Late last week Statistics NZ released their latest regional population projections from 2013 through to 2043. It once again highlights just how much growth is expected to occur in Auckland with them projecting roughly an extra 500,000 to 900,000 people in the region within 30 years – that’s a 36-63% increase on what we have today.

All 16 regional council areas are projected to increase in population between now and 2028, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“The short-term trend partly reflects the current high level of arrivals into New Zealand, and the current low level of departures,” population statistics manager Vina Cullum said.

“However, population growth will slow in the longer term as our population continues to age. This will see the number of deaths increase relative to births. Also, net migration (arrivals minus departures) exceeded 50,000 in 2014 and is unlikely to remain at that level.”

Auckland will continue to be New Zealand’s fastest growing region, and account for three-fifths of the country’s population growth between 2013 and 2043. From an estimated population of 1.5 million in 2014, Auckland is projected to reach 2 million in the early 2030s. That means out of every 100 people in New Zealand, 34 currently live in Auckland, but this will increase to 37 in 2028 and 40 in 2043.

Natural increase (births minus deaths) is projected to account for three-fifths of Auckland’s growth, and net migration the remaining two-fifths.

Of New Zealand’s 67 territorial authority areas, 51 are projected to have more people in 2028 than in 2013. However, only 30 are projected to have more people in 2043 than in 2028.

The fastest population growth between 2013 and 2043 is expected in Selwyn and Queenstown-Lakes districts, up an average of 2.2 and 1.8 percent a year, respectively.

The projections are not predictions, but an indication of the size and composition of the future population. Statistics NZ produces low, medium, and high growth projections for every local area every 2–3 years to assist planning by communities, local councils, and government.

You can see the annual projected growth for each region below. As you can see the growth Auckland is leaps and bounds ahead of anywhere else and the only region to even come close is Canterbury and only if it sees the high projection outcome.

Annual Population Change 2

Of course when you look at the change on an actual number basis Auckland’s expected growth is even more extreme. This is based off the medium projection. Due to most regions being a fairly similar size it can be hard to tell them apart. In Canterbury, the vast majority of projected growth will happen in the Christchurch City Council area or in the two surrounding districts – Selwyn and Waimakariri. I think that is going to make it increasingly important for the region to start looking at some rapid transit options – unless it wants to follow Auckland’s mistakes.

NZ Regional Population Projections 2013-2043

Another way to show the level of growth in Auckland in particular is below. This is the projected cumulative growth from 2013 to 2043 for Auckland and the rest of the country. Auckland grows by over 730,000 people while the rest of the country by only around 460,000 – of which about 80% is in Christchurch, Wellington, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Auckland vs Rest of NZ growth - 2013-2043

Every time the issue of Auckland’s strong growth comes up many people highlight the challenges it adds, in particular the cost of new infrastructure and housing however I feel it’s also worth remembering that it presents a lot of opportunities too. Instead of trying to cap the city’s growth like some have suggested in the past we should embrace it as that will not only make the city stronger but also help make the country as a whole stronger.

One question people often have is how realistic these projections are and how past projections turned out. As it happens Auckland tends to track slightly ahead head of the medium projection. Here’s what was predicted to occur from 2001 – 2026 – the blue area represents the range of low, medium and high growth projections.

Auckland Population Project - 2001 - 2

Stats NZ have also made predictions within Auckland down the local board level and in many ways this provides a more interesting and useful look at how the city is changing. Like we see nationally, there are expected to be some areas that grow much stronger than others and one of those is the Waitemata Local Board area which covers the city centre and inner suburbs. Population in the area is expected to almost double from 2013 around 81,000 to 152,500 which if it occurs would make the Waitemata Local board area have the third largest of any board in Auckland.

In addition to the City Centre the local boards that are likely to see a lot of greenfield development are also high on the list.

Auckland Annual Population Change 2

I won’t publish a graph of the actual projection numbers as it’s simply too messy to read easily. Some of the

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  1. WLT see that last chart on a map… see if we can spot the effect of Graeme Wheeler’s NIMBYs, trying to hold back Bill English’s Ebola.

    1. Not sure I need to see it on a map to spot the effect.
      Look at Albert Eden, it should be the one taking on most of the growth, not 1%. Same with Orakei, Devonport / Takapuna and Puketapapa.
      How long before the government step in and do something about this totally inept council? Maybe move planning into its own unelected entity like Auckland Transport?

      1. Jimbo, you do realise this govt is opposed to fitting more people in Auckland’s inner suburbs like those?

        They want more sprawl way out South, West and North where lazy developers can plant single-storey dwellings with limited social infrastructure and let ratepayers pick up the tab.

  2. I think the interesting thing about the graphs is what happens in Canterbury? Does it keep up with Auckland and growth in NZ is an Auckland and Canterbury story or does it fall back once the rebuild effect dies off? There is a massive difference between the high and low projection.

    I believe if NZ invests in Canterbury, for example if Canterbury received a fast passenger rail service from Ashburton to Amberley then Canterbury would keep up with Auckland as advocated by Christchurch’s Mayor Lianne Dalziel

    Christchurch would be the clear second biggest city in NZ, becoming something like Adelaide. I doubt we will ever get to 2 million people -I think 3/4 million for Christchurch and 1 million for Canterbury though is possible.

    Like investing in Auckland has national benefits the same goes for Canterbury. It would add diversity and strength to NZ for the country to have two cities of an international size. It would take some of the infrastructure and housing stress off Auckland.

    1. Note, only 3 regions are ahead of the national growth average in the high projection range -Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato respectively. Only two in the medium projection range -Auckland and Canterbury.

    2. Canterbury needs to ask itself [and the Government], is it better to “farm cows” or “farm people” over the longer term for the best economic growth outcomes for the region and the country.

      Both types of growth come with a swag of related issues like transport, water usage, effluent disposal/treatment, and land use changes.

      But which path is taken now will set the agenda for the next 50 or so years.

  3. It would be interesting to see the comparisons in working-age population growth as well. This might be the most useful way to prioritise investment in transport: rapid transit in areas of growing working-age population, and accelerated investment in local-area accessibility for communities with rapidly increasing older populations (though both, everywhere, would of course be nice too).

  4. Wont a lot of the Waikato growth be based on spillover from Auckland growth, along the lines of the PMs cheap houses in Hamilton theory.

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