The lure of 'the sticks' rather than the 'big smoke' remains strong with New Zealanders in the wake of covid, with one-in-five mulling a move to the regions, new research says.

And while 21% of us are actively considering relocating to a smaller centre, just 7% would prefer to move to a bigger city.

The survey, conducted in December by Westpac bank, found priorities had changed since the start of the pandemic, with people now reassessing how they feel about where they live and what's important to them.

The survey found about 19% of the 1,300 respondents also aspired to a bigger house, rising to 29% for people living in larger households.

More than a third, 34%, are considering renovations to make their home more work-from-home friendly.

Westpac NZ general manager of consumer banking and wealth Ian Hankins said regional NZ offered great lifestyle and affordability options. 

"Now with remote working becoming more common, and property prices cheaper outside the main cities, the pulling power of the big smoke may be reversing."

Internal migration data from Stats NZ bears that out, with Auckland's population falling since the borders closed in early 2020. 

For the year to June 2021, the city had a net internal migration loss to the regions of 13,500.

That's the equivalent of a town the size of Oamaru in North Otago, leaving the city each year.

Infometrics economist Brad Olsen said the increasing outflow out of Auckland had been a fact of life over the last few years, driven by housing prices and other affordability issues.

Olsen said the drop in international migration into the city had simply highlighted the ongoing exodus.