4 Apr 2022

Thousands leave Auckland for other New Zealand centres amid Covid-19

8:31 pm on 4 April 2022

The tide of people moving out of Auckland for greener pastures in other parts of the country has increased during the pandemic.

Removal Truck Waiting To Be Unloaded Outside New Home On Moving Day

Photo: 123RF

Official figures show close to 25,000 people have left the city in the past two years.

The flow of people moving out of Auckland is a long held trend in our internal migration patterns because the city gets its influx of people from births and international arrivals, the latter when borders are open.

But for some it appears Covid-19 had accelerated their plans to leave the big smoke.

Charlotte Connoley said experiencing a pandemic helped her realise how precious time was with her family.

"Where we lived everything was half an hour away whether it was the doctor or the scooter park or the library or the water or whatever and then further afield than that you had the traffic."

Connoley and her family moved out of Auckland in the new year, after she got a job offer she could not turn down, and now live in Bay of Plenty.

"Where we're located now the water's a kilometre down the road, the school's 500 metres up the road, all the outdoor activities that we like, water sports, biking, are just on our doorstep and really accessible."

Former Aucklander Tessa Sillifant stayed in the city for job opportunities when she arrived here from England 16 years ago.

She moved to Methven at the end of last year, chasing a long-held dream to live in the South Island - and also own a home.

"I know I can't afford to buy a house in Auckland so I wanted to be able to be in an area that I could settle longer term and I wasn't sure where that would be but I knew I'd like to be somewhere in the South Island."

Sillifant said lockdowns gave her a chance to remember her dream of living near the mountains.

"I literally just loaded up the car and drove down. I've been here a few months and I really like it here so I've managed to get a place for a year."

Auckland's net loss stood at 13,500 residents last year, a couple of thousand more than previous years.

What's to blame

Auckland Council's chief economist Gary Blick said housing affordability, alongside the city's liveability and productivity were to blame for the fall.

"Incomes in Auckland tend to be higher than other regions and we would expect the opportunities of a large and successful city to attract a net gain in residents," he said in a quarterly update.

"Yet these net losses show that plenty of people judge they would be better off living in other regions. This raises the question of whether Auckland's

overall liveability is as good as it could be."

Sociologist and Massey University distinguished emeritus professor Paul Spoonley said the pandemic had also likely played a part in many people's decisions to move.

Professor Paul Spoonley says it's impossible to measure the full scale of hate speech.

Paul Spoonley Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

"I think it's very much a function of Covid and the possibilities of people either losing their jobs in the main centres and looking to move somewhere else perhaps a little cheaper, or the possibility that they're now working from home or from a distance and so they have new possibilities of where they can live and work."

Working from home had certainly opened up options for many.

Connoley said when they moved to Plummers Point near Tauranga, her husband kept his corporate job in Auckland.

"We didn't feel the pressure to change his situation at this stage and I guess that's where Covid has benefited a lot of us because he can work from home two days a week so it really only means he's in Auckland three days."

As international borders open it is expected Auckland will again attract migrants wanting to make their home here.

But Spoonley said there would also be a brain drain.

"What we pay in New Zealand and in Auckland is often not particularly competitive in terms of an international talent market," he said.

"As we saw at the end of the global financial crisis there will be a very significant outflow from New Zealand. It is very concerning, we often talk at the level of a firm about the challenges of recruiting in a very tight labour market or retaining people, I think we've got to think about that as a country."

With Covid-19 still circulating it was difficult for modellers to predict how many people would leave New Zealand, and by how much Auckland might grow, he said.