Quake prompts exodus from Canterbury

10:19 pm on 4 May 2011

February's devastating earthquake in Christchurch has had a marked effect on migration and housing.

Official figures show long-term departures from Canterbury in March more than doubled to 1100 compared with the same period a year ago. Permits for new homes in the area halved.

The increase in people leaving the South Island city for good following the 6.3-magnitude quake on 22 February led to the first migration loss for New Zealand in nearly two-and-a-half years.

Statistics New Zealand says permanent and long-term departures outnumbered arrivals by 530 on a seasonally-adjusted basis in March.

On an annual basis, more than 6500 people moved to New Zealand, though that number has ebbed as more New Zealanders move to Australia on the promise of better wages amid a booming economy.

The quake in February also led to a 40% rise in the number of short-term overseas trips by Cantabrians.

Radio New Zealand's business editor says there is little respite for the building sector, with the number of consents falling to its lowest level since the series began nearly 30 years ago, with just over 1100 permits issued in March.

The Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce says it is doing everything it can to convince people to stay in Christchurch.

Chief executive Peter Townsend says it is concerning that surveys indicate about 8000 people have decided to leave the city permanently.