Quake barely touches likely 2031 head tally
Christchurch's population will rise by 50,000 in the next two decades with growth expected at pre-earthquake levels, figures show.
Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) data reveals Christchurch lost 10,600 people in the year to June 2011 but natural growth reduced the overall drop to 8900.
The 2.4 per cent fall was a marked switch for the city, which had an annual pre-quake population growth of 1 per cent (about 3800 people).
However, SNZ's regional population projections show Christchurch should start growing by 1500 people a year from 2012-16 and 2500 a year from 2017-31. That puts the city's 2031 population at 413,300, an increase of 51,500 on the 2006 census total.
In 2009 SNZ estimated Christchurch's 2031 population at 424,000. The revised figure is almost the same, less the 10,600 who left after the February earthquakes.
The projections assume zero immigration until 2016, reflecting "some further relocation of Christchurch residents to neighbouring districts and beyond, notably from red zone areas".
It predicts an average immigration of 1300 people a year after that.
Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the figures were "not surprising".
"A lot of people left in the immediate aftermath of the February 22 earthquake but are now coming back."
He believed SNZ's projections were "conservative".
"I think it will be a lot more than 1500," he said.
"The difficulty will be acommodating all the growth but it's a pretty positive problem to have."
Meanwhile, Christchurch's fringe is leading national growth estimates. Selwyn district shares the highest growth rate over 25 years with Queenstown-Lakes; both are predicted to grow at 2.2 per cent annually between 2006 and 2031.
Waimakariri is the next fastest-growing district at 1.6 per cent.
Waimakariri mayor David Ayers said the numbers were "not a surprise at all", and the district had been planning for even faster growth.
Most of Waimakariri's growth would come in the "triangle" between Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Woodend/Pegasus, he said.
"It's good for local business. It does provide some obvious challenges in terms of traffic and planning.
"You have expanding demand for community facilities and in our two major towns [Rangiora and Kaiapoi] there are challenges around central town traffic [and] parking."
The developer of the Silverstream subdivision in Kaiapoi, Fred Rahme, said the numbers confirmed the rising demand for properties on Christchurch's fringe.
"The decisions to get subdivisions up and running, given the complexity of the geotechnical standards that are now about which are holding a lot of projects up, [were] the right decisions."
Rahme's company, H Investments, was working on other developments in Waimakariri and Selwyn with section numbers in the "thousands".
Of New Zealand's 67 territorial authority areas, Auckland is set to claim even more of the population, with 38 in every 100 New Zealanders expected to live there in 2031.