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What’s behind the boost? NZ’s fastest growing areas revealed

Our team of around five million grew by around 295,000 people since 2018, and we’re more diverse than ever. That’s according to our latest census data, and when you look at population growth across the various districts and regions, it appears that Waikato, Queenstown and Selwyn are the places to be, and the places many are choosing to make the move to.

Waikato’s population saw an 8.9% increase, and Hamilton City alone an 8.6% boost. Queenstown-Lakes jumped up by a whopping 22.1%, but it was Selwyn that had the biggest influx of people, growing 29% between 2018 and 2023.

So what is it about these areas that’s piquing our interest, and why are so many Kiwis choosing to relocate there?


The gateway to the Central North Island, Hamilton is our largest inland city, straddling the Waikato River.

Bayleys Residential and Lifestyle branch manager Brendon O’Reilly grew up in the city, and after a stint overseas returned about eight years ago.

“In the time that I was away I'd often come back on holiday to visit, and every time I came back, I saw loads of growth. I saw new eateries, new pubs and new cafes popping up and a kind of excitement around the city.”

O’Reilly says it’s really easy to live in Hamilton, with the ring road decreasing the impact of traffic.

“You can get anywhere within 15 to 20 minutes at any time of the day.”

“I also think being in a location that’s so close to both Tauranga and Auckland is another huge driver of its popularity.”

When it comes to property, O’Reilly says the market is pretty steady too.

“Historically Hamilton has always been a great real estate city, and it often bucks the trend in terms of market changes.”

“Most months we can see anything from 190 to 250 sales, and the market never really has those big roller coaster rides. It's quite a stable real estate city.”

There’s lots of interest in that local activity, and that’s also driving a big return of investors.

“I think the incoming changes to the bright-line test are going to have an impact there, which is really cool. We should then see increased levels of rental stock because of it.”

O’Reilly says there’s also a lot of development underway ready to cater to the increase in demand.

“Peacocke's is one of them on the outskirts of Hamilton and south of the city. That's a large-scale, long term kind of development that's going to take a few years to be completed.”

Not only is the city appealing to people, but also major companies as well.

“We've got a lot of national companies and government agencies putting their buildings and offices in Hamilton, NZ Blood and ACC to name a couple.”

“We've got the new inland port that's happening out in Ruakura, including a large Kmart storage facility.”

It’s those companies that are creating new jobs, and that coupled with decent property prices is what O’Reilly believes is the major drawcard for many.

“Affordability and opportunity is huge here.”

“It’s quite exciting to see what that inland port will do for Hamilton City in terms of jobs and housing.”

For O’Reilly what he personally loves about the area is the sense of community and connection.

“Having grown up here and now living here with my family, anywhere I go I still bump into people that I know. It’s quite cool.”

“It's a big city, but it still feels small.”


Nestled in the lower South Island, much of the area is often referred to as Queenstown, but the district covers a much wider section, including the towns of Wānaka to the north-east, Glenorchy to the north-west and Kingston to the south.

Bayleys Queenstown Sales Manager Dee McQuillan says the main draw cards are pretty hard to miss.

“The scenery and the lifestyle.”

“Queenstown in particular is really convenient, because we have an international airport. So it makes it easy to travel.”

McQuillan made the move from Auckland around a year ago and says the work opportunities are also huge.

“Particularly for the trades, so that seems to attract a lot of people down.”

“One of our biggest parts of the market would be first home buyers, so that’s young people starting their lives and looking for a place to settle into.”

McQuillan says another major buyer group is people coming out of the regions, especially in Southland and Christchurch.

“A lot of those people tell stories about how this was where they used to come on their holidays as children, or they might have owned a holiday home here.”

“So you've got young families chasing the lifestyle, and possibly older people looking at retirement options.”

But what was once seen as a quaint holiday town is now being viewed as an up and coming city.

“It's surprising coming here because it feels much bigger than it really is. Even coming from central Auckland, it's wonderful being here and seeing bars and restaurants open every single night.”

When it comes to property, McQuillan says finding a rental can be tricky, as many tenants are competing with demand for short term accommodation like Airbnb, but she says it’s still really accessible for first-home buyers to purchase a section and do a land and build package.

“We've got a number of new offerings that are coming in. So we're working on Five Mile Villas in Frankton, and another one called Waipuna Rise.”

“Both of those are quite exciting projects. They cater to people wanting either holiday accommodation, or would be perfect for a first home buyer or even a retired person wanting to downsize.”

Around 260 villas are being made available at Five Mile Villas, and Waipuna Rise has a selection of one, two and three bedroom townhouses.

For McQuillan, what she personally loves about Queenstown is the weather, the environment and the commute.

“I've got a 20-minute commute to work, and that's in rush hour - whereas in Auckland it was two hours plus.”


Neighbouring Christchurch City, Selwyn stretches across the great Canterbury Plains and is bounded by the Rakaia and Waimakariri Rivers. Arthur’s Pass National Park in the Southern Alps sits to the west, and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

Bayleys Canterbury Director of Agency Rachel Dovey says its massive population boost stemmed from Christchurch’s earthquake recovery.

“What happened is the council opened up quite a lot of land, and people had to shift to other areas because some of the city was clearly very broken.”

“A lot of that area transformed from farmland to sections, new builds and new build packages.”

Dovey says a lot of those homes are really affordable too.

“You can buy out there for around $700,000 - $800,000, and with land it's really quite attractive. So you get an opportunity to have a brand new home, and tick all the boxes around warmth and new technology.”

As well as developing areas outside of Christchurch, the connecting infrastructure also saw a post-quake boost too.

“They improved the motorway heading out there. Coming from Christchurch to our Selwyn office takes me around 15 - 20 minutes. It's fantastic.”

Dovey says upgraded infrastructure is complimenting the area’s rapid growth.

“There’s a beautiful library, an amazing police station, new supermarkets and new schools. The way the town centre has been designed is really attractive.”

“When the people came, so did the infrastructure. That’s been a real game changer.”

The construction of a big industrial hub has also provided a number of new jobs across the area.

“The likes of Glasson's and the supermarkets all have massive warehouses there, and it’s again, only 15 minutes out of Christchurch Central.”

“I'd imagine a lot of people work across those industrial units, whether it's in transport, packaging or logistics. The area has seen such an incredible rise.”

Dovey says the fastest growing areas within the district are Rolleston, Leeston and Darfield.

“There’s lots of land and package offerings opening up, and it doesn’t seem to be coming to an end. A lot of these homes have great insulation, heating and energy efficiencies.”

“The area is a great value proposition, with good infrastructure. It’s great for those people who don't want to live immediately in the city.”

Right now, Dovey lives in Christchurch, but commutes often to Selwyn, and says what draws her there is the area’s quaintness.

“They've got great little cafes and it's still got that very sort of country vibe.”

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