Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

NZ the most mobile country in the world

Experts say there has always been a tradition of mobility in New Zealand. File photo / Thinkstock
Experts say there has always been a tradition of mobility in New Zealand. File photo / Thinkstock

New Zealanders are the most transient people in the world, with a quarter of the population having moved to a different part of the country in the past five years, according to Gallup.

The survey on internal migration, published yesterday, asked 236,865 adults in 139 countries whether they had moved from another city or area within their country in the past five years.

While countries with advanced economies were found to have the highest rates of internal migration, nations where people were displaced due to environmental change, natural disasters or conflict also had high rates, such as Syria.

The survey coincided with the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, which may account for the high New Zealand figures.

New Zealand was found to be the most mobile country in the world, followed by the United States, Syria and Finland.

However, Gallup warned this ordering was not necessarily conclusive given the margin of error.

Quoting 2007 Statistics New Zealand data, Gallup said economic reasons were the main motivators for New Zealanders to move from one residence to another, and employment reasons were the main motivators for moving from one region to another.

Dr Phil McDermott, a consultant in urban, economic and community development, said a key reason for New Zealanders moving so much was the instability of our housing market.

"Through the housing problems we have, we're stuck with a growing rental class. Renters don't have that fixed commitment to a locality and they don't have the security of tenure," he said.

"Our rentals are owned by mum and dad or individual owners so it's not a stable sector, and unless you're in a state house you're going to be moving quite a lot."

Also, there has always been a tradition of mobility in New Zealand, he said.

"Internal migration is just one component of a very mobile population. which is really part of our culture, our history. It may be tied up with the fact that, as young people we do our OE and then where we come back to New Zealand it's not necessarily to where we left from. We leave our home town but we don't necessarily end up back there."

Being at the top of the table for internal mobility wasn't necessarily a good thing, Dr McDermott said.

"It's inevitable that young people will travel and that's good - good for their education, good for their outlook. But the fact that people aren't able to perhaps settle or commit to particular areas could be a disadvantage."

Household moving company New Zealand Movers saw a huge spike in the number of people moving out Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake, and then returning later.

Export manager Karl Torrie said the other main reasons cited for people wanting move were house prices, employment and lifestyle.

He was not surprised by the study's findings.

"Perhaps it's because there isn't such a big gap in terms of distance and lifestyle no matter where you are in New Zealand. You kind of know what Tauranga's about if you're moving from Auckland. And your grandparents or parents are still within earshot of Auckland."

Latest population estimates from Statistics New Zealand show Canterbury had suffered the largest net migration loss, with Auckland gaining the most new residents.

Estimates for the year ended 30 June 2012 show a net loss of 4000 people in Canterbury. The next highest was Bay of Plenty with a loss of 1500, followed by Hawke's Bay with a loss of 1200.

Auckland gained 6500 new residents, by far the largest gain. Next was Otago, with a net gain of 540, then Nelson with 150.

itchy feet


- New Zealand 26 per cent

- United States 24 per cent

- Syria 23 per cent

- Finland 23 per cent

- Norway 22 per cent


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