However you define Auckland’s “city centre”, it’s been adding jobs rapidly in the last couple of years. Based on a narrow definition – roughly, the area bounded by the motorways – the city centre has hit a new milestone of 100,000 jobs, actually reaching almost 102,000 as at February 2016.

Using a slightly wider definition, you could call it 111,200 jobs. This is the definition used by the Ministry of Transport when they were monitoring employment growth in the city centre. More on that below.

Once you get beyond the motorways, which are pretty major barriers, there’s also plenty of employment close to the city centre even if you don’t consider it to be part of the city centre. That includes Parnell, Newmarket, Grafton, Newton, Kingsland, Ponsonby and Freemans Bay. Many of these have rapid transit (rail) connections – even if they don’t, they have good bus frequencies. You can think of this area as the “city centre and surrounds”, and that takes you to 178,000 jobs – a quarter of all the jobs in the entire Auckland region.

Depending on what definition you use, the city centre has added around 5,000 jobs in each of the last two years.

That might not sound like that much, but this is regionally, even nationally, significant growth. Auckland as a whole added 18,000-28,000 jobs a year in the last three years (averaging 23,500). New Zealand added 40,000-50,000 jobs a year over this time. Prior to the last three years, jobs growth was weaker or even negative, as the country struggled with a post-GFC recession.

Overall, Auckland’s city centre is one of the major growth engines for employment in New Zealand. This is set to continue for at least the next few years, with plenty of job-creating developments underway (offices, hotels, the International Convention Centre, the City Rail Link etc).

You might recall that back in 2013, the government was giving very guarded support to the City Rail Link (CRL). They said they’d fund an early start if two very tough targets were met:

  1. Auckland CBD employment increases by 25 percent over current levels; and
  2. Annual rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips well before 2020.

We were critical of these targets at the time. They didn’t relate that well to the goals of the CRL, and were just arbitrary hoops to jump through, the kind of thing which road projects have never had to face. Plus, they reinforced the false perception that the CRL was all about the city centre, whereas it actually delivers benefits across Auckland.

Fortunately, these targets have now been dispensed with. After hemming and hawing for a few years, the government came fully on board with the CRL in 2016. The former targets are now irrelevant, so what follows is really just for interest.

Matt still covers our progress towards the patronage target from time to time. Auckland is surging towards 20 million rail trips a year, hitting 18 million in 2016. We’re on track to hit 20 million by the end of 2017, although it might end up being 2018.

The employment target was much trickier, partly because it was so badly defined. The government’s initial announcement of the targets didn’t define the CBD, or the timeframe over which employment was meant to grow by 25%. See this post, which links to two earlier ones, for details.

For what it’s worth, I think the fairest interpretation of the government’s target – based on the City Centre Future Access Study which they based it on – was to use 2006 as a base year, and the  “narrow definition” of the city centre I’ve used above. That wasn’t the interpretation they went with – they took a much tougher line – but it would have been the fairest one.

Anyway, city centre employment was 81,200 in 2006, and 101,900 in 2016. So we’ve actually grown by 25% already based on that, and there’s a strong growth trend continuing. The government eventually decided on a tougher (and I think less fair) interpretation of their target, but even then we would probably be on track to hit it. They used 2012 as the base year, and the city centre has grown by 13% in the four years since. Keeping up that rate of growth, we’d hit 25% by 2020.

So, for what it’s worth, even though the government targets were arbitrary, and incredibly hard to hit, it looks like we’d be hitting them anyway.

All in all, it’s a bloody good thing the CRL is now under construction, even if we’re still going to have to wait another 5 or 6 years before it opens – it’s the only thing that will let the city centre jobs engine keep purring.

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20 comments

  1. I think once the CRL comes online then the best definition of the Central City would be the area bounded by the CRL plus say five hundred/ a thousand metres on the outside of the circle. This will effectively be an area in which getting to any point in it from any other point on public transport becomes almost trivial.

  2. There will be a surge of completed of Prime Grade Office available to rent in the next two years.

    So it is forecasted jobs in city will surge in the next two years.

    However the transit option to wynyard quarter is lacking at the moment. Not sure what has been planned.

  3. The CBD needs to be an urban residential as much as it is a business district. The amount of people living in the city is increasing rapidly and with future development on the way, that boom is not stopping anytime soon

    1. Indeed, at the current count 47,000 people live in the green narrow CBD zone above. That would make the broader Auckland CBD about the same population as the entire cities of Whangarei, New Plymouth or Rotorua.

      I’m reminded of the block on the west side of Queen St, between there and Liverpool St opposite Myers Park. More people live there than the whole town of Helensville, yet unbelievably some of their streets don’t even have a footpath to walk on!

      1. On that block the surrounding buildings are not making the streets very inviting anyway. And there’s this habit of cramming parking into every square metre of space between buildings.

        And then we’re wondering why people have such dystopian view on apartments. Go figure.

        (N.B. strictly speaking small streets don’t need sidewalks if they’re quiet enough, and if the traffic is slow enough. Vulcan Lane and Eliott Street don’t have sidewalks either.)

        1. “(N.B. strictly speaking small streets don’t need sidewalks if they’re quiet enough, and if the traffic is slow enough. Vulcan Lane and Eliott Street don’t have sidewalks either.)”
          Nowhere in New Zealand has “sidewalks”.

  4. Wynyard Quarter/Queen Street Light Rail is Vital to connect the CBD.

    If they can’t make their mind up on the isthmus light rail, are they able to build a light rail from Wynward to Upper Queens Street for now.

    Also is there any plan to connecting the eastern centre (Newmarket/Museum/Hospital) with the west (Ponsonby/Victoria Park/Fanshawe). Is a light rail viable?

    1. To be frank such a short LRT line would be a big expense for little gain, you have all the depot and overheads regardless of how long it is. Why not just get serious with the Inner Link on that exact alignment already, just needs proper bus lanes, priority at intersections and couple of stop upgrades.

      Yes, the New Network has frequent bus routes linking east and west, i.e. the Outer Link. Light Rail is probably not viable due to the huge expense for difficult terrain, and all the various bus routes it would overlap.

  5. It’s crazy that we still get the “but no one goes to the CBD anymore”. No other location in Auckland even comes close to the number of jobs in the city centre (even the narrow definition). And of course this doesn’t include the tens of thousands that attend uni too

    1. So 100,000 jobs, 50,000 residents and what, 40,000 students too? Add in shoppers and entertainment and the like and that “empty” CBD has maybe 250,000 people in it on a busy day.

      1. Well more than a few of those residents will be either CBD workers or students so you’re probably counting some people twice but I have no doubt that there are probably more people in those few square kilometres than in Tauranga. The scale of Auckland is so much greater than anything else in New Zealand. A lot of people outside of Auckland (and more than a few inside) get concerned when big money is thrown at solving a problem in a comparatively small area. What they often fail to understand is the amount of people that will benefit from that money is simply outside the frame of reference for a person who lives in a town that’s a hundred thousand people spread over a hundred square kilometres or so.

        1. Yes of course, you’d expect the majority of CBD residents to either work or study nearby so some double counting (although not all, I had a former flatmate in an apartment who worked in the burbs but lived in the city for the lifestyle, and ironically the ease of driving to work against the peak flows).

          1. I’m in that camp. Live in the city but work in the burbs. And the two days I drive to work it’s against the flow of traffic. Now if I could only gain one of those many jobs in the city I’d be living the dream.

    2. It’s probably right that many in the suburbs don’t go to the cbd but those 47,000 living here are consuming in the area, and then there’s the swell from those coming into the city each day to work who are also shopping here. But then this is a normal situation for any city. I guess the latter group must include some from the suburbs. So they’re wrong on this count too.

  6. I am concerned that the CRL will come too late, although nothing can be done about that now. Every day as I travel by bus to the city the trip is impeded by congested streets (lack of bus lanes) and frequently there is a queue at bus stops. And still the city grows strongly so it won’t get better. And the convention centre will dump another 3000 people, plus work force in the part of town that I work. I imagine that barely one person of that 3000 will come by bus because such services largely don’t exist.
    Where and when is AT’s plan to deal with it? I believe our mayor needs to be more vocal and call for progress. AT seems strong on rhetoric and slow on action.

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