Nearly 55,000 people may leave earthquake-affected Christchurch over the next five years, The Press' local issues survey suggests.
However, the Opinions Market Research poll of 359 Christchurch City, Waimakariri and Selwyn district residents also shows that between 8000 and 9000 of those are expected to return in 10 to 20 years.
About 9500 people have already left the city since the February 2011quake.
Asked where they intended to be living in one, two, five, 10, 15 and 20 years from now, the percentage of respondents intending to live outside Canterbury increased over time.
The number of those who do not know where they will be in the future increases from 1 per cent in a year to 17 per cent of a slightly smaller sample size in 15 and 20 years.
Six per cent of respondents – about 20,500 people, given a Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri 2006 census population of about 341,832 aged 18 or over – said they would be living elsewhere in a year.
Two years from now, the poll suggests, 9 per cent will be living elsewhere - about 30,800 people - and by May 2017 about 47,900, or 14 per cent, could be residing elsewhere.
Opinions Market Research director Karen Selway said deeper analysis of the figures showed some intended to leave permanently, but others would return, including those who had done their OE.
It appeared that about 16 per cent of those leaving Canterbury in the next five years would return to live in Canterbury in 10 to 20 years.
Balancing those who said they would move out would be an influx of people involved with the city's rebuild, she said.
"As has been the case since the start of the earthquakes, younger people who have no dependents continue to be the most transient demographic group. This is also generally the case in Canterbury regardless of earthquakes,'' she said.
"The more mature, 40-plus age groups indicated they were the least likely to leave Canterbury over the next 20 years."
Of the 70 people in the survey who said they would live elsewhere at some point in the next 20 years, 36 per cent said they would stay in New Zealand and 37 per cent said they would make their home elsewhere in the world, 20 per cent opting for Australia.
Ten per cent said they would move to Nelson, 6 per cent each to Dunedin and Auckland, and 3 per cent each to Wellington and Invercargill.
Respondents were also asked about their level of preparation for any future quakes.
Seventy-nine per cent said they had an emergency kit ready for use at home if needed, 52 per cent said they had a plan of where to meet family or friends in the event of another major quake, and 65 per cent of the 230 in employment were aware of an emergency plan in their workplaces.
"The 18 to 24-year-olds, in particular males, had prepared the least for a future earthquake,'' she said.Selway said there appeared to be a "hard-core group" of about 10 per cent of participants who had made no preparation for future quakes.
''Some 54 per cent had an emergency kit and 36 per cent had made plans around where to meet family and friends.
''Interestingly, in past earthquakes, access to electronic media has in fact increased the resilience of this age group relative to older age groups.
"It is believed that the level of preparedness identified in this survey is higher than that in other parts of the country. It indicates that having a disaster is a significant motivator of planning and preparation for future events.
"Having been through a disaster, people are more aware of the need to plan."