Who are buying Queenstown homes to live in?

Queenstown-Lakes continues to have the fastest growing population in the country, with the extra demand having propelled Queenstown’s housing to be New Zealand’s most expensive.

Over the four years to June 2017, just over half the population growth was driven by international migration. The rest was caused by natural increase (births minus deaths) and regional migration from other parts of New Zealand.

In a recent report, I found that Queenstown-Lakes District gained 1,119 Aucklanders in net terms over the four years to June 2017.

These Auckland migrants were the key contributor to Queenstown-Lakes District’s total net regional gain of 1,941 people over the four-year period.

The table at the end of this article shows which parts of New Zealand these migration gains have come from. Auckland was overwhelmingly the key source, with Christchurch a distant second.

Of interest, Queenstown has also experienced relatively significant losses of regional migrants to Central Otago and Dunedin. There are also signs of emerging migration to Tasman, Mackenzie, and Wellington.

You may ask where this data comes from?

The data used to generate this insight ultimately comes from a large administrative dataset, called IDI, that links several government sources into a centralised database about people and households. By observing changes in residential address in this database, it is possible to estimate migration internally within New Zealand.

The data in IDI is being used by Statistics New Zealand to patch up Census 2018.

But when these further Census updates of regional migration data will be released is not yet known.

The first tranche of Census data on September 23 is only scheduled to have high level population counts, and it will not be until months later that detailed data on regional migration flows for 2018 will be released.

In the meantime, I have talked to my friends at Corelogic about what they saw in property transactions data to get a feel for flows of people into Queenstown during 2018.

They provided me with statistics on owner-occupiers, who sell up in one part of New Zealand and then buy in Queenstown.

The chart above is consistent with the internal migration estimates I formed earlier. The data suggests that Auckland remained the most significant contributor of regional migration to Queenstown in 2018, with Canterbury’s share having risen over recent years. The remainder of owner-occupiers moving to Queenstown came from a variety of other parts of the country.

As a proud resident of Queenstown, I am not surprised to see the appeal of the area continuing to show up in these statistics. The challenge as we move forward is charting a path of more balanced growth. One that ensures the right housing, infrastructure, and environmental checks and balances are in place to continue supporting Queenstown’s enviable position as the best place to live, work, play and do business.