I’ve been investigating how different parts of New Zealand have grown in the last 125 years, inspired by a 2013 Motu study. As part of that, I noticed that there’s actually pretty good data for ‘central’ Auckland, i.e. the isthmus (other parts of Auckland are a bit trickier, but hopefully I can work through that). The 2010 amalgamation of all the old Auckland councils still seems quite recent, but those councils had actually only been around since 1989.
Before that, we had a system of boroughs and counties which had survived quite intact since the 19th century. And it turns out that the Eden County, and the various boroughs within it, was almost identical to the 1989-2010 Auckland City boundaries, what Stats New Zealand now call the “Central Auckland Zone” of the Auckland Urban Area. The only difference is that it excluded Otahuhu.
If that all sounds like too much of a mouthful, here’s a map of Eden County – I’ve just used the figures for that, but adding in Otahuhu.
And here’s what the figures look like:
By 1891, there were already more than 50,000 people living in central Auckland, which grew pretty steadily until 1971. The population hardly budged from 1971 to 1991, actually dropping slightly at one point, but since then it’s been on a major growth path, faster than at any time previously. My guess is that we’ll keep up this growth for a long time to come.
Incidentally, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin all had quite similar populations at the end of the 19th century. It was only in the 20th century that Auckland became so much larger than any of our other cities.
So why did central Auckland stop growing in the 70s and 80s? New Zealand as a whole had lower growth rates in this period – lower migration, perhaps. Auckland had lower growth as well, and most of the growth that did happen was out to the north, west, or (especially) the south. From some other Stats data (and note that Otahuhu has shifted back to south Auckland for this one – population around 11,000)
Another interesting point here is that central Auckland dominated population growth in the region until well into the 1950s. It was after 1956, or maybe even 1961, when the southern, western and northern areas started to take off.