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A growing number of people are turning their back on Auckland for greener and cheaper pastures of the regions.
A study by independent economist Benje Patterson indicates 33,000 left the super city in the four years to 2017, when its overall population grew by nearly 200,000 to nearly 1.7 million.
"Net regional migration out of Auckland is characterised by high net outflows of people in their late twenties and through their thirties with children," said Patterson.
He said the net loss of productive workers to other parts of New Zealand during the peak years of their working life exacerbated skills shortages in Auckland's labour market.
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"These gaps have been partly filled by international migrants, but as international migration policy settings tighten, an increased focus on retaining youth and attracting young families to Auckland will be needed."
The regions closest to Auckland attracted two thirds of the exodus, with Tauranga proving to be the most popular, attracting an average 1144 people a year.
Waikato District on the southern fringe of Auckland gained an average of 3381 Aucklanders over the period, while Hamilton gained just over 1500 residents from Auckland.
The data indicates nearly 6000 Aucklanders moved to Northland over the four years, with gains spread evenly across Whangarei District, Far North and Kaipara.
"Auckland's regional migration losses are not surprising when one considers the deterioration to housing affordability that occurred in Auckland over that period," he said.
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Dunedin and Queenstown-Lakes were also popular places to relocate with net population gains from Auckland of more than 1,100 residents over the four-year period.
"Queenstown's gain also highlights that the resort's overheated property market has in part been driven by cashed-up Auckland buyers - one of the few areas where housing equity is generally enough to enter the local market."
Patterson said other areas of interest, which didn't make the top 10, included Wellington and Hawke's Bay.
He said a trickle of 136 leaving Wellington for Auckland in 2014, turned around with three times as many headed to the capital from Auckland by 2017.
He said it was a similar story in Napier-Hastings.
Net regional migration outflows also accelerated as people reached retirement.
"The allure of selling an Auckland home to free up equity for a cheaper house in the regions is proving too difficult to resist for many people."
Patterson said his report used the same data that Statistics New Zealand was using to patch up gaps in the 2018 census.
"We must ultimately move away from clunky five-yearly censuses," he said.
"Regional policymakers are investing billions each year in their local economies and deserve a reliable flow of information about who is residing in their area."
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