Following on from a previous post, this is a quick review of population growth in Devonport over the last 125 years. These figures are for the former Devonport Borough, which was created in the 19th century and persisted until 1989 when it was merged into North Shore City. The borough only really covered the southern half of the Devonport peninsula – the northern half, including Seacliffe, Hauraki and Bayswater, was part of the Takapuna Borough.

The map below shows the Devonport Borough as it looked in 1899:


And here’s how the population has changed (or not) since 1891:

Devonport's Population

I’m surprised that Devonport’s population has been completely flat for the last 70 years. The population on census night 1945, of 11,662, was still 318 people higher than the population on census night 2013, of 11,346.

Zoning controls, have certainly played their part in limiting the number of people who can live in a very desirable coastal area. There are probably a few more houses in Devonport today than there were 70 years ago, but any growth in household numbers has been cancelled out by there being fewer people per household.

Unfortunately, I don’t have long-term data for the northern half of the peninsula. It was part of the Takapuna Borough, and as the name suggests that included a number of other suburbs as well. Since 1986, though, the northern half’s population has risen from 9,251 to 11,862.

Given that the population has (at best) increased modestly in the last 30 years, Devonport is quite lucky to have such a high quality ferry service today. Tourists and other Aucklanders visiting Devonport help to support this service, and of course they also contribute to traffic on Lake Rd, especially on weekends.

A bit of intensification around the ferry terminal and the wider peninsula would support further transport upgrades, such as more frequent ferry sailings and upgrades (or widening) to Lake Rd. Under the Proposed Unitary Plan, though, the opportunity to add more homes and people close to the ferry looks very limited.

Again, the northern half of the Devonport peninsula does have some growth on the way. As per the RCG Development Tracker, Ryman are building a retirement village and Ngati Whatua O Orakei will be redeveloping ex-Navy land for apartments. There’s also a proposal to build apartments at the Bayswater Marina, which seems like a perfect location – right next to the (less frequent) Bayswater ferry, coastal amenity, and few immediate neighbours meaning very little downside for existing residents.

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  1. If the Navy was relocated to Marsden that would also free up 2 large areas suitable for high density housing with good links for ferry service. On the Northern side they’d even have their very own tunnel through to the main Southern area (perfect for cycling through).

    1. Strategically, you’d think having your largest city and its nationally important port protected by a nearby naval base would be a good position to be in. Plus the navy gets social/recruitment benefits for it’s staff and their families being based in the central part of Auckland region.
      I doubt they’d ever want to move.

      1. I second that. I think it’s quite good we have a armed forces based in Auckland.

      2. I agree too. Part of sustainability and a strong urban economy is having a broad range of jobs/activities/markets. The navy base, its work and its staff, are an asset to the Auckland economy even without the strategic benefits of defense.
        It probably useful to note that the navy is quite an intensive housing and employment hub already.

      3. Come on, Auckland doesn’t need to be protected from anyone. Who on earth would invade us? It is a silly place to have the Navy. Good for them, not good for the rest of us. If fact, do we even need a Navy?

        1. Yes we definitely do. They should be out in the ocean’s on a regular basis protecting the region from rampant overfishing.

        2. They would be just as able to protect NZ from Marsden. By its very nature the Navy is a mobile fighting force.

          It would be a great boost for Northland and I imagine most of the Navy people (who often come from more rural backgrounds like most of the military) would much prefer to live in Northland than Auckland.

          I think it is a matter of when not if.

        3. I don’t think they would, most of what the navy does happens on land. The reason for having the naval base in Auckland is the same reason for having Fonterra in Auckland, or any other major organisation.

          Being in Auckland gives the navy the widest potential labour pool, the greatest acess to suppliers and supply chains, and it affords its staff the greatest access services, facilities and lifestyle.

          If the Navy were located in a small provincial city like Whangarei it would have huge problems with staff retention and would have more expensive or less effective supply chains. Ergo it would be less effective at doing what it does.

        4. Yes we do need a Navy (and better funded than it currently is). There is no need to have it in Auckland however and it can actually protect NZ better from Northland. The Navy has a retention problem now (a lot due to Auckland house/rent prices). Prices in Northland are 1/3 Auckland prices. Northland has a lack of jobs. The Navy would help there by way of support businesses near it.

          Literally the only reason for keeping in Auckland is that the Devonport base is the alternate parliament location in the event of Wellington being disrupted. There is no actual need for that to be the Naval base its just a convenient alternative.

        5. So you guys have done hydrographic surveys of Marsden and it’s just as good for the navy and all the infrastructure for the ships could be easily installed and the harbour isn’t more easily mined… or any of a thousand things that go into naval base siting

          Here’s a hint: Scapa Flow wasn’t chosen because of the great views

        6. EC, Whangarei harbour is deeper than the Waitemata. It is more open once outside the harbour too vs the Hauraki Gulf being trapped by islands. Would be next to impossible to mine Whangarei harbour undetected. Scarpa Flow is located within a day’s sailing of dozens of military bases… Whangarei is at least 4 days and that’s from an ally (Australia) it is at least a weeks sailing or more from any potential enemies base.

  2. > Upgrades (or widening) to Lake Rd ?
    So that more cars may get stuck on Esmonde Rd instead? Hmmm… just thinking aloud…

    1. I recently moved back into the area and I can attest that Lake Road from Belmont through to Lake Road is pretty difficult to deal with in rush hour. I’m not sure how to fix it though. I work in Albany and it’s often going straight through the Esmonde Road intersection that’s the problem. What would help me the most would be removing the free turn into Northcote Road and replacing it with a left, left/straight, straight lane configuration, with a standard pedestrian crossing. This would give people going north a way to legally by pass the southbound queue. As it is lots of people go through the lights, skip the free turn, and make a left.

    2. It wont be widened, AT has made that quite clear. The most likely development is separated cycle lanes.

      The recent traffic survey found that 80% of the SOVs were going to the CBD. So the answer is to get precious snowflakes out of their cars and on to ferries.

      The Bayswater ferry needs an upgrade and we need to find a way to get people to travel to the ferry by bike or bus. Separated cycle lanes on King Edward Parade would be a great start.

      Bike Devonport is pushing for this but as we have the least effective and laziest Local Board in the city, it is a real challenge.

      1. The Bayswater ferry has a lot more potential. This was the main passenger link before the AHB. It is nearer to to City terminal than Devonport and there is heaps of parking available. A better service would attract ferry users from outside Devonport.

      2. I think that you are ignoring the power of the Devonport lobby. I have attended meetings in Devonport and been amazed by their self obsession – me,me me! The last meeting involved discussion re the widening of Lake Road. The almost universal consensus was no matter the impact on Takapuna, Belmont and Hauraki let’s do it.

        I am struggling to have any sympathy for Devonport residents. They chose to live there. The same problem existed when most of them bought there; it must have as the population has been static for 70 years. And if the problem has become worse it’s likely because families have given cars to all of their kids.

        I have a really good use for the $50 million that we will save. Why don’t we spend it on the Northern motorway to regulate the speed of cars so that traffic flows better. I know that it won’t decrease journey times, but it will be a really neat project. I know to some this will seem akin to pissing into the wind, but no one will get urine in their eyes. I love how Wellington attracts low value projects like the War Memorial tunnel. Beware the self interest lobby!

    3. Must be time they knocked over the shops at Hauraki Corner and widened. The Council did that several times in the 1990’s. They knocked over the shops, widened, new shops were built, a few years later they knocked them over and widened again! Crazy stuff.

  3. The population graph follows the housing stock. If you look at Albert Road you can see how villas were built with a horse paddock behind. Later when people didn’t need a horse anymore the paddocks were developed with newer houses.

      1. Yes good point 🙂 Maybe people didn’t leave horses strewn around the streets making it difficult for locals to dump their horse on the street.

        1. Clearly a combination of Resident Grazing Permits and time of use pricing was the solution.

      2. Countryside living and large lot residential zones – make sure that never again will houses be created where horses may graze.

  4. Implicit assumption in this post is that population growth is intrinsically good.

    Please prove this.

    1. I can’t see a judgement call on population growth in the post. The fact is that population growth is happening in Auckland and we need to accommodate it. The only other options are lots more homeless or draconian measures to limit that growth.

    2. I wouldn’t call that my intrinsic assumption at all. As per the previous post linked at the top of this one, Auckland’s overall population has more than quadrupled since 1945, with much of the growth in far-flung areas, and away from coastal amenity. Given that context, I would say that restricting growth in Devonport is inefficient and inequitable. “Bad”, if you want to trim it right down.

      1. Only because a priori you ignore the possibility of not growing

        A house has 1 person who has lots of money and can afford sky, great food, great furniture
        A house has 2 people who are skint

        Bigger != better. Less crowding = good. The argument is which generates the maximum per capita utility. Population growth is not good (nor is it instrinsically bad). Except where population growth helped countries build armies e.g. 1850-1900

        1. “Ignore the possibility of not growing”? As noted previously, Auckland’s population has more than quadrupled in the last 70 years, and it’s expected to keep growing. In fact, it would keep growing even if we built a wall around the city and didn’t let anyone in or out (medium population projections: 2/3rds of growth from natural increase, 1/3rd from migration). Are you telling people they’re not allowed to have kids?
          Anyway, while there may be a “possibility” of not growing, it seems very improbable given the trends of the last 125 years and reasonable statistical extrapolations of those trends.
          Yes, more space is a positive holding other factors constant. So are many other things – proximity and coastal amenity being two that Devonport has in its favour. And the fact that a home in Devonport is much more expensive than an equivalent one in Albany is a good indicator that private inviduals, at least, value those things more highly. As for externalities and other social impacts, it should be pretty plain that a household in Devonport levies lower costs on society than one in Albany, which is why the council is trying to encourage intensification.
          So, given that, I’m sticking to my original stance!

        2. This council is not encouraging intensification. This council is subsidising exurban sprawl and choking off urban growth. Auckland Council has created cost premium of approximately $350,000 per unit on urban development. The inclination is to build approximately 220,000 urban housing units over the period unitary plan is in effect. This council plan is a $75billion barrier against intensification.

          Unsurprisingly our rate of urbanisation is very slow.

    3. EC – your comment contains an implicit assumption that we care about what you think.

      Also where does your expectation of “proof” come from? In case you forgot, this a blog not a court of law.

      1. A blog that prides itself on the strength of analysis.

        And, when it sticks to advocating for better public transport, TB does a stirling, top notch, A-grade job.

        When it goes beyond technical/functional arguments to political posturing about “ideal cities” – and let me assure you, this is a political argument albeit one not dressed in red or blue colours – it loses much of that strength and becomes just like Garth George.

        1. And like a typical sophist you change your language when challenged: analysis is not equivalent to proof.

          To answer your question: Yes the Blog prides itself on analysis. The Blog does not, however, respond to demands for “proof” from someone who hides behind a pseudonym.

          Let me be somewhat more specific why I am treating you so harshly: Just this week, you have felt compelled to describe the Blog as both “stupid” and “hipster bullshit”. A volunteer blog. That you choose to visit.

          Consider this a final warning: Abide by the Blog’s user guidelines, or go elsewhere.

        2. The comment about “stupid” and “hipster bullshit” was in the context of a thread wherein I *defended* TB and Skypath from the frantic ravings of a senescent survivor of the Hindenburg who was terrified of the “humanity”

          Maybe re-read those posts. Here’s a hint: if someone calls you a “good bastard” they aren’t actually having a go at you for being illegitimate.

      1. Meh. I would say that’s a pretty mediocre article myself, at least in the context of understanding the future trajectory of optimal immigration policy in the New Zealand context.

        Current rates of migration to NZ remain lower than they have been in the past, and I suspect lower than what they were in the case of Argentina. Auckland historically grew at 4-5% p.a. whereas we’re now at 2-3% and our long run average is closer to 1.5-2.0%.

        There is fairly strong economic evidence, e.g. from OECD, that NZ suffers diseconomies of scale due to the small size and remoteness of our domestic market. That’s why we don’t have an IKEA (hence furniture costs are very high), and why we are only just now getting competition for flights to so many places around the world. This has enabled the growth of ICT, tourism and educational service industries, which in turn has diversified the NZ economy away from agriculture.

        In general I’m very optimistic about NZ’s future. It’s doing many things right from a policy perspective, or at least avoiding monumental failures, and the changes that are happening in the world – with the notable exception of climate change – are generally in our favour.

        The big bug-bear, which I think lies behind many people’s objections to immigration, is the pressure that immigration places on the housing market. We know, however, what we need to do in order to fix that: Allow more up and more out while also adjusting tax and investment policies to manage capital inflows into existing property.

        I wouldn’t shoot the immigration goose simply because of the housing market gander, but I do agree that the latter is a major issue which we need to resolve.

        1. I agree it is a poor article. There are no substantive arguments in it. From the first sentence it merely attempts to build a false narrative that equates NZ immigration in the 21st century with 19th century immigration to the Americas. The drivers, costs and benefits of immigration today are very different from those over 100 years ago. Even as an account of the reasons of the differing growth trajectories of the US vs Argentina it leaves much to be desired.

        2. I think the accepted idea is that immigration reduces GDP/person through capital dilution but increases it through increases in human capital. The net effect depends on which of those two effects dominate. That depends on the immigrants you get. There isn’t much doubt it is a major factor in stopping growth in the real wage in NZ and has had a huge negative impact on the unskilled. That labour market effect shouldn’t be downplayed as it will have long term social effects.

          The article doesn’t mention that the US used European immigration as a part of the genocide based ‘Manifest Destiny’ policy of starving the indigenous people out and settling the Continental US with white people. My post grad econometrics lecturer was from Europe but did his PhD in the States. He hammered us with the concept that if you use US data you have to control for their racism.

        3. The difference with current immigration is that it is mostly from Asia (China, India, Phillipines) at very large levels. Most immigrants from these countries are unskilled, or are coming as economic migrants for their own benefit rather than what is necessarily the best for NZ inc.
          Simplifying it they are arriving and not actually growing the economy per capita while imposing a whole lot of negative costs on the country (Auckland in particular). We have a housing shortage so the government in its wisdom thinks it’s a good idea to bring in more people? Most of whom settle in Auckland. High immigration is useful to the government in that it makes the economy look like it is growing faster than it really is. If you take the increase in population out of the GDP figures our growth would be pretty much non-existent! Thing is that because of the population growth the RBNZ is afraid to drop the OCR for fear of overheating the property market even more than it is. However if immigration was halved (particularly if numbers of low skilled Asia immigrats were reduced) then interest rates could be lower and the economy would pick up as a result and actually start to improve our per capita GDP and wealth. The housing market wouldn’t overheat as supply would start to catch up to demand.

        4. I thought we had skills based immigration. How do these people get in if unskilled?

        5. Try watching the news. They had an item tonight about the fraud used to get students into NZ from India who are really coming as unskilled workers.

        6. Honestly mfwic, sitting through what passes for the news in NZ to find information of value is a tough ask and not one I am generally up for. But thanks. Is that right, our immigration system is affected by large scale fraud? Its a genuine question because, as I say, I thought we had a skills based immigration regime (other than our PI and refugee quotas, and free movement with Oz).

        7. Few immigrants to NZ are unskilled, our immigration controls ensure that the majority are skilled. There is and always will be a certain amount of fraud but that does not mean the majority are unskilled.

        8. Sorry that was a bit rude. Stats NZ has Infoshare as one of its data offerings. If you select International Travel and Migration then permanent and long term migration you can access their data. Long term arrivals for 2015 were 4,400 managers, 17,101 professionals, 8290 trades and technicians, 3171 admin, 2805 sales, 1478 drivers and machine operators, 3033 labourers, 6721 unidentified and 57787 out of scope. I think that includes people who are going to be self employed or who have managed to use that category by borrowing some cash temporarily to get in.
          Not true V Lee a lot come in on a student visa then get a job once they are here and use that to get residency. Also the dairy industry has been heavily recruiting unskilled people.

        9. Anybody who has had to sift through CVs from recent immigrants (legal, non-fraudulent) might question the definition of “skilled”, however. Try advertising a job with “analysis” or “business development”.

        10. That data is interesting. I would love it if there was a bit more transparency around our immigration. I am not anti immigration myself, in fact quite the opposite, but I do find the whole system rather opaque.

        11. Remember that data includes NZers returning as well as new immigrants so we can’t see the true picture. But there seems to be plenty of evidence of an impact on the labour market. Personally I think too much weight is given to the idea of recruiting skilled people. They crowd out training for local people. I would prefer we gather in more refugees- people who have no choice but to leave where they were. We can offer a peaceful home and we certainly know there are plenty of people who want that. But the focus on increasing the population just for the sake of it only leads to the illusion of improved well being.

        12. Almost all economic growth in NZ is population related i.e. 2% more pop, 2% GDP growth. We aren’t seeing productivity gains or any fruits from this diversification.

          Flat line population would force industries to become more productive. In fact a smaller, boutique NZ with 2m people would be better

        13. While I agree with you that population growth is not intrinsically good, I disagree that it is not good in the NZ context. Our sparse population is one of the main reasons for our low productivity. Population growth is merely flattering our economic growth figures at the moment but short-term measures are not a good guide to our long-term prospects. There are certainly costs associated with this population growth but in my opinion these are greatly outweighed by the long-term benefits. There will be a point where further population growth will not be beneficial but we are a long way off this.

        14. Hi V Lee
          Situation A: a woodworking factory where all the workers have a 30 minute commute by car
          Situation B: a woodworking factory where all the workers have a 5 minute commute by walking

          The factory in B will somehow produce more tables/chairs per hour per given input than A? Impressive, can you explain how?

        15. EC is incorrect.

          In the last decade New Zealand’s income per capita (in constant dollars adjusted for PPP) has increased from approximately $25k to $35k.

          Data here:!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_pp_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:NZL:AUS:USA&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

          NZ has some issues, but there’s little doubt that it in the last one to two decades the average NZer has become a lot wealthier.

        16. If you divide GDP(P) (chain, annual-mar) by total population you will see a change from 0.033 in 1991 to 0.048 in 2015 – which indeed shows an increase in per capita productivity of 0.015. However, almost all of that occurred in the first 12 years of that period, and the largest jump in per capita productivity occurred in 2000 – which had the smallest population increase. In the last few years, microscopic changes.

          Treasury’s HYEFU also forecasts GDP growth over the next 5 years that is almost precisely the same as population growth. Maybe you know more than them (they have been wrong before)

          Here are the infoshare refs

        17. Yes of course the walking factory would. It’s staff would spend ten minutes a day commuting, while the driving factory staff would spend an hour. The ones that walk would have an extra 50 minutes in the day and on average would be less stressed, have more sleep and benefit from more rest or recreational time. Ergo they would be more productive while at work, and take less sick days as well.

          The literature is quite clear on the link between productivity, illness and non-work hours.

        18. Stu: “In the last decade New Zealand’s income per capita (in constant dollars adjusted for PPP) has increased from approximately $25k to $35k.

          NZ has some issues, but there’s little doubt that it in the last one to two decades the average NZer has become a lot wealthier.”
          Most of this “gain” has come from the increase in value of housing and in the wealthiest 5% and the stronger NZ$.
          The median person in NZ has actually not improved their lot much or have actually gone backwards. Remember that housing gains are not helpful to the overall economy (since they increase costs for businesses and workers and don’t contribute to export earnings or productivity).

        19. Bruce: the *value* of housing doesn’t show up in GDP, except to the extent that people might go out and spend more if their house value rises, generating more economic activity. GDP instead measures *rents* for housing, (or estimates what the rents would be, for owner-occupiers).

        20. John the theory that rising house prices has a wealth effect is being questioned by economists. Is it a zero sum game? One group gains from rising house prices -they can spend more (the wealth effect). While another group spends less (the poverty effects of rising house prices).

        21. EC, that is a weak straw man argument, I never mentioned commute times. You are only talking about labour productivity but that is only one of the factors in overall productivity i.e. the ratio of total outputs vs total inputs. The issue is economies and diseconomies of scale. Essentially our country is large in area, has a low in population and is far away from the rest of the world. So we suffer from diseconomies of scale resulting in lower productivity. Increasing our population would reduce these effects while increasing the benefits of economies of scale. This is a complex issue and I am far from an expert but the benefits of a larger population to your hypothetical woodwork factory would include:
          1. there would be a larger number of consumers to purchase their products enabling the factory to invest more capital in plant equipment that will increase productivity
          2. the larger population would support more woodwork factories resulting in more competition that would drive productivity growth
          3. there will be more people who have the aptitude and desire to be woodworkers resulting in a overall higher skilled woodworking workforce resulting in higher productivity
          4. these effects would also occur further down the supply chain resulting in lower cost of materials
          Perhaps most importantly a higher population will enable and drive a conversion of our economy to higher value industries. Currently, our economy is heavy in industries that will always have lower productivity and wages (particularly our tradable sector). We are producing milk powder and working as farm workers and tourism operators. These kinds of activities will always have a lower productivity than if we were producing high-value products and such as medicines and high-tech devices and working as researchers and engineers. We need a larger population that will enable the innovation, investment and enterprise that would change our economy. There is nothing inherently wrong in working in a lower productivity industry but if we want to continue to be able to afford advanced goods like iPhones and medicines like Keytruda (as we seem to want to) then we do have to increase our overall productivity as a nation.

  5. 5 chains to the inch. I wonder how many people know what a chain is? Hint: it’s the length of a cricket pitch.

      1. I didn’t actually. Thanks, I’m sure that info will be handy in a pub quiz in the distant future.

        P.s. My lack of knowledge of such curious measurements must explain why as an opening batsman I was always good on the back foot (along with a childhood spent playing cricket with tennis balls and then on artificial pitches.

  6. I was involved with a local sports club in Devonport a couple of years ago where the regional body kept demanding that we increase our playing numbers by circa 4% per annum (the same targets for clubs out south and west) – At the time I used similar figures to show them how ridiculous the target was considering the long term population growth of the area.

  7. Is this a case of stagnation due to transport limitations? The population chart shows a leveling since the late 1920’s with a 1,000 head jump in the early 1940’s, guessing due to military activity. This leveling off is long before widespread car ownership or a preservationist attitudes towards the old villas. In the 1920’s Onehunga with its tram link was considered the more upmarket suburb.
    A Rapid Transit link would lead to more growth but how to do it? Widening Lake Rd as well as being horrendously expensive, would be almost impossible to use during construction. The bus lanes that AT are proposing will be an improvement. The ferry currently handles about a 1,000 people per hour at the peak periods and the bus to Takapuna is well patronised through the day. Time-wise Devonport is further away from the CBD by PT than most of the isthmus and even further by car.
    The ferry service could be improved with wide ramps and gangways allowing faster turn around times and the city terminal moved to the other side of Queen’s wharf to avoid the congestion in the present ferry basin. Even a end loader design consided.

  8. “Zoning controls, have certainly played their part in limiting the number of people who can live in a very desirable coastal area. There are probably a few more houses in Devonport today than there were 70 years ago, but any growth in household numbers has been cancelled out by there being fewer people per household.”

    No doubt this is true, particularly over the last half of the period, but I suspect the period of stagnation started well before any significant binding zoning controls were ever in place. This would indicate that there was no sifgnificant demand for increased growth in Devonport, presumably because growth was being satisfied by growth elsewhere (mainly greenfields). Not sure what I would make of that observation other than that if we are regulating growth (and in particular restricting greenfields growth) are we being pareto optimal?

  9. Back in 1981 when I was looking at buying a property in Auckland I was shown a house in Devonport by the land agent. It was a villa on a backwards sloping section, and the current tenant had converted the front lounge into a garage in which he was restoring a Citroen Light 15, complete with a hole in the floor so he could work on the underside of the car from a downstairs room. The house was priced at $50,000, but because of the work needed just to get it habitable, I chose a house in Mt Albert for the same price, which was a fortune to me in those days. For the same price in those days they were selling brand new houses just behind the Chelsea sugar works, which I also considered, but, and here’s the laugh, to buy a house in Manurewa was more expensive by about $5000.

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