Local government services need to adapt to changes in the size, age structure and distribution of the population. Having accurate information helps to plan and prepare for these changes.

How many people live in Canterbury?

Data and summary analysis for Canterbury from the Census 2013, and data and summary analysis from estimates of the resident population as at 30 June 2016.

Why population information matters for local government

Growth, decline and demand for local services
Population growth (or decline), age structure and distribution (spread), and the number and type of households and families in our cities, towns and communities affect:
  • demand for local services and the willingness and ability of ratepayers to pay for them
  • representation and participation in local democracy
  • interactions between human activity and the natural environment.
Our population is ageing
Improvements in life expectancy and decreases in birth rates result in a greater number of older people, and a higher median age (more older people than younger people). This affects:
  • the size of the workforce, including the availability of young people entering the workforce and expectations of ‘working age’
  • the kind of services needed – and ability to pay for them
  • local authorities’ own workforce.
Impact of the Canterbury earthquakes
  • The loss of an estimated 16,600 people through net migration from Christchurch City in 2011 and 2012 was a consequence of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes
  • While this net loss had largely reversed by the time of the 2013 Census, Christchurch City’s population was down 2.0% to 341,469 people, compared with 348,459 in 2006
  • There has been a significant population movement to the south-west outskirts of Christchurch City – and to Selwyn District in the south, and Waimakariri District in the north – with population decreases in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch City
  • Two-thirds of people who moved from the most damaged areas stayed in the same territorial authority
  • At the 2013 Census, there were 4,131 more men than women in greater Christchurch aged 15–29 years, reflecting the influx of technicians and trades workers for the rebuild
  • By June 2016, Christchurch City’s estimated resident population (375,000) was close to the ERP of 376,700 at 30 June 2010
  • We will monitor the impact of the North Canterbury earthquake (14 November 2016) over time on the population of the Kaikōura and Hurunui districts.

Key facts about Canterbury’s population 

Population
  • The estimated resident population of Canterbury at 30 June 2016 was 600,100 people
  • Canterbury has 13% of New Zealand’s population, is the most populous region in the South Island and the second most populous region in New Zealand (after Auckland)
  • Canterbury has 13.2 people per square kilometre of land area – compared to 17.0 people per square kilometre for New Zealand as a whole (June 2015)
  • 63% of Canterbury’s estimated resident population (30 June 2016) lived in Christchurch City
  • The population of Canterbury is projected to grow by, on average, 1.0% per year between 2013 and 2043, at the same rate of growth as New Zealand's total population
  • One in four people in Canterbury will be aged 65 years or over by 2043. The median age is projected to increase from 39.4 years in 2013 to 43.5 years in 2043 – higher than the median age for New Zealand as a whole (42.7 years in 2043).
Households and families
  • In 2013, there were 218,200 households in Canterbury – this is projected to increase to 288,000 by 2038 – an average annual increase of 1.1% on the medium projection series
  • All Canterbury TAs will have more one-person households in 2038 than in 2013, mainly due to the increasing number of people at older ages
  • Couple-without-children is the most common family type. Growth in the number of couples whose children have left the family home is expected to be significant as the large number of people born during the 1950s–70s reach the older ages.
Culture and identity
  • Canterbury has a higher percentage of people who identify as European than New Zealand as a whole, and a smaller percentage of people who identify as Māori, Pacific, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (MELAA)
  • Christchurch City has the most ethnically diverse population in Canterbury
  • Māori and Pacific populations in Canterbury have a markedly younger age structure than the total population, due to higher birth rates
  • One in five people in Canterbury were born overseas, but one-third of these had been living in New Zealand for 20+ years at the time of the 2013 Census
  • The most common birthplace for overseas-born people living in Canterbury in 2013 was the UK and Ireland (37%), followed by Australia (19%) and North-East Asia (13%)
  • Just over 50,000 people in Canterbury are of Māori descent – of these, 9,400 affiliated with Ngāi Tahu in the 2013 Census
  • The most commonly spoken languages in Canterbury other than English are (in order): Māori, French, German, Samoan, Sinitic and Northern Chinese
  • Slightly fewer people in Canterbury stated at least one religious affiliation (53%) in the 2013 Census than in New Zealand’s total population (55%). Of those who stated a religious affiliation, 49% identify as Christian.

About this information

This section is hosted by Environment Canterbury for the Canterbury Policy Forum. Information comes from official statistics collected and published by Statistics New Zealand. While every care has been taken in presenting this information, we cannot accept any liability for errors of fact or interpretation. Read the most current releases from Statistics New Zealand.

Useful documents