The city's population fell by around 20,000 after the earthquakes, but record migration gains have seen the population recover.

Migration has been an important component of population change in Christchurch City, particularly since the 2010/2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. 

Migration can be internal (movements between Christchurch and other parts of New Zealand) or external (movements between Christchurch and overseas countries).

Topic Status Key findings
Overall migration Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Largely as a result of the earthquakes, Christchurch had a net migration loss of 21,000 people in the five years to June 2013.

Between 2013 and 2018, it is expected that the city will gain a net 23,000 migrants, as a result of the city's ongoing recovery and rebuild opportunities.

further net gain of 12,500 migrants is projected between 2018 and 2023, before stabilising at around 6000 migrants (net) for each five year period until 2043. Further information.

Net internal migration Decreasing trend

Based on census data, between 2008 and 2013, Christchurch City had a net loss of 14,500 residents to other parts of New Zealand.

Around 45,500 people moved from Christchurch City to elsewhere in New Zealand, while almost 31,000 people moved to Christchurch City from elsewhere in New Zealand.

Christchurch City has experienced population losses to neighbouring Selwyn and Waimakariri districts for decades, with the greatest net population loss to each occurring in the 2008–2013 period (losing a net 4450 and 3350 people respectively). Further information.

Net external migration Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Since July 2013, Christchurch has gained a net 26,600 migrants from overseas (includes NZ citizens).

In the year to June 2018, the net gain in migrants to/from overseas was 4930 migrants. Further information.

External migration by citizenship Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

In 2018, Christchurch gained a net 4895 migrants who were citizens of other countries.

2018 was only the second year in the 26-year time series where more NZ citizens moved to Christchurch from overseas, than left for overseas (a small net gain of 46 NZ citizens). Further information.

External migration by country Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

From 2005 to 2010, the UK and Ireland contributed the highest number of migrants to Christchurch (a net 6100), followed by Japan and the Philippines.

Since the earthquakes, China and India have become increasingly important source countries. Along with the UK, Ireland and the Philippines, these countries have contributed a net 16,000 migrants to Christchurch. Further information.

Migration by occupation Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

In 2018, migrants from 'Professional' occupations contributed the largest number of net migrants (643), followed by 'Technician and Trade' workers (283).

Since 2013, Christchurch gained a net 4140 migrants who had a 'Technician and Trade' occupation, and 3330 net migrants with a 'Professional' occupation. Further information.

Overall migration

In the five years to 30 June 2006, it is estimated the city's population increased by 26,500 residents, and around 70% of this growth was due to gains in net migration (with the remainder due to natural increase).

During the five years ending 30 June 2013, Christchurch had an unprecedented loss of 21,000 migrants, largely due to the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence.

As the city recovers and Christchurch becomes an increasingly attractive place to live, migration gains will once again be greater than the losses, with a projected net gain of 22,500 migrants for the period 2013 to 2018. A further net gain of 12,500 migrants is projected between 2018 and 2023, before stabilising at 6000 for each five-year period until 2043, while natural increase slows over the same period.

Internal migration

Currently internal migration flows are only provided five-yearly from the census. Between the 1991 and 2006 Censuses, Christchurch had consistent net migration losses to Wellington City, Waimakariri District and Selwyn District.

During the same period, Christchurch had consistent net gains from other parts of Canterbury (excluding the surrounding districts), the rest of the South Island, and the rest of the North Island outside of the two main cities. Pre-earthquakes, these migration movements to Christchurch were often younger adults moving to the city for education or employment reasons.

Based on 2013 Census data, Christchurch City had a net loss of 14,500 residents to other parts of New Zealand between 2008 and 2013 – its highest net internal migration loss on record for a five-year period. Around 45,500 people moved from Christchurch City to elsewhere in New Zealand, while almost 31,000 people moved to Christchurch City from elsewhere in New Zealand. Some of these movements would have taken place prior to the 2010/2011 earthquakes and regardless of the earthquakes, but the earthquakes undoubtedly contributed towards such a significant overall population loss.

The largest overall net population losses were to the surrounding districts of Selwyn and Waimakariri (losing a net 4450 and 3350 people respectively), especially in the greenfield(external link) areas located within easy commuting distance to and from Christchurch City.

Other significant net losses were to Auckland  (3300), Wellington (1000), Dunedin (920) and the Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman area (1100).

External migration

In the year to June 2018 there was a net gain of around 4930 migrants to and from overseas (i.e. more people moving to Christchurch from overseas than people leaving Christchurch for overseas). Almost all of the migration gains came from non-New Zealand citizens.

From 1992, Christchurch City generally experienced annual net external migration(external link) gains, with the exception of a period in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and in the two years following the 2010/2011 earthquakes.

Since 2012 there has been a return to positive net migration, which can largely be attributed to the Christchurch rebuild and the requirement for skilled workers to assist with the rebuild, particularly workers in construction, engineering and trades. Overseas factors have led to many New Zealand citizens returning to Christchurch (especially from Australia). There have also been fewer New Zealanders leaving Christchurch for overseas.

Between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2018, there was a net external migration gain of 26,600 migrants. 

migration diagram

External migration by citizenship

2017 marked the first year in the 26-year time series where there were more New Zealand citizens arriving in Christchurch from overseas than leaving for overseas (a net gain of 46 New Zealand citizens).

In 2018, around 2150 New Zealand citizens arrived in Christchurch from overseas while around 2100 New Zealand citizens departed Christchurch for overseas, resulting in a net gain of 37.

Christchurch has consistently had net gains of non-New Zealand citizens (i.e. more citizens from other countries moving to the city from overseas than leaving the city and moving overseas). In 2018, the city had a net gain of 4900 non-New Zealand citizens (7300 arrivals and 2400 departures).

External migration by country of last and next residence 

Between 2005 and 2010, external migration to Christchurch City was largely driven by arrivals from the United Kingdom and Ireland (a net gain of 6100 people), Japan (a net gain of 2300) and the Philippines (a net gain of 1000).

Since the earthquakes, the United Kingdom and Ireland have remained the highest source of migrants, contributing a net 5200 migrants.

However the largest net gain in migrants has been from the Philippines, driven by the demand for rebuild workers. Between 2011–2018, Christchurch City gained a net 5100 migrants from the Philippines, peaking at 1050 in 2015. In 2018, the Philippines was the top source country (790 net migrants).

China and India are becoming increasingly important source countries of migrants to Christchurch. In 2018 these two countries contributed the second and third highest number of net migrants (590 and 490 migrants respectively), after the Philippines.

In 2014, Christchurch City recorded annual net gains from Australia for the first time since the time series began in 1992. In the five years to June 2018, Christchurch gained a net increase of 1500 migrants from Australia.

Between 1992 and 2013, Christchurch experienced net losses to Australia annually, averaging around 1300 per year. Net migration losses to Australia peaked in the two years after the earthquakes, when Christchurch had a total net loss of 5900 migrants to Australia. Almost all of these departures for Australia were New Zealand citizens.

External migration by occupation

The earthquake and associated rebuild created unprecedented demand for construction labour which was unable to be met by New Zealand workers alone.

In 2010 – before the earthquake series started – Christchurch City gained a net 32 external migrants working as 'Technicians and Trades Workers'. Since 2012, the combined number of net migrants for this type of employment was 4230. Net migration from technicians and trades workers peaked in 2014 at just over 1100, but has decreased annually since and numbered 280 in 2018.

Migrants working in 'Professional' occupations have also been important to the city following the earthquakes, with a net 3330 external migrants between 2013 and 2018. Numbers have remained high since the earthquakes.


Further information

Please email for further information.

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