New population figures show a drastic change in where New Zealanders are living, economist Brad Olsen says

While New Zealand's population growth hardly budged in newly-released data, where Kiwis are living is changing drastically, a prominent economist says.

Figures from Stats NZ released on Tuesday showed the national population growth was down to 0.2 percent a year.

While big centres such as Auckland and Wellington saw declines in their populations, regions and territorial authorities such as Northland (up 1.3 percent) and Canterbury's Selwyn (4.8 pct) saw significant growth.

Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen said New Zealand's population was moving, not growing. 

"What's interesting is how the regions are playing out," Olsen told AM Early. "We've seen there are actually five regions that showed a decline in their population over the past year - that's fairly unusual."

Wednesday's yearly population growth figure was the lowest it had been since the 1980s and was down on last year's 0.4 percent growth.

"Growth is slowing," Olsen explained on Wednesday. "We're finding it more difficult to find workers and that is translating through our economy - it's really because [of] that brain drain we've seen from net migration turning negative." 

Olsen believes New Zealand's regional migration figures were the ones to watch.

"People are still moving out of the cities and into the regions - into provincial centres - because of the work/life balance and the various opportunities provincial New Zealand provides," he said.

Brad Olsen.
Brad Olsen. Photo credit: AM

"A lot of people can now remote work from other parts of the country, they're increasingly thinking about their lifestyle opportunities - how do they get out of that 9am to 5pm grind?"

With New Zealand's population continuing to shift, Olsen believed businesses - particularly in big centres - would face ongoing labour shortages.

"Regions have got some great opportunities at the moment - urban centres are really challenged… this whole idea that we'll go back to back to the way it was before the pandemic I think is completely gone.

"People are living their lives very differently, populations are shifting and that means there are big questions over, 'Where do we find the workforce as we head into the future?'"