the vitality and hope of  younger generations at both a national and regional level.

Personally I think unless they can spark a vision and communicate why it's worth living in Christchurch and create opportunities for that then the situation will deteriorate under a quagmire of paper shuffler ineffiencies, continuing economic maliase and quality of life.

Creating some opportunities for affordable housing will be one way of over coming the resistance to that risk especially since you can jump on a plane easily enough and get out. With technology people aren't as tied to a physical location as much anymore but still would like a home base. If you create some opportunities for younger generations to have a crack at building a life here (Chch or NZ) then you harness a bottom revitalisation just through people wanting / making something happen. The top down command and control won't mean squat without the belief of 'hope and change'. -The real kind.

Otherwise why bother?


For our business in christchurch, business activity has grown from the Feburary 22 EQ however the city is not very liveable and no one wants to do anything about it.

Our young staff found the non existent night life was doing their heads in while the young family types miss the entertainment, culture & sports opportunities for themselves and their children. Have a fellow Director who could not cope with her old routine gone, she use to start the day swimming, the great joy in her life.

I can work from the laptop and phone and run my part business from anywhere... so the logical thing was to see what the staff wanted to do and proposed solutions to service our clients.

We had a staff conference on what to do and the majority of the office wanted to relocate and service Christchurch with a presence but move headoffice...so that is what has happened.

No intergarted approach by the powers that be lost christchurch 46 high paid staff.

speckles - what's the difference between your staff group and the people mentioned in this story:


Curious? What do you think it is?

I see you say, "No intergrated approach by the powers that be lost christchurch 46 high paid staff." However, what specifically would you, they have liked to have seen since 22/2 - because that is the eq that has been the trigger for talk of an exodus*.

Where will you set up your new head office?

I'm guessing your'e relocating out of Canterbury, so have your staff who need to sell-up had much luck selling?  

Curious, just asking.

Cheers, Les.



Just a related side issue. How did Fletchers get awarded the project to manage the rebuild. Was it an open, compedative process or some back door jack up.  Maybe it was all above board and I missed it.  It would be interesting to see the terms of the deal.

funny how this growing exodus seems to be being quietly swept under the carpet by the media and economists

Its going to draw demand away from housing as well as retail

It may relieve unemployment somewhat, although with growing public sector cuts inevitable.........


Relatively few people are just able to jump on a plane and leave the country for good at the drop of a hat. All the people I know that have left Christchurch have left for places within NZ (another leaving party at work this afternoon). Many left fully intending to come back but as time moves on and the inaction in the city drags on, less and less are sticking with those plans. Job opportunities and wages mean that their eventual destination may well be overseas. The exodus has only just started.

And for those of us left, the inability of anyone in charge to make a decision, the delays, the constantly lengthening timeframes are scuppering our attempts to get on with our lives. The quake made things hard for us, the bureaucracy is making things impossible. In March I saw people defiant and galvanised, in April I saw them frustrated, now they are angry. In a few months I reckon I just won't see them

Reading the above, one can sympathise with the Christchurch City Council.

Who elected them, I wonder.

Oh, the people of Christchurch. For 20 years, you say? That would seen to eliminate aberrant results, and noise.

Forced Amalgamation?  I'm not familiar with Chch, but I presume you refer to the Ellwood/Buck upheaval?

If so, that was driven by flk with your kind of ideology. As wwre Tomorrows Schools, Late's, Soe's - it was all steps towards less, then no, elected governance.

It doesn't work, Hugh. No governance had to be the initial default position - but as soon organised (think about it) civilisation appeared, it had to have an organising mechanism. Democracy is the best of the bunch, believe me.

I just spent a week in various Pacific Islands on business

I had a few days in resorts, and met many disillusioned Cantabrians who had escaped ChCh 

But I reckon the exodus will not just comprise Cantabrians but Wellingtonians (especially as public sector jobs get axed) and Aucklanders

Owen McShane put it well today that the fairy land economists expecting 4% growth next year are in total dreamland. As he said (something I have said several times on this website) any boost in growth in ChCh will be drawn away from elsewhere

Looking at classic / project cars are lot are on trade me from Christchurch and the reason for sale is "owner going overseas"

Ok a few examples on the ground...

friends a car dealer, can buy more cars than he can sell currently...existing clients offering him car on their way out of town. Dealers around him can not even pay the rent coupled with second hand import changes at end of year will give to Christmas. Has options and property already outside Christchurch. Plan B established.

Great guy I know checked out Auckland with his family, can easly relocate his business..likes the North Shore and set up business in Albany appeals however decided will wait to Christmas and see how things devlop and if a realistic plan for the CBD is establised otherwise he is off. Plan B established.

Guy with means decides to buy nice upper middle class property in West Christchurch looking at properties around 1.2 million. All empty with asia or european owners have fled to Auckland or back home. BMWs left is the garage houses left as is...

Finally made an offer on one around 2/3rds asking price and surprised to see they have accepted. These were properties with no or limited damage.

Attended a funeral this week, had to be delayed a couple of days as a conequence of people having to come back to the city to attend. Talked to a few young couples around me I know causally they had all moved to aussie in the past month-six weeks, already found employment.

Drive the streets, suddenly the place seems a whole lot more empty.

Right after the Sept. 4th quake a lot of people eventually said the same things some people are saying now - That everything is okay and it is all over and we should all just put it behind us and get back to business. That there will be no more quakes and we should carry on the way we did before Sept. 4th as if nothing had happened.

Would you be willing to pay 2/3rd of $1.2m for a property that hasn't been damaged yet?

Of course we could be like the munters who get incandescently irate when they hear or read "negative" things about the property market. We could just accuse those who report the "negative" information of being "doomsters" and "gloomsters" and "scare-mongerers". We could pretend like nothing bad can ever happen and that property always leads to untold riches and never anything else.

Yes - wait and see !

Thank you for your friendly words Hugh. It obviously does need a lot more of underperformance of Brownlee to wake up people.

He underperformed as minister in economic developments and with the Pike River tragedy. How much more prove people need of Brownlee’s underperformance until they sack him ?

We have such a friendly mentality in this country to a point, where hardly anyone makes politicians accountable for their inactions/ actions - most are still in power - sluggish - self- serving.