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Urban and rural migration
Population change

Population change has been higher for main urban areas, and for rural and other areas, than for less populated centres. At the 2006 Census, minor urban areas and other urban areas had higher proportions of people who had moved between 2001 and 2006 compared with rural areas. Large proportions of movers living in rural areas had moved from urban areas, whereas movers living in main urban areas had mainly moved within these areas. Increasingly, there has been a large population exchange between main urban areas, and rural and other areas, and has resulted in net population gains to rural and other areas.

  • Main urban area: Centres with populations of 30,000 or more.
  • Secondary urban area: Centres with populations between 10,000 and 29,999.
  • Minor urban area: Centres with populations of 1,000 or more not already classified as urban.
  • Rural centre: Centres with populations of 300 to 999.
  • Rural and other area: Area units that are not already included in an urban area or rural centre. It includes inlets, inland and oceanic waters.

Population 1991–2006

New Zealand has for a long time been known as a highly urbanised country. The proportion of New Zealand's resident population living in urban areas (main, secondary or minor urban areas) has remained about the same; it was 86 percent in 2006 and 85 percent in 1991. The proportion of people living in main urban areas has increased marginally from 70 percent in 1991 to 72 percent in 2006. This pattern was not repeated for the secondary and minor urban areas; the combined population of these areas declined from 16 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2006. Similarly, the population living in rural centres or rural areas comprised a slowly declining proportion of the population, from 15 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2006.

Table 1

Population Distribution
By urban area
1991–2006 Censuses
Area of usual residence 1991 1996 2001 2006
Percent of population
Main urban 69.6 70.2 71.0 71.8
Secondary urban 6.9 6.5 6.3 6.0
Minor urban 9.0 8.7 8.4 8.1
Rural centre 2.3 2.3 2.1 2.0
Rural and other 12.2 12.3 12.1 12.0
New Zealand 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

For each of the periods 1991–1996, 1996–2001 and 2001–2006, the population increase for the combined 16 main urban areas of New Zealand has been higher than the overall population increase for the country. Between the 2001 and 2006 Censuses the increase of population in main urban areas was 9 percent compared with not quite 8 percent overall for the country. Other urban and rural area categories generally had lower population increases or declines. Rural and other areas had a population increase that was higher than the national average during 1991–1996, but in 1996–2001 and 2001–2006 recorded increases that were lower than the national averages for these periods.

Figure 1

Graph, Population Changes.

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