The director of a group which monitors population trends says the worst of the post-quake exodus from Christchurch is over and people should begin to return to the city by the end of the year.
Monitoring and Evaluation Research Associates director James Newell says about 9000 people have left Christchurch, with a third settling in Auckland.
He says the biggest population loss was children aged up to four years old.
Data from school rolls showed more Maori and Pacific Island children had left, compared to European-Pakeha children.
''I would expect the trend would go to a net gain by the end of this year, rather than a net loss,'' Mr Newell says.