New Zealand's first Census for seven years has found that Auckland has swallowed up more than half of the country's total population growth.
The number of Aucklanders has risen by 111,000 or 8.5 per cent since the last Census in 2006, reaching 1,415,550 on Census night in March - a number expected to swell to more than 1.5 million after counting people who were overseas on Census night or were missed by the Census.
But an analysis by Waikato University demographer Professor Natalie Jackson shows that the population declined in most rural parts of the North Island and in many regional centres including Rotorua, Whakatane, Gisborne and Wanganui.
The population increased in most of the South Island, partly because of an exodus from Christchurch, where the population dropped by 2 per cent because of the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
The Nelson-Tasman region grew faster than any other region outside Auckland with a gain of 6.9 per cent. In its last published estimates last year, Statistics NZ projected an increase of 5.4 per cent from 2006.
Statistics NZ senior demographer Kim Dunstan said Nelson, Queenstown and even Dunedin appeared to have gained people from Christchurch, but it was too soon to say whether those gains would be reversed as Christchurch rebuilds.
"The projections still indicate that the likes of Nelson, Tasman and Otago are likely to still increase over the next 20 years, along with Canterbury," he said.
"But all those regions are projected to have growth below the national average. It's actually only Auckland that is projected to increase its share of New Zealand's population."
Auckland's increasing dominance is now longstanding. The region accounted for 51.1 per cent of the country's total population growth between 1991 and 1996, 75.8 per cent of growth in the next five years to 2001, 49.8 per cent of growth in the five years to 2006, and 51.6 per cent of growth in the seven years since then.
"If you look at the projections, at each five-year period we see that proportion increasing gradually from about 55 per cent up to more than 60 per cent over the next 20 years," Mr Dunstan said.
Auckland Council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley said a special Statistics NZ projection out to 2041 showed Auckland's share of national growth rising to 75 per cent - although Mr Dunstan said the agency had not published projections beyond 2031.
"At a sub-national level, uncertainty increases out beyond about 25 years, so we say to people you can request them for longer but beyond 2031 they are not official projections," he said.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said that the new data showed that the regions were not dying.
Regional results include:
Northland: Northland's total population grew by only 2.2 per cent in seven years, much less than growth of 3.7 per cent in Statistics NZ's last published estimate for the six years to June last year. Growth of 3.4 per cent in Whangarei and 4.6 per cent in Kaipara was offset by an unexpected drop of 111 people (0.2 per cent) in the Far North.
Waikato: The Waikato region grew slightly faster than expected (6 per cent), driven by a 9.3 per cent jump in Hamilton and solid rises in the dairying districts of Waikato, Waipa and Matamata-Piako, with smaller increases in Thames-Coromandel, Otorohanga and Taupo. But population fell in South Waikato and Waitomo.
Bay of Plenty: Population growth in Tauranga (up 10.5 per cent) and the Western Bay of Plenty coincided with depopulation in the entire forestry-dominated eastern part of the region including Rotorua (down 0.9 per cent), Kawerau, Whakatane and Opotiki. Overall the region expanded by 4 per cent, slightly below projections.
Gisborne: An unexpected decline of 1.9 per cent, compared with growth of 1.7 per cent in the estimate for the six years to June last year.
Hawkes Bay: Napier and Hastings both grew by 3.4 per cent, pushing the region's total growth slightly above projections to 2.3 per cent.
Taranaki: Higher than expected growth (5.3 per cent), spread across all districts, reflecting the province's energy industries and high dairy prices.
Manawatu-Wanganui: Palmerston North (up 3 per cent) and adjoining Manawatu district inched ahead, but population shrank in the sheepfarming districts of Ruapehu, Wanganui, Rangitikei and Tararua, slashing the region's overall growth well below forecast to just 0.1 per cent.
Wellington: 5 per cent growth, in line with projections.
South Island: Growth in all districts outside Christchurch except Kaikoura, Westland District and Gore, with higher than expected growth in the rest of the West Coast and Southland where dairy farming has expanded rapidly in the past seven years.