33,000 Aucklanders move to the rest of New Zealand

5 June 2019

Media release for immediate use

Almost 33,000 Aucklanders left the City of Sails for other parts of the country over the four years to June 2017, shows a new report by economist Benje Patterson.

“Auckland’s regional migration losses are not surprising when one considers the deterioration to housing affordability that occurred in Auckland over that period,” said Mr Patterson.

“What’s more, the exodus of Aucklanders to the regions has accelerated from a net 2,727 people in 2014 to 12,942 people in 2017,” he said.

 “The commonly-held belief is that most Aucklanders head to Northland, Waikato or Bay of Plenty. Indeed the three regions closest to Auckland attracted two thirds of Auckland’s regional population exodus,” said Mr Patterson.

But the largely untold story is that even places at the other end of the country, like Dunedin and Queenstown, have benefited.

Benje Patterson’s analysis shows that Dunedin and Queenstown-Lakes have each experienced total net population gains from Auckland of more than 1,100 residents over the four years to June 2017.

This evidence supports anecdotal media reports that have been partly attributing Dunedin’s renaissance to Aucklanders choosing the city as a place to work, live, and do business.

“Queenstown’s gain also highlights that the resort’s overheated property market has in part been driven by cashed-up Auckland buyers – one of the few areas where housing equity is generally enough to enter the local market,” said Mr Patterson.

Other parts of the country that are worth mentioning as destinations for Aucklanders, even though they don’t factor at the pointy end over the whole period, include Wellington and Hawke’s Bay.

Mr Patterson found that there was a net migration flow of 126 people from Wellington City into Auckland in 2014, but by 2017 that flow had swung around to 468 people leaving Auckland for Wellington. A similar story was apparent in Napier-Hastings.

The report also investigated the age profile of Aucklanders leaving for other parts of the country.

“Net regional migration out of Auckland is characterised by high net outflows of people in their late twenties and through their thirties with children,” said Mr Patterson.

Mr Patterson is concerned that the exodus of productive workers to other parts of New Zealand during the peak years of their working life exacerbates skills shortages in Auckland’s labour market.

“These gaps have been partly filled by international migrants, but as international migration policy settings tighten, an increased focus on retaining youth and attracting young families to Auckland will be needed,” said Mr Patterson.

Net regional migration outflows also accelerate as people reach retirement.

“The allure of selling an Auckland home to free up equity for a cheaper house in the regions is proving too difficult to resist for many people,” observed Mr Patterson.

Mr Patterson’s findings are pertinent to regional policymakers still awaiting the release of Census data.

“This report ultimately makes use of the same administrative data that Statistics New Zealand is using to patch up Census 2018,” said Mr Patterson.

“Administrative datasets, that link together a range of government sources into a centralised database about people and households, are the way of the future.”

“We must ultimately move away from clunky five-yearly censuses. Regional policymakers are investing billions each year in their local economies and deserve a reliable flow of information about who is residing in their area,” concluded Mr Patterson.

The full report on the regional migration exodus from Auckland is available for download here.


For more information contact:
Benje Patterson
Economist, strategist, storyteller
Benje Patterson | People & Places
Email: benje@benjepatterson.co.nz
Phone: 027 469 4837