Journal article

The mechanisms of subnational population growth and decline in New Zealand 1976-2013

15 Jun 2017

This article summarises key findings from the strand of the Tai Timu Tangata. Taihoa e? project that examined the mechanisms of subnational population change in New Zealand for 143 towns, 132 rural centres and 66 territorial authority areas (hereafter TAs), for the 37-year period 1976-2013. Because of space constraints we present the information as a set of 10 summary observations. For the underlying analyses please refer to Jackson, Brabyn and Maré (2016); Jackson and Cameron (2017), Jackson, Brabyn, Maré, Cameron and Pool (forthcoming); and Jackson and Brabyn (forthcoming).

The broader rationale for the Tai Timu Tangata project is outlined by Jackson (infra). Essentially, current New Zealand has a relatively young and rapidly growing population. However, widespread subnational depopulation between 1996 and 2013 saw one-third of the nation’s TAs decline in size; Auckland and 12 TAs shared 90 percent of growth, while the remaining 10 percent of growth was spread very thinly across 32 TAs. The situation has led to some towns being disparagingly labelled as ‘zombie towns’ (NBR 2014), and contrasted against their more successful growing counterparts.

Following are ten key observations drawn from the project:

  1. The majority of areas experience net migration loss rather than gain
  2. Net migration loss does not always result in population decline
  3. The majority of areas are smaller with, than without, migration
  4. The majority of areas experience natural increase – but this will soon change, with profound implications
  5. The majority of areas experience natural increase – but this will soon change, with profound implications
  6. The vast majority of TAs, towns and rural centres are older as a result of migration
  7. Towns are more likely than rural centres to have more than 20 percent aged 65+ years
  8. Age-selective migration is accelerating structural population ageing in most areas
  9. The proportion of women aged 15-44 is a stronger driver of natural increase or decrease than the total fertility rate
  10. Net migration explains most of the variance in net change, but natural increase determines whether the outcome is positive or negative
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