Overview of historic and future population growth, migration, and location of population.

The overall size and location of a population has a major impact on the city. It directly affects land use patterns, air quality, solid waste generation and water quality. It can also influence the size and composition of the labour force, place pressure on existing social services and recreational facilities, and alter demand for goods and services.

Current Population – Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn

At June 2017 Christchurch City's estimated resident population was 381,500. This is higher than before the earthquakes, and is an increase of 6,100 people from June 2016.

Between 2016 and 2017 the city's estimated population increased by 1.7 per cent, slightly lower than the national average of 2.1 per cent.

Prior to the 2010/2011 earthquakes, population growth was relatively steady, averaging 1 per cent growth per year. In the two years following the 2010/2011 earthquakes, the overall population of Christchurch City decreased by 21,200 (-6 per cent). The estimated population has increased annually since July 2012 and has now surpassed the population prior to the earthquake series (376,300).

Estimated annual population since 1986

Estimated annual population since 1986


Annual numeric population change since 1986

Annual numeric population change since 1986 

Waimakariri and Selwyn districts

At June 2017, neighbouring Selwyn District had an estimated 59,300 residents and neighbouring Waimakariri an estimated 59,200 residents. Together they make up almost 25 per cent of the total population of all three districts in Greater Christchurch

Between 2016 and 2017, Selwyn and Waimakariri Districts experienced the second and eleventh fastest growth in the country respectively (out of 67 territorial authorities). Selwyn District's annual increase was 5.7 per cent while Waimakariri District's was 2.5 per cent (compared with 2.1 per cent for the whole country). Combined the population growth was 4,500 new residents, compared with Christchurch City's 6,500 new residents. 

Location of residents

In Christchurch City, the area units (suburbs) with the highest population density in 2013 were located near the university (Riccarton, Upper Riccarton, Ilam); just north of the central city (Edgeware and St Albans); and just east of the central city (Linwood).

Outside of Christchurch City, the townships of Rangiora and Kaiapoi (Waimakariri District) and Rolleston (Selwyn District) were the most densely populated areas of their respective districts.

map of population density

Population density by area unit (suburb), 2013

Earthquake impacts

Between 2006 and 2013, area units in the Greater Christchurch area experienced significant changes in population due to two key factors: the 2010–2011 earthquakes, and new housing developments in formerly rural-zoned greenfield areas.

Population loss:
The areas that experienced the greatest losses of population are those associated with the residential red zone in Christchurch (predominantly located along the Avon River- starting within the Four Avenues and leading out to the Estuary- as well as parts of the Port Hills) and in Waimakariri (by the Kaiapoi River). The area units with the greatest numeric loss of population were Avondale, Burwood, Bexley and Dallington– each losing over 1700 people. Three area units (Burwood, Cathedral Square and Kaiapoi East) each lost over half of their 2006 population.

Population gain:
Rapid population growth has occurred in greenfield areas on the outskirts of the city. Some area units more than doubled their 2006 population, including Aidanfield and Yaldhurst in Christchurch City; Rolleston North West and Rolleston South West in Selwyn District; and Pegasus, Camside and Lehmans in Waimakariri District. Other Christchurch City area units with high numeric gains in population were Wigram and Belfast South– with each gaining over 1000 people between 2006 and 2013. 

map showing population change by area unit (suburb)

Numeric population change by area unit (suburb), 2006–2013

Migration to Christchurch

The earthquakes resulted in a net loss of around 20,000 migrants, but the city's ongoing recovery and rebuild opportunities have since resulted in net migration gains.

Overall migration

Prior to the 2010–2011 earthquake series, migration contributed to the majority of population growth in the city. In the five years to 30 June 2006, it is estimated the population increased by 26,500 residents. Almost 70 per cent of this was due to net migration gains (18,100 residents), while the remainder was due to natural increase. Following the earthquakes, Christchurch had a net migration loss of 21,000 people (in the five years to 30 June 2013).

As the city recovers, 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 6,000 for each five year period until 2043, while natural increase slows over the same period.

Chart showing components of population change since 2001

Components of population change, 2001–2043

Internal migration

Based on census data, between 2008 and 2013, Christchurch City had a net loss of 14,500 residents to other parts of New Zealand – 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, 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 4,450 and 3,350 people respectively), the Auckland District (3,300), and the Nelson/Marlborough area (1,100). There were some small overall population gains from smaller regional areas.

Chart of net migration flow to and from Christchurch City

Net migration flows to and from Christchurch City, 2008–2013

Christchurch City has been losing population to neighbouring Waimakariri and Selwyn districts for decades, with the greatest net population loss to each occurring in the 2008–2013 period. They are both fast-growing districts (Selwyn was the country’s fastest-growing territorial authority between 2006 and 2013, and has the highest projected average annual growth rate nationally) with much of each district's growth taking place in the greenfield areas located within easy commuting distance to and from Christchurch City.

Chart of net migration flows between Christchurch and other Canterbury districts

Net migration flows between Christchurch and other Canterbury districts

External migration

Over the last two decades, Christchurch City has generally experienced annual net external migration gains (i.e. more people moving to Christchurch from overseas than people leaving Christchurch for overseas), 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 attrib