There’s a lot of regular discussion about how much Auckland is projected to grow by over the next 30 or so years – “another million people” being the common catch-phrase. The “response to Minister’s questions” included as part of the documents released with the City Centre Future Access Study includes quite a lot of interesting information about Auckland’s future growth and how realistic the projections are. I think that a lot of the analysis probably has come about as a result of Central Government being somewhat sceptical (or perhaps just terrified) of the projected growth rates into the future.

The pure “population growth” numbers come from Statistics New Zealand population projections which presumably look at levels of natural increase (which is relatively easy to project) and immigration (much more unpredictable) before coming up with Low, Medium and High projections. Here are the different projections for Auckland over the next 30 years:population-growth-projections

The Auckland Plan is based off the high projections, presumably to ensure that the “worst case scenario” in terms of population growth has been planned for. However, in the analysis of the merits of large infrastructure projects it seems that Central Government has insisted on using the medium projections – I guess as they want to be cautious on the low side of not ending up spending a lot of money on something that may not be necessary. Both approaches have a certain logic to them – but I guess the important thing to note is that all the analysis of the CRL’s merits will depend on the medium growth projections so can’t really be criticised as overly optimistic (particularly as they’re below Auckland’s historic rates of growth).

Putting the population growth projections into some sort of perspective can be achieved by comparing Auckland’s growth over the next 30 years with projected growth in other parts of New Zealand:population-growth-comparisons-nzTo me, the graph above is an excellent illustration of why the bulk of new infrastructure expenditure in New Zealand that’s required for future growth reasons simply has to be in Auckland. If I were Len Brown I’d be emailing Central Government a copy of this graph on a daily basis to remind them of the need to invest in Auckland.

Looking now at where growth is expected to occur within Auckland, it seems that most of the analysis here has been derived from a fairly complex modelling process which doesn’t make too much sense to me. It’s outlined in the diagram below:modelling-process
It seems as though things like transport accessibility and market attractiveness are key inputs into the modelling process, which is good. I suppose that any model is always only as good as the assumptions which sit behind it, but at least it seems that there’s a fairly extensive process that occurs to come up with the population and employment projections for different parts of Auckland.

The results of the modelling seem fairly believable at a cursory glance: significant growth in the city centre, city fringe, inner isthmus suburbs and then in areas where large chunks of greenfield land are proposed to be made available (whether that land is actually taken up in a market that seems to be changing towards more demand for inner city living is probably my biggest question with the results):population-growth-sectorIt seems that a similar modelling process has then been used for employment projections – although this time without a Statistics NZ total number. Once again there are high, medium and low projections:employment-totals-projectionsThe Census in a couple of months’ time should provide useful data to check past projections against – as I imagine the economic difficulties since 2007/2008 have had some impact upon past employment projections.

Different types of employment are also analysed in the modelling process, which is quite useful for projects like the CRL as the comparative growth of office-based employment as Auckland’s economy develops in the future is captured. As we will see, this has some important impacts on the location of future employment growth, but for now it’s just useful to note that “commercial” (which seems like it must be office-based employment) is projected to growth faster than other types of employment activity in the future:employment-type-projectionsNow when these trends are looked at in terms of the distribution of employment growth around Auckland, growth in the city centre really stands out. Not particularly surprising as the strongest growth rates are for the very type of employment that’s most likely to end up in the city centre (plus the city centre is generally the most accessible point in the whole region):employment-growth-sectorThe notation that the graph above assumes CRL is place is interesting as I suspect a similar graph without the CRL in places would probably show significantly less employment growth in the city centre and fringe. After all, the capacity provided by CRL is key to unlocking the potential growth of the central city in particular.

I think what all the numbers above highlight most clearly to me is how, even using the medium growth projections (which personally I think are probably a bit on the low side) the scale of growth faced by Auckland over the next 30 years is simply massive. I am also quite impressed by the way in which it seems many of the further projections are derived (it’s not just plucking numbers out of thin air!) which leads me to believe that generally the scale, location and type of growth (both for population and employment) seem to be as soon an estimate as possible at the moment. And all of this growth just highlights to me how crucial the CRL is – imagining adding another 700,000+ people without being able to improve the frequency of our rail system beyond a train every 10 minutes is just a joke of a future.

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  1. “imagining adding another 700,000+ people without being able to improve the frequency of our rail system beyond a train every 10 minutes is just a joke of a future.”

    Imagine what the roads will be like if all those people turn up and buy a car and start driving which is how Brownlee and Key see the future of Auckland as.

  2. Also interesting to ponder the impact on people trying to get around the region from Waitakere North, Franklin North and Istmus East, for instance.

    And if anything those ’employment type’ predictions understate the shift in focus away from factories. Office and creative jobs are more allergic to sprawl.

  3. “… I guess as they want to be cautious on the low side of not ending up spending a lot of money on something that may not be necessary”

    Unless of course its a RoNS like PuFord,- then they force NZTA to use the “Extremely Optimistic, and then some” model to try and justify the outrageous spending!

    But I find it really disturbing that the Medium level is below the long term trend since 1990, and that the High is only a little above the long term trend.

    What makes the planners think Aucklands population growth will slow – due to congestion disbenefits?
    Hmm, doesn’t really work elsewhere on the planet places like London, NYC, or most Asian cities – they all grow faster and faster the bigger they get.

    A kind of Black Hole effect – don’t see any signs of that thinking here with those linear projections, no its more like we’ll add 50,000 people a year give or take from now on….

    Secondly, which model does Brownlees assertion of Auckland housing “a million more people in 50 years time” come from – The High or Middle forecast or something else entirely?

    Looks to me that we’ll have over 1 million more here by 2040 not 2060 – by even the middle of these growth levels.
    And once we get there (well before we get there actually) – its a question of what then?
    – does Auckland carry on growing like topsy past that or does it suddenly put it hands up and say “enough already, we’re full”?.

    Its up to the Auckland Council via the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plan to control where that 1 million extra people can & do live – not via Socialist proxy either, but by giving those people real choices about hosuing and living options and ensure that moving around without using a car is simple so that they can get by without all hopping in the car.

    .One things is certain, they all can’t “live at the sea-side” as Joyce believes everyone who moves to Auckland does..
    Nor can they all turn up and buy cars

    – the worst outcome we could have from any growth projections is another 30 years of unplanned and unmanaged traffic growth.
    As CCFAS showed, buses won’t cut the mustard longer term so we need a game changer like the CRL more than ever.

  4. Yes well this sorry tale is just proof that this government is like a butcher leaning on the scales: insisting on unrealistically high projections for highway assessments and equally unrealistically low ones for the CRL as Greg observes. Crooks.

  5. Auckland is truly carrying the whole country forward. It must be invested in properly, or it could stagnate the growth of the whole country. Motorways are finished once the ring route is completed, light rail CRL & bus priority will be the winners.

  6. Anyone else think that the bottom right of the figure 2.4 – where the arrows feed into the ATM2 model “box” looks a bit like a Swastika?
    I wonder if that is inadvertently telling us something about how that model works 🙂

      1. I never said the magic word though, and I’m not about to go there either.
        But the diagram sort of reminded me of the opening to Dads Army.
        Hmm, reminds me of filk on that series theme song,

        “Who do you think you are kidding Mr Brownlee….?”

  7. Had a thought,on these estimates this week, while reading the reader feedback on some of the NZ Heralds recent chain of stories on how the Australian Grass is not always greener for Migrants from NZ, due to changes to the rules back in 2001.this link ( will give you most of the stories as they appeared under the “Oz Exodus” tag line

    One commenter said (in effect) about one of these articles:
    What is going to happen to all those Kiwis in OZ currently who didn’t have PR in 2001 or who have moved to OZ since 2001 – who can’t ever get Permanent Residence or Citizenship – yet are paying full taxes and superannuation to the Australian Government.

    When they come to retire (over the next 30 odd years), they won’t be able to access an Australian Pension as they’re not “Australian” enough to do so.
    So, what will they do? Probably all come back to NZ to live in retirement.

    This reverse migration (Exodus back to NZ) will do several things, but the major ones as the commenter mentioned were:

    1. Increase the rate of population growth in NZ in general and Auckland in particular
    – which I’d agree over as having lived in (the cities in) OZ for decades, they’re not going to retire to the backblocks of NZ where they came from in most cases.
    2. Be eligible (currently) for a full NZ Superannuation package when they arrive here if they are PR or Citizens
    3. Increase the demand above the planned levels on the NZ health system.

    The first one is probably the most relevant to this topic – since the number of potential returnees to Auckland alone is quite a large number in comparison to the 1 million extra people planners are allowing for.
    Now these people won’t all start coming back in droves, more like a constant but significant trickle,
    And it won’t just be an Auckland problem either, its going to be a NZ problem.

    What this shows is that while planners may plan an orderly approach, the politicians may well make things difficult for them and not deliberately.

    The best way to manage that is to come to an arrangement with the Australian Government – and do it sooner than later – over how to handle these “guest workers” from NZ who have gone to OZ since 2001 who will still be guest workers when they retire under the current Australian Government rules no matter how many years of tax they paid to the Australian Government.

    Otherwise, all the above careful plans for managing 1m people in Auckland growth will be turned upside down and could become and situation of managing say a 1.5m population growth.

    1. There are qualifications to obtaining NZ superannuation: “You must also have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years since you turned 20. Five of those years must be since you turned 50.
      However, people may qualify for New Zealand Superannuation with less than 10 years residence if they have migrated to New Zealand from countries with which New Zealand has a social security agreement.”
      I’m not sure how that applies to people who have lived in Oz for a long time?

      1. Australian Government Website says this about their Pension:

        Aussies call the superannuation paid by the Govt “Age Pension” to separate it from their equivalent of Kiwisaver which they call “Superannuation”, and The Aus Pension is means [income and asset] tested.

        “To lodge an Age Pension claim, you must be an Australian resident and in Australia on the day that you lodge your claim.

        To qualify as an Australian resident, you must be living in Australia as:

        an Australian citizen
        the holder of a permanent resident visa, or
        a New Zealand citizen who was in Australia on 26 February 2001 or for 12 months in the two years immediately before that date, or who was assessed before 26 February 2004 as ‘protected’.

        To be paid Age Pension, you also need to meet the 10-year qualifying Australian residence requirements, unless you:

        are claiming under an international social-security agreement
        are a refugee or former refugee
        were getting Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance or Widow B Pension immediately before turning Age Pension age, or
        are a woman whose partner died while you were both Australian residents and you had two years residency immediately before claiming Age Pension.
        Note: The 10-year Australian resident requirement is that you have been an Australian resident for a continuous period of at least 10 years, or for a number of periods that total more than 10 years, with one of the periods being at least five years.”

        So, what this means, if you moved to Oz since Feb 26 2004, and most likely, after 26 Feb 2001, you won’t qualify unless you are have PR or a Citizen, and most NZ’er in Australia don’t have either.

        So you won’t qualify.

        In addition, you can’t get your NZ super paid in Aus – unless you qualify for the Australian Age Pension, this from the NZ High Commission in Aus Website:
        “…where a New Zealander cannot receive the Australian Age Pension because their income and assets exceed the limits, that person cannot receive New Zealand Superannuation in Australia.”
        [And you can’t ever get paid more than the Aus pension would be if you qualified]

        And even if you do qualify the amount you get is pro-rated depending on how much % in NZ and Australia you spent of your working life.

        Long story short, most Kiwis in Oz now since Feb 2001 won’t get an Oz super ever (unless the law changes), and even if they did, the means testing applied may make it unattractive for asset or income rich NZ’ers to stay there while its currently neither assets or income tested here in NZ.

        So, I forsee a future “plane drain” of plane loads of former Kiwi workers coming back to NZ, especially if your comment regarding 10 years residency for NZers wanting super applies.
        And if you are aged 30 now, moved to Aus in 2003 and don’t work in NZ again til you retire (which to be fair, is some 35 years away for our notional Kiwi) – you may find you don’t qualify for super in either country. and all you’ll have is whatever you saved of your Aus superannuation deductions, which should be quite a bit as they take 9% currently..

        Planners beware, your projections need to factor in the effect of government policy around the NZ Australian “Special Relationship”.

  8. I am aware that the blog is about Auckland’s transport and thus the models it chooses for growth and the key assumptions which underpin this i.e. high, medium or low growth, but I have to wonder about taking a nation wide perspective.

    IF the national government took a strategic national approach to planning,which the governments in NZ seem unwilling to do perhaps on the issue of actual accountability perhaps, then it might look at where growth in populations could be stimulated, to take the pressure off Aukland as one example and also look at the transport infrastructure and key assumptions at a national level as well.

    Determining what type of growth you want, where it will occur and how areas would be connected on one level is so simple.

    The Germans do this rather well and are able to connect an extensive integrated transport network at a national, regional and local level to give individuals a broad range of transport choices and businesses too.

    Given the population of NZ is in the vicinity of 4 million people would it be so hard to do, to create a broad range of transport choices??

    1. Funnily enough Paul we already do invest heavily in a dispersing the population: The RoNS programme architects may not think of themselves as undertaking any kind of placemaking but they are. Enormous duplicate highways in the countryside are a subsidy for low intensity sprawlly habitation outside of main centres. Perfect way to encourage both the breakup of productive farmland and the spread of habitation into hitherto less spoilt natural places. Hooray!

    2. Population dispersal… the problem is that people and density drive the urban economy, the more people you can pack into a place without the costs (congestion etc) outweighing the benefits (productivity, interaction, innovation), the better for the city economy and therefore the NZ economy as a whole. That’s the advantage of the big city, and the flow on effect is that the resultant opportunities simply attract more people.

      Smaller places don’t enjoy that advantage, and therefore can’t make that high-value economic contribution that a big city can. NZ with a 4mill pop is only big enough for one city of scale – hence, population dispersal can’t really be part of the equation here in my view. The only issue is the costs of density – congestion being the relevant one for this blog.

      Urban transport investments should be about tipping that balancing act in favour of enabling the city to be more urban – denser and more productive – without choking itself. Dispersing the population would simply deprive the city of the people/density it needs to be competitive. Yet as Patrick points out, that’s precisely what the RoNS achieve – disagglomeration. Transport should always be seen for what it enables – a means to an end, not an end itself. Unfortunately our govt is wilfully ignorant of the value of cities, so it continues to make transport investments for freight and not people.

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