Last week Statistics NZ released their latest detailed population estimates for the country and they show that Auckland is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Population increased by an estimated 44,400 people, an annual increase of 2.8% making it the fastest growing region in NZ and of course Auckland already started with the largest base. That growth has pushed population in the region above 1.6 million people having only passed 1.5 million about three years ago and at current rates, would see Auckland hit 2 million people in less than a decade. Auckland accounted for 46% of all the growth in NZ.
In 1996 Auckland’s population was 1.1 million so in 20 years has grown by the size of the entire Wellington region after taking 51% of NZs total growth. Auckland is now home to 34.4% of New Zealand’s population.
The graph below shows the change in Auckland’s population over the last 20 years and as you can see, as a total the growth this year is the highest ever seen although as a percentage increase, it was topped by 2002 and 2003. At 2.8%, growth is running ahead of even the high growth predictions released by Stats NZ in early 2015 which if it continues will have serious implications for the timing of many projects.
An even more staggering increase can be seen in the Auckland City Centre – as defined as in the map below. This is slightly different from the traditional definition as it includes the area units of Newton (south of Karangahape Rd) and Grafton West (east of Symonds St) and is what was used by the Ministry of Transport when they were monitoring targets for the City Rail Link.
As you can see below, the population of the city centre substantially increased to just shy of 47,000, up from just 5,000 20 years ago, a staggering 924% increase. The increase of 5,770 accounts for a full 13% of Auckland’s growth and 6% of all the growth in NZ over the last year. And of course, more people in the city centre has continued to help in making the place more vibrant and liveable. It also is another reason why it’s important agencies like Auckland Transport need to drastically change how they think about transport in the city. Moving to make it easier for pedestrians (and bikes) will be a key factor in improving the lives of the people living in the area, not to mention the other 100k+ that spend much of their time there every day.
Even if you used the more traditional definition of the CBD – the three northernmost areas in the map above, the population is sitting just under 40,000, up 5,000 on last year. As a comparison, the 2012 City Centre Masterplan suggested the CBD would reach not reach a population of 45,000 till 2032.
Looking at population at a slightly higher altitude we can see the changes by local board. The biggest increase comes from Waitemata driven by the growth mentioned above. Following that there has been strong growth in a number of local board areas. Many are areas where there is also a lot of greenfield growth has been occurring, such as Upper Harbour so in that regard one that also sticks as having a strong level of growth is Orakei.
Given the recent elections, the population figures also got me thinking about the levels of political representation we have and whether the ward boundaries need to be changed before the next election.
Auckland has 20 Councillors spread across 13 wards. In 2010 when the city was amalgamated there was a population of 1.44 million meaning for each Councillor there are an average of 72,000 residents. With the population now up to 1.61 million people we’re approaching one Councillor for every 81,000 people, more than twice the number of people per member of parliament. Furthermore, with so much growth in some areas, it’s leading to even more disproportionate representation and this is especially the case in the Waitemata and Gulf area which includes the CBD area.
This graph showing the population per Councillor can look a little busy but does show clearly how much things have changed in Watemata. The area is now home to around 112,000 people and they’re all covered by just one Councillor, Mike Lee. I don’t think that’s fair to either the residents in the Waitemata area or to Mike Lee
The same issue, although to a lesser extent, exists at the local board level with some local boards having vastly different levels of representation. Each local board has differing numbers of members on them. Again, Waitemata is a clear mover although it is still behind the Howick Local Board and Henderson-Massey Local Board on a per population basis. which has the highest population compared. Howick has just over 16,000 people per local board member while Papakura is the lowest of the urban area Local Boards with almost half that at just 8,800 people per member.
One of the challenges is that the amalgamation legislation prevents the number of Councillors being increased like can happen in the rest of NZ. It also requires that Council Wards align with the local board areas so any change isn’t straightforward.
What do you think should happen, change the ward and local board boundaries, allow for extra Councillors and local board members to be elected, a combination of both or leave things unchanged?