The exodus from Christchurch is continuing although the departure rate is gradually slowing.

A net 607 more Cantabrians redirected their mail to other parts of the country or overseas in the seven months to the end of January, compared with 1538 in the 12 months before that.

Statistics NZ estimated that a net 7600 people left the region in the 12 months to last June - most of them in the last four months of that period after the February 22 quake.

If the population loss continued in the same ratio to mail redirections, about 3000 more people may have left in the past seven months.


The net movement overseas from Canterbury was 2236 in the first half of last year and 1144 in the second half.

Wellington demographer James Newell said the total population loss in the full year to this June could be about the same as for the year to last June.

"Really the story is that the earthquake refugee flight is going to be over two or three years," he said.

"So you'll get something of the same order [as the year to last June] in the June 2012 year, and something a bit less in the June 2013 year."

He expects the exodus to be offset eventually by an inflow of construction workers, but there is no sign of a turnaround in the mail redirections yet.

They have shown a net outflow from Canterbury in every month since the first earthquake in September 2010, except for January and February last year.

Redirections to other parts of the country spiked at a net outflow of 806 last March, but fell back quickly and have been below 100 a month in every month since June except for August and December, when families appear to have moved at the end of school terms.

Unusually, the exodus has been dominated by families with young children instead of the usual Kiwi outflow of young single adults.

Total Canterbury school enrolments dropped by 3300, or 3.6 per cent, in the year to last July. The Education Ministry listed 3039 school students from Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn still enrolled outside those districts on November 9.

Statistics NZ said the total net exodus of 7600 Cantabrians in the year to last June was partly offset by 2600 more births than deaths, producing a net population loss of 5000 (0.9 per cent).

The exodus of a further 3000 people since June, combined with about 1500 more births than deaths in that period, suggests that the region's population may have shrunk by about 6500 people, or 1.1 per cent, since June 2010.


Rachel Martin escaped from Christchurch in July, but her experience has made her permanently jittery.

"It's always something that happens to somebody else," she said from her family's new home on Auckland's North Shore. "But when you have been through it, it's different. On Friday there was the big storm and I thought: what if there's a tornado?"

She worries about when the next Auckland volcano will erupt.

"It's something that's definitely going to happen in the long term, whether it's in my lifetime or the lifetime of my children or grandchildren. I don't want to be here when it does," she said.

Her husband, Ben, a mathematician, said: "The probability is small, you're much more likely to be killed by something mundane."

But Rachel retorted: "That's what he said before the February earthquake."

Mrs Martin, 36, is an Australian who moved to Christchurch six years ago. She loved the city.

"I thought it was a permanent move, that we were going to live there forever," she said. But she wanted to move as soon as a chimney fell on the roof above her head in the first earthquake in September 2010.

"I was just quite terrified, to be honest," she said. "You can be totally relaxed, and within seconds your blood pressure is up, your heart rate is racing. It takes 10 or 15 minutes for all that physiology to settle down again."

Son Daniel, now 5, had trouble sleeping and going to the toilet alone, she said. Baby Elizabeth, now 2, seemed terribly vulnerable.

Mr Martin, 42, who grew up in Dunedin, wanted to stay at first, but changed his mind after the February quake when the bedroom wardrobe fell over and broke, the fridge and the piano skidded across the floor and glass shattered everywhere.

He was extremely lucky when a rare job came up in Auckland University's maths department.

"Once the ground stops moving, you quickly become normal again," Mrs Martin said. "It was even faster for Daniel, who was quite badly affected. He sleeps well. There are no bad dreams. They seem to have survived remarkably well."

- Simon Collins


Family was the "clincher" for the Pocksons, who are building in the new Pegasus area.

Lavina Pockson and her family agonised over whether to stay in Christchurch.

The Bexley home where she and husband Jeff planned to raise their three young children was on one of the city's worst-hit streets and was ravaged by liquefaction in both the September 2010 and February 2011 quakes. That home, in one of the doomed red zones, was demolished recently.

Mrs Pockson said she couldn't blame those choosing to leave Christchurch to start new lives. It was a tempting prospect for her own family.

"It wasn't an easy decision [to stay]. We spent weeks going around in circles, losing sleep over it."

They looked at finding jobs in the North Island, and found it wasn't going to be easy to replace the family income.

"And the other main thing was family. We didn't feel we wanted our children to grow up without their grandparents and close-knit friends and family that we have here. That was probably the clincher."

Children Kaelan, 6, Eva, 3, and Charlie,1, were doing well under the circumstances. The family were now in a rented home in Parklands, which also had its share of quake damage, but the new street was "not that bad".

They are building in the newly developed town of Pegasus in North Canterbury.

"We'll be slightly removed from seeing all the damage and driving over the bumpy roads every day. We're really looking forward to that."

They had to borrow again, on top of government and insurance payouts, for the new home, "but [it] could have been worse. We could have been paid no money for that [Bexley] land, so we've had a helping hand."

- Jarrod Booker