The Bay of Plenty falls just behind quake-stricken Canterbury when it comes to the number of residents migrating overseas.
Statistics New Zealand figures show net permanent migration in Bay of Plenty of minus 1340 residents during the financial year 2010-11.
The figure puts the region third nationally behind Waikato, with a net loss of 1588 residents, and Canterbury with minus 1548.
Auckland recorded the largest growth in migrants with 6220.
Western Bay of Plenty economic development agency Priority One chief executive Andrew Coker said to a degree the news came as no surprise.
"We're still getting the lingering effects of the global financial crisis," he said.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />
Mr Coker said the construction sector, particularly residential, relied on population growth and this coupled with the Psa kiwifruit disease was sending tradesmen and kiwifruit workers overseas.<inline type="poll" id="4482" align="outside"/>
But Mr Coker said the Western Bay was a desirable place to live and was optimistic the construction industry would recover from the downturn of recent years.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby was wary of speaking about statistics relating to the entire Bay of Plenty.
"Historically of course, a lot of Tauranga's growth has been because of migration, mainly British, South African and parts of Asia," he said.
The Bay of Plenty as a whole has not experienced positive migration since 2003 when the region experienced net growth of 346 migrants.
Director of Waikato University's National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis and professor of demography Natalie Jackson said the Bay of Plenty's net migration loss could be attributed to young people heading overseas.
Last year, New Zealand recorded its biggest net loss of migrants to Australia.
The overall net loss of migrants in 2011 was 1900, the largest since a net 4400 left in the 12 months ended August 31, 2001.
But Prof Jackson said many young Bay of Plenty residents were likely to have been replaced by older people immigrating from other regions.
She said migration was a push-pull scenario, rising and falling over time.
Prof Jackson said the Bay of Plenty's trend over the past 10 years mirrored that of the Waikato.
"Which says that it's a systematic thing that's happening, as opposed to something strange that's going on in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty."
A census, which would indicate regional migration, has not been conducted since 2006 because of the Christchurch earthquake. But comments on the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page suggest unaffordable rents and a lack of work as reasons for leaving the Bay.
Mark Moffat said he had left Tauranga twice, once to move to Hamilton and was now living in Whakatane.
"Job prospects are lacking in Tauranga and accommodation is hard to get and too expensive for people on minimum wage. Moving to Ohope was the best decision as housing is very cheap and we can actually afford to live here," he said.
Former Bay resident Hayden Webber shifted to Canterbury to help with the rebuilding of Christchurch.
Natasha Bates said her family's move to Te Awamutu had proved the best decision they ever made.
"We moved because rent is too high and there's not enough work. Tauranga has become unaffordable," she said.
Kalena Finlayson said she and her family left the "lovely Bay of Plenty" in June.
"My hubby had been made redundant from his job in Rotorua two years earlier and couldn't find work in Tauranga so had been commuting to his job in Hamilton. We finally decided the right decision for our family was to make the move. I miss it dearly but is good for our family," she said.
"Manda Panda" said she moved to Hamilton because the secondary schooling in Tauranga was "completely inadequate" and the job prospects even worse.
"I now live in Hamilton and it was the best decision I ever made," she said.