South Island tops a million
TUESDAY , 30 MAY 2006

The South Island's population has topped one million for the first time. On March 7, census night, 1,013,800 people were in the South Island ? an increase of 6.8 per cent on five years ago. But officials say that once visitors are excluded from the count, the number resident in the South Island is likely to be less than one million.

The number of people in the country on census night was 4,116,900, an increase of 7.8 per cent from 2001. This compared with a 3.8 per cent increase in the period between the 1996 and 2001 censuses.

There was a net migration increase of 100,000, in contrast with the 2001 census, when there was a net migration shortfall of 6000. The figures seem to fly in the face of comments by National leader Don Brash, who says increasing numbers of New Zealanders are deserting the country for more favourable living conditions in Australia.

Experts have put the increase down to positive economic conditions encouraging Kiwis to stay in New Zealand, immigration policies focused on encouraging skilled migrants and aggressive marketing to international students.

Statistics New Zealand population user-needs manager Denise McGregor said provisional census figures showed population growth increases in urban and rural areas and far fewer centres experiencing a drop in numbers than in the last census. She said there was much more growth across all parts of the country this census compared with the last. One likely reason was high employment levels, she said.

The figures showed Queenstown-Lakes District was the district with the highest percentage of population growth, increasing more than 30 per cent. Another South Island district, Selwyn, had the second-highest percentage growth at more than 22 per cent.

The only areas with a population decline were the Chatham Islands, with an 11 per cent drop, South Taranaki and Ruapehu, with drops of 5 per cent to 7 per cent. Christchurch's population jumped 8 per cent, from 333,174 to 359,900.