While there ended up being other news yesterday afternoon that stole the headlines, the more important announcement was that of the census results. Like the week before, the results released were still only the numbers from the census night and so didn’t include those out of the country or those that didn’t fill in their census forms – and those numbers will come later – but they did include the results down to the census area unit level which gives a good indication of where the population growth is occurring.

As expected from the results, Auckland saw the greatest growth with a population increase of 110,592 people. To put that in perspective, that’s 51.6% of all of the growth that has occurred in New Zealand since the last census and Auckland’s growth is similar to having added the entire city or Tauranga (114,789) or Dunedin (120,246) to the region.

In total the population of Auckland increased by 8.5% over the seven years since the last census, an average growth of 1.2%. That is less than the 12.5% (2.4% per year) that the region saw between the 2001 and 2006 censuses however is roughly in line with the trends seen in the rest of the country. Auckland’s share of the country’s growth actually increased slightly as for the 2001-06 period Auckland had 49.8% of all NZ growth. Further as pointed out by John yesterday (and by the council at a briefing on the results), the numbers can be dramatically impacted by changes in migration which tends to go in cycles – and we are just starting to come out of a lull in this regard.

Some people have already said the lower population growth means the council should cut back on the Unitary Plan however these figures are just one part of the story and there is a lot more detail to come from Stats NZ including updated population projections before any changes to planning might be needed. Anyway if there is lower growth then the first parts of the Unitary Plan that should be scaled back are those that allow for huge expansion into greenfield land in the North, Northwest and South.

As mentioned the most interesting parts of the information released was the population by census area unit which is the second lowest level of data that Stats NZ release (the lowest being meshblock but that hasn’t been released yet). The Herald have already whipped out these maps showing the population density in Auckland for 2006 and 2013 however it is worth noting that the scale isn’t exactly even as the first six colours combined represent the same range of density as the 7th and most common peachy colour.

Population Density 2006-2013

Unsurprisingly the densest part of the region is in the CBD and some of the surrounding areas. However there is also quite a lot of density in the Mangere, Papatoetoe and Otara areas. These likely reflect much larger household sizes rather than smaller and more intensive dwellings like we see in the CBD.

There has already been some talk about the pure numbers of population change in some of the urban fringe areas and while in absolute terms that might be true, it is also worth noting that often the area units can be quite large and that growth is spread over a large area.  For example the area unit with the single biggest population growth was Ormiston in the South East which has seen quite a bit of greenfield development associated with the new Flat Bush town centre. It grew by 4,263 people since the last census 7 years ago when it was almost exclusively rural. There has some quite strong growth in the neighbouring area units too. However compared to other parts of Auckland the area unit is extremely large at roughly 9.8 km². As a comparison, in just over half of the total area (5.0 km²)  there are five area units that cover the CBD (and a little bit outside of it) and combined they have seen an extra 9,978 living in the area over the last seven years . In other words they have had roughly twice the population growth occur in half of the space.

To help show the changes, Kent has put together this map together showing the change in density between 2006 and 2013.

Population Density change 2006-2013

When you combine the info in here with that of the map above what you can see is that not only is the central city the densest area in Auckland but it is growing denser faster. There are a few patches of increased density outside the central city but they do tend to be places where long planned greenfield development has taken place.

While on the subject, here is the council’s press release and so far they have only really looked at the data at a local board level.

Auckland Council’s Chief Planning Officer says today’s 2013 Census results, which show Auckland’s population has hit 1,415,550 people, provide vital insights to help plan for Auckland’s future.

The results, released by Statistics New Zealand, show Auckland’s population has grown by 110,592 people since the 2006 Census. Auckland now represents 33.4 per cent of New Zealand’s total population.

“The results reinforce that Auckland continues on its strong growth path, and the prudent thing to do is plan and prepare for that growth,” says Chief Planning Officer Dr Roger Blakeley.

Auckland experienced the largest growth in New Zealand between 2006 and 2013. This was in line with the rest of the country, however the rapid rate of population growth that was seen in Auckland between 2001 and 2006 appears to have slowed.

Dr Blakeley says it’s important to note that census counts are snapshots in time.

“The population growth over the past seven years is not a reliable guide for Auckland’s next 30 years, however the growth rate remains strong and we need to plan for it,” he says.

Contributing factors to the lower population growth rate in New Zealand over the past seven years include a reduction in net immigration caused by the global recession and an increased number of departing New Zealand citizens, mainly to Australia. Auckland also has more migrants and higher fertility than other parts of the country.

The distribution of growth within Auckland’s local board areas has been variable. Growth has been particularly strong in the urban fringe areas and city centre.

Between 2006 and 2013, the five local boards that grew the most were:
1. Waitematā – increased by 14,208 people
2. Howick – 13,620
3. Upper Harbour – 10,797
4. Henderson-Massey – 8898
5. Hibiscus and Bays – 7974.

The five local boards that experienced the least growth during the same period were:
17. Devonport-Takapuna – increased by 2817 people
18. Māngere-Ōtāhuhu – 2808
19. Puketāpapa – 2133
20. Waiheke – 543
21. Great Barrier – 45.

What was odd is that the council held a briefing on the results and the cities chief anti intensification campaigner – Bernard Orsman was there. Despite the extremely strong growth in the city centre he made the statement more than once that if we just ignore the CBD (perhaps he thinks apartment dwellers are lesser beings) that it somehow proves the “compact city model” and the unitary plan was flawed, not what people want and therefore should be dumped. There are of course a couple of issues with this with the primary one being that you can’t just ignore the a huge segment of the growth that has occurred. He was also told on numerous occasions that the growth over the last 7 years is no reflection of where the growth will occur over the next 30. The reason I mention all of this is to highlight that Orsman seems to have quite an agenda that he is pursuing when it comes to the unitary plan. It will be interesting to see what he says in any article he writes about it.

We will be doing more posts on the Census data over time.

Share this


  1. Noticed your tweet yesterday which asked the Council how much less sprawl would be needed in a medium growth scenario. Did you ever get an answer?

    1. All they will say is this doesn’t give enough info to go off. Will have to wait for population projections to be updated which will happen in the future.

  2. How can you ignore the CBD? The reason I choose to live in the central city is because it’s basically the only place in Auckland that has a range of apartment choices and actually feels like a ‘city’. It’s also pretty well one of the few places where you can live with no real need for a car, and I wasn’t forced to buy a parking space as it has no minimum parking requirements. It’s just bizarre logic to ignore that whole demographic.

    Why don’t we ignore all growth in single-unit dwellings, doesn’t that then prove that no one wants to live in suburbia and only in apartments? I guess that also proves the unitary plan wrong, wrong in that it allowed for a mix in the types of dwellings to be built. Why do some people hate people have a choice so much?

    1. Fits their agenda of incorrectly trying to show Auckland as a sprawling homogeneously dense city I guess, one that only can support car transport.

    2. I think the same scale is used for the whole of NZ, so they are just trying to avoid basically having the whole of NZ except cities one colour, hence the small range of the earlier colours.

  3. And almost no change in density across on the shore – so why is a second harbour tunnel being accelerated whereas projects such as the CRL which would also benefit people in the fast growing area in Auckland i.e. central city getting kicked down the road by National?

    1. It’s about population growth, car substitution and having more than one link (resilience). The growth is actually quite strong on the shore, particularly EC Bays, Albany and Rodney (all double-digit growth), but it has not really been achieved by increasing density. The second crossing will allow the system to deliver people to these locations without having to put each one into a car.

      One thing this blog has taught me is that the CRL and (rail) harbour crossing go together so I agree with you that it would make no sense to defer either.

      1. It’s none of those things actually – the need for the second crossing has been disproved multiple times on this blog. All it would achieve is to destroy the city in a sea of cars and undermine PT. It has absolutely no correlation to the CRL and attempting to link the two is a red herring.

        1. BBC just to be clear, I am referring to a second crossing for RAIL – I could not agree more on the need to reduce the number of cars coming into the city.

  4. Default Nats talking head: “The central city growing proves that the CRL is not needed”.

    Translated: “The central city growing proves that the CRL must be stopped, or it would prove us even wronger.”

  5. Newmarket and Newton also growing strongly. CBD-style areas near rail stations / PT.

    Whoops. Better bury those facts too – while citing old movies that nobody from the younger generation knows about.

  6. In regards to the migration thing, and the difference that will make to the population projections… I want to point out that the most recent population projections for the Auckland region were released in October 2012, and they include data on births, deaths and migration up to 2011. So they already include a consideration of the trough in migration that occurred in that period.
    Since then, migration’s recovered again.
    It’ll be quite a while before new projections are released, but I don’t think that the “medium” ones will change very much – that growth track has been quite constant. The “high” and the “low” ones will probably be brought in towards the medium slightly, since we’re getting closer to the projection endpoint and our growth track has been fairly stable.
    Based on calculations I did when the last projections came out, 400,000 new dwellings by 2040 is still in line with the Statistics New Zealand high growth scenario, once you allow for decreasing household sizes.
    I don’t think we’ll end up needing quite that many, which is lucky, because I think we’d struggle to build that many as well. The Unitary Plan certainly struggles to provide it, in its current form.

  7. I’d like to see the railways superimposed over that change in density map. Is there any correlation/causation occuring there (or is it because the railway tends to pass through town centres anyway)?

    Additionally, here is a great TED talk about Walkability which neatly discusses all the benefits of creating a denser, more walkable city.

    1. I don’t think the rail lines had a big effect overall during the last couple years. The growth was over the last 6 years, and as much as 3-4 years ago, rail was still pretty crap (arguably it still is in many places – relativity works both ways).

      So I can’t see anything in that map alone that rail shows much of an effect. Things like that kick in more slowly, and zoning still trumps everything… now, intensified zoning AND good rail, AND another couple years. That’s likely to be a different story… which we may not get to see if the Unitary Plan doesn’t get bent back into at least a somewhat better shape.

    2. The railway lines have been so hopeless and have had such poor frequency they’re unlikely to be driving much growth at present. They’ve certainly resulted in a regeneration of innercity areas however.

  8. I think the numbers tell a clearer story than the density map. Density is a ratio and doesn’t tell you how important each area has been to growth, the choices people have made or where future public transport improvements need to be made. For example there are now 13600 more people in Howick but most of Howick is dark grey in the changes map. If your goal is higher density then it matters but if your goal is to provide for more homes then all it shows to me is that the dark grey areas which cover most of the region are doing the heavy lifting. Most important of all is how will things change. Will the grey bits especially the pale grey and white be where people choose to build new homes in the future with a continued bright red in the CBD.

        1. Of course it has: that’s those big houses with one or two occupants, a couple of dogs, and three German tractors. When I was at Uni many of them were in four flats and full of students.

          I lived in Herne Bay 6-odd years ago will doing a major reno and it’s very dull. Steve Braunias has a lovely double-edged line about those sleepy residential streets calling them, half-sneeringly, ‘scented avenues’.

          Jervois is now getting a little bit of the kind of building I like to see more of; four story mixed use res/com/retail. And I would like to see much more of this on most of Jervois and Ponsonby. But horror! That would involve moving the odd villa to a new home and that’s verboten these days. Change: so scary.

  9. Mangere and Papatoetoe are pretty densely populated but their bus services are nowhere near frequent enough – every 20- 40 mins. They need 10-15 min frequencies like Mt Eden Rd and Manukau Rd for the number of people who live there.

  10. hey not sure if anyone still following …but trying to see if the 2013 version of the following been done by statistics NZ:

    in particular interested to see if the disparity in PT commuting numbers women with/without children is holding up as time goes on or if the gap is closing ………

    also if anyone has any further info around the following topic would also appreciate links as would like to read around the subject a little more if I get a chance:

Leave a Reply