A profile of Ashburton, New Zealand

A profile of Ashburton, New Zealand

We’ve recently welcomed New Zealand’s Ashburton District to our list of local councils who make their community profiles available to the general public. In this post, Penny digs a little deeper into the demographic data in the council’s new profile, to be surprised by what the data revealed about migration to and from the area.

The first data from the 2018 New Zealand Census will be released in September – are you aware of how changes to the Census will impact you?

Our latest eBook, ‘Worth the wait: a simple guide to navigating the 2018 Census’ is a plain-language reference guide that you can keep handy as the data is released.

Download your copy here.

Ashburton District Council recently became a client of .id and the profile of the district came as a surprise to me.

On the surface, Ashburton is a fairly ordinary district servicing a large rural hinterland. It has experienced steady growth for almost two decades and with a 2018 estimated resident population (ERP) of 32,300, Ashburton is the 35th largest council in New Zealand. Out of 68 territorial councils, that’s middle of the road …. about the same size as Matamata and Horowhenua.

While Ashburton maintains a similar middling rank (at 34th ) for the proportion of the population over 65, it has a surprisingly high proportion of under 5s. They make up 7.4% of the population, similar to the likes of Lower Hutt, Waikato, and Hastings. But when considering this result in the wider perspective that’s quite close to Porirua, which boasts NZ’s highest proportion of under 5 (at 8.6%), a very different picture from Thames Coromandel at the other end of the spectrum with just 4.9% of their population made up of under 5.

I expected to see Ashburton population numbers affected by the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, but this didn’t prove to be the case. While 43.2% of the Ashburton population moved between 2008 and 2013, this was not an unusual figure and what was surprising was international migrants outnumbering internal migration.

Christchurch City headed net gain figures, but there was sizeable movement both ways with 1,287 shifting from Christchurch to Ashburton, while 1,071 moved from Ashburton to Christchurch. The overall net gain was just 216.Previous-residential-location-Ashburton-NZ-640x381

Top 10 TAs ranked by net gain to the area
Ashburton District Council – between 2008 and 2013
TA In-migration Out-migration Net migration
Christchurch City 1,287 -1,071 216
Auckland City 219 -162 57
Waimakariri District 186 -138 48
Waitaki District 114 -81 33
Gore District 48 -15 33
Invercargill City 99 -66 33
Matamata-Piako District 42 -15 27
Central Otago District 69 -42 27
Horowhenua District 33 -9 24
Marlborough District 96 -75 21

Source: Statistics New Zealand, Census of Population and Dwellings 2013. Compiled and presented in by .id , the population experts.

Interestingly Selwyn District topped the net losses for Ashburton with 387 moving from Selwyn to Ashburton, but 465 people going the other way.

So, what is attracting people to Ashburton?

The answer must lie in a healthy economy.

Ashburton is notable for its low unemployment rate – well below national figures. In 2013 the district registered 3.0% as compared to 6.2% national figure, and low unemployment remains today as the 2018 figures boasted a very low 1.9% when compared to 4.6% for New Zealand (

The high level of employment flows into very positive individual and household income results. Back in 2013, Ashburton is one of the very few non-metropolitan centres to experience healthy gains across the medium-high and high household income quartiles, with losses only in the lowest quartile (something for locals to smile about).


The industries supporting that healthy household income results predominantly stem from the primary industries and related manufacturing sector.


However, numbers always need context to tell a story. While primary industries and manufacturing are the leading industries for employment in Ashburton (with retail and construction following), how those employment figures have been changing is of critical importance.

Time series revealed that all four industries registered growth between the 2006 and 2013 censuses. Interestingly, there was only one other district in New Zealand that recorded the same positive trend – neighbouring Selwyn. And that’s where the district of Ashburton is not so middle-of-the-road after all. How will the 2018 census add to Ashburton’s story? Time will tell.

With the 2018 New Zealand Census data about to arrive, it’s a busy and exciting time at .id. If you’re eagerly awaiting the latest data to tell a story about your community, we’d love to help you! Download a copy of our free eBook, Worth the wait: a guide to navigating the 2018 New Zealand Census, or you can get in touch with me via our contact-us page here.

.id is a team of population experts who combine online tools and consulting services to help local governments and organisations decide where and when to locate their facilities and services, to meet the needs of changing populations. Access our free demographic resources and tools here.

Penny - Population expert

Based in New Zealand, Penny primarily looks after our Kiwi clients but also lends her expertise to the Australian context. Penny has extensive experience as a Communication Manager in Local Government and has a degree in Business and Communications. She also brings a breadth of generalist management experience in fields as varied as research, civil defence, project and event management, marketing and training. Penny’s knowledge combined with the .id tools help clients work with their communities to empower grass roots decision-making, advocacy and grant applications, and focus on strengthening council-community relationships. Penny has a rural property and enjoys growing and eating food and wine, which she runs, walks, bikes or swims off, when she’s not in the art studio.

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