Over the last few months I’ve been travelling all over New Zealand and parts of Australia for work. (This is part of the reason I haven’t found time to write blog posts!) I’ve been to Christchurch (twice), Wellington (twice), Hamilton (twice), Tauranga, Queenstown, and probably one or two other places.

All of these cities, and many others, are experiencing unexpectedly rapid growth and frantically planning to catch up: transport infrastructure, water infrastructure, zoning codes. As an example, here’s a chart of recent population growth in Dunedin and Lower Hutt, which have historically been sleepy, slow-growth areas. In the last few years, they’ve benefitted from increasing spillover from Auckland, Christchurch, and other places. Both cities have grown as much in the last three years as they did in the previous seventeen.

My first reaction to this is that it’s a blip: New Zealand’s population growth has always been volatile, and we may simply be hitting a temporary peak. If that’s the case, we should probably relax a bit: the tide has come in, but it will go out again.

But what if that’s not the case?

The most recent national population projections from Statistics New Zealand show New Zealand growing to 6.2 million people by 2068. This is a relatively modest pace of annual growth – around 0.6% growth per annum – and one that will see many areas of New Zealand decline in population. But, as a 2016 Stats NZ study showed, our population projections have been systematically wrong twice in the recent past.

In the 1970s and 1980s, as New Zealand went from fast post-war growth to chronic economic crisis, it consistently undershot projections. (My parents left NZ in these years, as there simply wasn’t much opportunity here.) In the 1990s and 2000s, New Zealand overshot population projections based on trends from the dismal years. (I came back in the late 2000s, and stayed because NZ now offers many more economic and social opportunities than it did when my parents were young.)

There are socio-economic reasons to believe that we may be entering another era in which New Zealand has consistently high population growth. I would identify three in particular:

  1. Thanks to MMP and good-government reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, we have relatively stable and trusted political institutions, which means that our economy is less likely to be derailed by nonsense like Brexit or the Trump clown show. (See Acemoglu and Robinson on the damaging economic effects of political instability.)
  2. We have a high and growing level of amenity for residents, based both on our beautiful natural surroundings and the increasing social and cultural advantages of well-functioning cities and a diverse population. Unless we want to undermine what makes New Zealand attractive, this will continue to attract people.
  3. Culturally, New Zealanders have a high willingness to innovate and build consensus on how to adapt to change, meaning that although we don’t necessarily get things right from the get-go, we do tend to find ways of muddling through. This is a big advantage in a rapidly-changing world.

So even if it isn’t necessarily the most likely scenario, I would argue that it is important to plan for a future in which New Zealand grows more rapidly than expected. For instance, Sweden, which has a land area of 450,295 sq km, 15% of which is in the Arctic Circle and hence uninhabitable, compared with our very habitable 268,021 sq km, currently has a population of 10 million people, compared with 4.7 million Kiwis. What if we hit that by mid-century? What would it mean for how we live, how we work, and how we travel?

This scenario would probably mean that:

  • Auckland has between 3 and 4 million people, or a population somewhere between present-day Brisbane and Melbourne, both of which are perfectly nice places to live
  • Hamilton and Tauranga are approaching 500,000 residents, or a bit larger than present-day Wellington and Christchurch, and the Waikato is probably full of a number of mid-sized towns and cities
  • Greater Christchurch has a population between 0.8 and 1.2 million, with Wellington a bit behind
  • A range of other towns and cities are approaching the size of present-day Hamilton and Tauranga – for instance, picture Whangarei, Nelson, and Queenstown with 150-200,000 residents
  • Parts of the country that are now worrying about managing decline have received a shot in the arm from big-city residents seeking a quieter life in the countryside.

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily go out and start spending money on roads, rapid transit, and water pipes based on this scenario – that stuff is expensive! – but I do think we need to plan for it, because it could happen. In my view, there are four key things that we should be getting in place now, to maximise the upside from this scenario and minimise the risks.

First, we have to rethink the way we do urban planning and infrastructure funding for growth. At the moment, when unexpected growth happens, we get caught out by a lack of appropriate zoning (especially for enabling housing in the most accessible and attractive areas of cities) and delays in figuring out how to pay for new infrastructure to enable growth. Housing affordability for young and low-income people is what loses out from the subsequent shortfall in housing. This is obviously a complex topic, so I’m not exactly sure how exactly we should change, but it seems like we do need to change. (The Productivity Commission’s recent report contains some suggestions, for those who want hundreds of pages of report to read.)

Second, we will need to plan proper multi-modal transport networks for all major cities in New Zealand – not just Auckland, Wellington, and sometimes Christchurch. For instance, Tauranga is a city on a harbour, with a few major transport corridors linking together the southern, western, and northern suburbs with the centre. In other words, it’s quite like Auckland. If it doubles in size, it will probably also need a rapid transit network to give people the option to avoid the motorway. In a high-growth environment, the value of transport choices will only rise. Let’s plan for it now.

Third, we will need to plan for proper inter-regional transport. If the Upper North Island grows as I’ve described above, it could resemble a New Zealand version of the Dutch Randstad – a city-region with a mix of green spaces and intensely developed spaces, all linked together with efficient inter-regional rapid transit. Or it could resemble Los Angeles in the South Pacific – smog, concrete-canyon motorways, and parking everywhere. We’ve got a choice about this.

Finally, and most importantly, we need to realise that this scenario could be great for us. There are some downsides to larger cities, but the evidence shows that these are balanced out by the economic and social advantages. As I’ve written before, bigger and better cities offer people more choices, in everything from work to entertainment to politics to relationships. There’s a reason why young New Zealanders move to London and Sydney and Melbourne. Better, more vibrant cities would help to overcome that and make New Zealand a more attractive place for young Kiwis.

As an example, a recent empirical study on the impact of migration on economic and social wellbeing in OECD countries found that New Zealand has experienced large positive effects from migration. These benefits, which were worth something on the order of 4.3% of GDP, principally arose due to the benefits of a larger and more diverse population for consumer choice and fiscal sustainability. (Immigration was also found to reduce economic inequality in NZ, as the benefits for less-educated workers were greater than for university-educated workers.)

We should welcome the opportunities that a New Zealand with 10 million New Zealanders would bring, and plan ahead to maximise those opportunities.

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199 comments

  1. Fuck that, there are to many people here already. Why should we turn our country into just another overpopulated, rubbish strewn shithole just so a bunch of urbanistas can enjoy graffiti as art?

    I want to come home from overseas holidays to my rightful heritage of open spaces and plenty of room. Where I can go hike a track, shoot a deer, catch a fish, stick a pig or bag a duck and not have to be either an aristocrat or a millionaire to afford it.

    Five million MAX.

    And i am pretty sure if you put that to a vote, that would be what most New Zealanders want.

    1. What makes you think that population size has anything to do with the amount of rubbish lying around? Switzerland has just over 8 million people in an area less than 1/6th of NZ and has ample green space and has cleaner lakes and rivers than we do.

      Also we were able to hunt when the population was 2 million, we can still hunt when it is 4.7 million so there is no reason we won’t if it reaches 10 million. In fact we have more conservation land than we did when the population was lower.

      1. This is the irony of the supposed supporters of wilderness and the environment, they usually fight against urbanisation and expect everyone to live in sprawling suburbs, or worse, exurban lifestyle blocks. But if you really like wilderness, stop arguing in favour of outcomes that end up bulldozing it to build suburbs and highways.

        If everyone lived like the people who live in the Auckland CBD, the entire population of New Zealand could live between the harbour and Balmoral Rd. That would leave the entire country empty of people or civilisation.

        If you actually care about wilderness, hunting, fishing etc, then you should live in an apartment in the city. Thats the best way to protect it from being bulldozed.

    2. Similarly sized Japan has 129,000,000 souls yet still remains 67% covered in forests. Perhaps if we managed our urban areas half as well as the Japanese we could manage 10,000,000?

      1. Agreed. The basic model of more intense living on small fractions of the land is a good one.

        Japan’s not really a place to emulate, though. They import 60% of their food, and their forests are largely monocultural (due to reforestation after their big industrial push which removed much of their indigenous forest.) What’s interesting is why they don’t grow their food: because the younger generations think farming is a backwards occupation. And what’s also interesting is that if they need to start growing their own food, they’ll be in a much better position to do so than if they were, for example, poisoning all their water ways by factory farming cows.

    3. If the city is poorly planned and look like a slump. Yes

      If the city is well designed and with good infrastructure. No.

      So the thing is whether our politican is lazy – status of quo.
      Or proactive – get the advantage of growth while migrate the cons of over population.

    4. It will be put to a vote on the upcoming elections. National are pretty much the only party not promising to lower immigration so if you are correct they should lose.

    5. I’ve just got a couple of questions for Sanctuary.

      Given the lifestyle advances populated cities are giving the younger working population (talking 35years and below now!!). How are we to encourage them not to leave to larger cities overseas if we attempt to stop our population growing?

      If the solution is to ‘let them leave’, how are we going to fund our already increasing ageing population as the working class leave, taking with them their tax money?

      As I see it, only now are some of the younger generation deciding to return / stay in NZ in their productive years because Auckland has grown to a size that offers the urban lifestyle our generation crave, its all good saying we want to keep that kiwi culture, however if the future of the country is leaving because the ‘kiwi culture’ is not developing, then surely its a quicker death of the culture you so dearly love.

  2. There’s a bigger issue that I think you need to look at, and that is world population. Hopefully we can both agree that there are too many people in the world, and that to continue to live sustainably in the world, growth needs to stop and then reverse: 7-10 billion is unsustainable in the long term. Given that need for a halt to growth, long term, why then should New Zealand not plan for a stable population and eventually zero growth as well?

    PS – Auckland at 3-4 million? Given its geography, what a nightmare that would be.

    1. Totally agree. The question shouldn’t be “how much bigger should our population be?” It should be, how can we manage the world’s populations back to something reasonable for their own countries, like ours is now? In 1900, the entire British Indian Empire (modern day Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Burma) had a population of 280 million, and there was plenty of room for tigers and elephants to live. Now, the population is approaching 1.6 billion, and if Queen Street is any guide there isn’t even enough room for all the people there anymore, let alone the poor bloody tigers.

      There are to many humans – especially first world ones in places like NZ. Five million extra New Zealanders will easily belong to the 16% of the worlds population that consumes over 80% of its resources.

          1. Ooh sick burn: everyone who doesn’t agree with me is a hipster douchbag.

            If you want to gripe about overpopulation you have to lead by example, show what you are willing to do to change the thing you see as a problem. If not, you are just moaning and expecting everyone else to change so that you don’t have to.

          2. Nick R, People in NZ on average do lead by example as our birth rate is pretty much the same as our replacement rate. Our population growth over the past 2 decades has been almost entirely down to mass immigration.
            In those same 2 decades India has gone from 850 million people to 1.3 billion people (450m additional people).
            China has gone from 1.2B to 1.4B (200m additional people).
            Bangladesh has gone from 123m to 162m (additional 39m people).
            Indonesia has gone from 200m to 258m (additional 58m people).
            Philippines has gone from 73m to 101m (additional 28m people).
            Pakistan has gone from 128m to 189m (additional 61m people).
            Nigeria has gone from 114m to 183m (additional 69m people).
            Brazil has gone from 167m to 208m (additional 41m people).

            Meanwhile Japan has gone from 126m to 127m (only additional 1m people and is now falling).
            Germany has gone from 82m to 81m (shrunk by 1m despite letting in millions of immigrants from places like Turkey, Syria and Africa).
            So no it is not developed countries that need to be doing the population control, luckily China decided to do something about it albeit too late to stay below 1 billion.
            If people can just leave India and China etc then all that does is reduced the pressure there and allows for them to have more kids to replace them.

            In terms of this overall post yes we should plan for it but we certainly shouldn’t be aiming for it. We should be designating land now for future RT, roads, schools, etc so that it doesn’t cost a fortune to buy down the track when it is already developed.

        1. If it helps, I only plan to have one kid. Global over-population is the root of most of our problems as a society in my eyes

          1. The UN isn’t worried about over population because of declining birth rates in developed countries. Basically, once you are sure that your kids will live, you don’t need to plan for mortality and so limit yourself to two or so.

            Global over population will never happen.

      1. Yes, thanks Sanctuary. “how can we manage the world’s populations…” is a better way to think about it than having the country vote to keep the hordes out because of a “birthright”. Everyone needs food, water, peace, security, dignity… and many don’t have that. Since their economies are inextricably linked to ours and climate change is something we are causing, we can’t just turn our backs…

      2. Skip the euphemisms. Who are you going to kill to achieve your dream of a smaller population? Who dies first, and how?

        Any plausible policy to substantially shrink the world’s population within our lifetimes could *only* be implemented by truly monstrous people. I’d prefer to work hard to make the alternative succeed.

        1. The planet is showing is the limits to its carrying capacity already. ‘Natural’ disaster will reduce our total population through quite miserable means if we don’t start doing something with more dignity now.

          Sanctuary’s suggestion is more moral, at least, than anyone promoting economic growth.

          1. oops or maybe not all of Sanctuary’s suggestions, but certainly managing populations – by which I mean using knowledge about how to bring population rates down through increased health and security.

          2. The most moral option we’ve got for managing population growth is educating and empowering women and increasing incomes and economic opportunity among low-income people. These policies have a strong record of success in reducing fertility rates. The problem is that they’re not fast – even countries that have experienced very rapid reductions in fertility have experienced continued population growth, in part due to increasing life expectancy. While you do eventually see population start to decline – see eg Japan – it takes a long time.

          3. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa (admittedly a big area) the world is already pretty close to a replacement rate of population. I think the peak population will happen this century.

          4. Yes, Peter, agreed. And of course we have to plan for more population growth. But we do need to pull our heads out of the sand and try to change the whole economic situation that is leading to food shortages and environmental destruction worldwide – and to poverty-induced population growth. Cash crops, tied aid, loans, cheap sweatshop appliances and clothes, etc, etc… Our wealth is so interconnected with all of this, but fitting in time to pick up a new fidget spinner and book the next holiday seem to be more important to many people.

          1. That’s harsh.
            I would choose those who use apostrophes to form plurals and those who refer to an “amount” of people.

          2. Excellent training video, Peter! Well played, sir! Mind you, executing people for grammatical or pronunciation errors is somehow a tad more palatable than executing them because they are poor:

          3. Yeah, that was literally the next video I watched. Got perilously close to the Mitchell & Webb black hole event horizon in the process.

          4. I was thrown clear of the event horizon thanks to the gravitational field strength of my wife streaming episode 1 series 3 of Fargo.

            Solve NZ’s problems, get drawn into the Mitchell and Webb black hole or watch Fargo. So much easier when faced with the binary choices favoured by the modern world.

        2. Anyway, doesn’t a lot of this population growth over here come from people moving around? The Earth’s population doesn’t increase every time I move, so…

        3. Peter it is not about killing people. It is about getting serious about reproduction rates in the developing world. China did it successfully. There are many methods to do so (condoms are the quick fix, but perhaps offering sterilisation options to people once they have had their 2 kids rather than 5,6,7+ might also help, that can include Vasectomy, tube tied or more permanent methods). If every single person in the world was limited to 2 children then the worlds population would peak almost immediately and then start a slow decrease (since 2 is less than replacement of 2.1 or so and that is assuming everyone has their 2 – many won’t/can’t). The biggest decreases would be in those developing countries due to their shorter life expectancy’s. Could get the world back down to around 6 billion within a few decades and quality of life would improve for everyone everywhere.

          1. In your comment above, you state that China’s population has grown by 200m, or 17%, in the last two decades, in spite of a fertility rate that has been below replacement for almost 25 years. Their population has kept growing because life expectancy has also risen over this period.

            Lower fertility rates and higher life expectancy tend to coincide, by the way – they’re both driven by improvements in material wellbeing and health services. So we can’t have one without the other.

            Conclusion: It is extremely implausible that we can substantially reduce world population, within the next several decades, via fertility reductions. There is too much lag in the system. I reiterate my view that we’re going to have to devise better ways of living with each other and with the environment, rather than fantasising about a miracle cure for the Yellow and Brown Hordes of the world.

          2. Interestingly, China abandoned the One Child policy in 2015. Also interesting, there were exceptions… For example, ethnic minorities were exempt and in 2007, 36% of China’s population was subject to a strict one-child restriction, with an additional 53% being allowed to have a second child if the first child was a girl.

            Not only that, to have a second child if your first was a son was only a financial burden. You’d need to pay a fine (pretty damn large one), but then you could get papers for your child. No papers = no schooling, no travel, no healthcare => large population of “ghost children”. This ignores the problem of people giving birth in Hong Kong, where the policy never applied and gave citizenship to those born there…

            After all of that, I also agree that there are too many human rabbits in the world – Why do you need (or allow yourselves to have) 5,6,7+ children? Is it responsible?

          1. You use your brain; people are living longer even if we have children significantly beneath the long term replacement rate, we still will see another couple of billion people.

      3. The world population is actually already pretty stable and we are already at Peak Child. there will never be more than 2 billion people under 14 in the world. That has happened because of emancipation and education of women.

        The growth happening now is because the population grew so much after WWII and those extra people are still having 2-3 children.

        This is an excellent documentary on this and shows we are all usually too pessimistic about the state of the human population. It will start falling later this century:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E

        I am afraid that pessimism around the state of the natural world is well justified.

        1. Thanks Goosold, I just started looking at that video, and noted the AT cycling ad – I don’t have tv; is that a new ad or have I just been missing out due to no tv?

      4. Ironically you have brought up a very valid point. We need to pedestrianise Queen Street. Take away all the unnecessary cars, maybe even turn two lanes into mass transit lanes and then there will be plenty of space. And in that case Auckland can grow to 4million plus no worries 🙂

    2. I think that we should also have a plan for a scenario in which we end up in a stable population, slow-growth environment. As you say, world population growth will come to a stop sometime this century, on the current projections. We need to ask how that will work economically and socially – for instance, who will staff the rest homes when the ratio of working-age to retired people shifts?

      However, “having a plan” doesn’t mean “going out and insisting that we implement it”. To my mind, the value of planning is that it gives you options for responding to change. We need a plan for a higher rate of population growth because it could happen, and if it does, we’re going to have a lot of trouble catching up.

      Also, I don’t think that the world’s population is too large. I respect people’s own desires and choices, and the vast majority of people on the planet would prefer to be alive. That preference needs to be taken into account. However, I *do* think that our environmental impact is too large. The good news there is that there are lots of things we can do to reduce our environmental impact at *any* population level. The bad news is that we’re not doing them fast enough.

    3. Guy M – I agree the world’s population is unsustainable. However, NZ is a drop in the ocean the world’s population could start falling (which I think it likely will sometime this century) and NZ could still grow significantly.

      Also have you seen the topography of New York, Hong Kong or Seattle? Auckland could comfortably hold 3 – 4 million.

    4. I don’t think the world is over populated at all. The current way of economic growth I do feel is un-sustainable though.
      There is technologies to produce enough food, clean water and power to very easily to sustain the worlds population and more, however, is it profitable to do so? I think not, and that’s where we are going wrong.

      1. Anthony – “I don’t think the world is over populated at all” – no, you’re sadly very very wrong. The earth is definitely way too over populated to continue with the same amount of people in a sustainable fashion, in the long term. We’re using up resources at a greater rate than can be replenished – the oceans are extensively over fished, farms are only offering increased yields due to extensive organo-phosphate fertilisers, fertilisers themselves have only about 20-30 years more till they are exhausted from current stocks (seen Nauru Island lately?), oil (which took hundreds of millions of years to build up) has used up over half of all known stocks in just 100 years, and the rate of consumption is not slowing, fresh water is increasingly becoming scarce and countries are starting to turn to war as a means of settling water disputes (Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc) as well as age old territorial disputes.

        We are only just managing to present the picture that we can cope at present, because the developed part of the world (the part we live in) is consuming resources at an unsustainable rate from the people in the undeveloped part of the world. Long term, world populations must come down, and as Peter says, the approach has to be increasing literacy for women in developed countries and readily available contraception, rather than “Who dies first, and how”. Undoubtedly there will be famines (there are several in the world at present) and diseases (bird flu or Ebola haven’t, despite their best efforts, made much of a dent on the human population), droughts (numerous!), and wars (Trump working hard to ensure maximum casualties in the next war in Yemen at present), but all those factors have next to no effect when confronted with the real population leveller: women in charge of their own bodies, knowing how not to get pregnant.

        1. Guy M – Yes I agree the planets life systems are in decline, that has something to do with population, but i believe it has more to do with the economic systems of profit and people either capitalising on the vulnerable life systems of the planet, or people struggling to survive in a economic system that has shat on them and therefore don’t give regard to the environment as a short term means of survival.

          Consuming resources at an un-sustainable rate for short term profit (to a select few) is why we are in the messy situation globally.

        2. We produce enough food for about 70b people, we just need to stop feeding it to animals that we intend to eat.

          1. 70 billion? You having a laugh? Most of the things I have read on the subject put a sustainable human total at way less than 10 billion, more like 3 or 5 billion. Sir James Lovelock, who wrote (and invented) the Gaia theory, puts our long term human survival at about 1 billion only. With 70 billion people, you’re going to need to find another 69 planets to live on. Good luck finding planet 2, let alone planet 69.

            The bit that worries me is that a whole lot of people blithely think that the population will somehow automatically stop at 10 billion and just sit there happily. Although there is evidence of some levelling off, we are not on track to stop at 10 billion, but instead more likely to reach 12 or 13 billion and still be growing. Sadly, a lot of that growth in population is in areas where disease, famine, drought, and religiously fanatic warfare is already rife. Obviously, a lot of that misery is brought on by unstoppable Western appetites for raw products: rape and pillage of resources. People in Africa are starving, while every morning Sainsbury and Tesco import (airfreight) fresh green beans from the same continent to feed to obese westerners. Our mad capitalist system allows that to happen, and supports it.

            We Westerners can sit here with our hands over our ears pretending it isn’t happening, but it is. Religious fuckwits who believe that the end of the world is coming and that they alone will be saved, are as irresponsible as those who believe that to be prosperous, many children are the best way forward. Re-education is drastically needed: having children is, effectively, evil, as well as stupid. Read a book instead.

          2. All of your assumptions in there are talking about x number of people living a western lifestyle of high meat consumption, high plastic use, and high fossil fuel use.

            We produce enough food for 70b people, we just feed it to commercial livestock because that’s more profitable than feeding starving children.

          3. Sailor, still can’t figure out if you are just trying to troll me or not, but still: 70 billion is just bullshit of the highest order. Look at India – fully a quarter of the world’s population and most of them are already vegetarians – and they’re living in bloody misery. Only just over 1 billion now, comparatively little meat being consumed (no cows eaten in Hindu provinces, no pigs eaten in Muslim areas, overall chicken production is growing), but Indians have an average meat intake of about 4kg per year, compared to about 150kg of meat per average kiwi or American (figures from memory, not accurate but indicative).

            Yes, physically you could theoretically (probably) get 70 billion people standing upright somewhere on the world, but let’s face it – the planet would be totalled fucked within days. If we don’t all physically fight each other to death, we’d starve to death, die of lack of clean fresh water, or bird flu, or be out eating all the endangered species we could find for dinner.

            We have to level out at 10 billion and then hope like heck we can gradually pull the entire rate back down, without causing mass extinction of everything on the planet (except for cockroaches – they’ll survive!).

    5. It’s more to do with shit planning that makes a city a nightmare to live in. If a lot more people could all live closer to our everyday activities so within walking, cycling reach, or close to good PT links we wouldn’t have half the problems we have. Use of car should normally only be necessary for trip further afield across country etc. Denser populations all using the car for small things is what is killing our cities.

      1. Yep Grant – this is because our “planning” law the RMA has the lofty goal for our cities of allowing anything so long as the effects are avoided,remeded or mitigated. Effectively our cities have been rudderless since 1991.

    6. Auckland’s geography is substantially better suited to that volume than Hong Kong Island, which has approx 1.2M people and massive amounts of undeveloped land (though the total area is 78.59 km2 the populated area is only about 41.3 km2).

      If we include Kowloon, they’re squeezing 2M into only 47km2.

      Hong Kong (island and mainland) isn’t a nightmare of people tripping over each other. Surely Auckland with an urban area of 559.2 km2 would be less dense than HK (entirety) with an area of 88km2… Incidentally less than 25% of Hong Kong is developed, hence the density. Auckland on the other hand…

  3. And fitting for this blog, interregional transport links (non-roads) and urban rapid transit are some of the things which would bring massive benefits even if we built them well in advance of that growth…

  4. Whether it’s gonna be 6 or 10 or 15 million is not god given. It’s something that needs to be discussed, it’s largely our decision. Don’t leave that discussion to the populists.

  5. Randstad beats LA hands down. With an entirely different planning system :

    What would be lovely is some real choice. Imagine if even just one of those regional small cities /large towns was car free, with good PT connections. Plenty of places are car free for geographical reasons ; I wonder if any town would run with the idea, and see – as an experiment – if it becomes a success through the sheer unique lifestyle opportunity.

    Possibly it would work best as a suburb or ‘town centre’ within Auckland.

    1. Yes! That’s an excellent point that I couldn’t figure out how to work in to the post. One of the benefits of having more cities of all size in NZ would be that we get more choice about where and how to live.

      At the moment, we have one medium-sized city without an amazingly strong urban identity (Auckland), two small cities that do quite different things (Wellington and Christchurch) and a whole bunch of large towns that have different weather but offer basically similar housing, transport, and work options. Scaling more of those small towns up to Wellington/Christchurch size would mean that we get more diversity.

      If we did it on the Randstad model, rather than the Los Angeles model, we would still end up with quite a lot of green space and small country towns to pursue ‘traditional’ NZ pursuits such as hunting and fishing.

      1. +1 Freeze on all green space in Auckland now, I reckon. Our few remnants of lowland forest are so critical to species survival, but this inability to think up instead of spreading out will demolish it.

    2. +1, and what about building those new exurbs like that.

      What if we would have built a proper small town in Millwater, instead of just another blanket of single housing zone with a parking lot and a mall in the middle. For that one it may be too late now, we may still do this in our “future urban zones”.

  6. While you may be right to say that we should plan better for growth, the flip side to that (refer to my previous comment) is that what NZ really needs to do is to plan for Zero growth, long term. We are indeed one of the few countries that can grow a little without destroying everything – but only just. As a food basket for other countries (i think i read that we export something like 95% of our milk and cheese?) NZ is providing a service to other countries precisely by not growing. My argument is that if the future of the planet relies on us having stable population long term, i.e. not growing, then why not aim for a stable population short term i.e. now?

    The 1970s may have been an economic decline to you, but as a kid growing up then, they were fab. Big houses, big lawns to play on, no cars on the road meant you could bike everywhere, the weather was definitely better, and we had a choice of soul, funk, punk, and disco to listen to. What’s not to like about that?

    1. “the weather was definitely better”… Was it a bit chillsy for your this morning? 🙂

      I’m torn about this “bread basket” idea… using fossil carbon to transport food isn’t sustainable. Certainly milk and cheese are stupid products to be transporting – it should be dense carbohydrates, if anything.

      The one thing I’m sure about is that there is no justification for ever destroying good agricultural land.

    2. The problem with the Peter Nunns is he seems to hate New Zealand’s traditional culture.

      This leads to a cultural cringe, with an uncritical aping of what is seen as ‘ideal” foreign types of ‘sophistication” – especially European urban culture, which is held up as the absolute pinnacle of civilised achievement despite the fact they all live squillions of miles away in quite different environmental and historical contexts. Personally, if I loved the Dutch half as much as some people here seem to I’d have moved there years ago.

      Underlying it all is an explicit right wing liberal favouring of a defense of globalisation and late capitalism, complete with the free movement of people. This post is a politcal and cultural expression of the dying “radical centrism” of Blairites and wet Tories. That is why the author of this post can state:

      “…Thanks to MMP and good-government reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, we have relatively stable and trusted political institutions…”

      This being, of course, a highly political statement of his opinion presented as fact – the sort arrogance that has seen the agenda of the liberal urban middle classes electorally routed across the west in the last decade.

      1. Please refer to our user guidelines before commenting further: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/user-guidelines/

        In particular, you have a bad habit of commenting anonymously (user guideline 3) and making ad-hominem attacks against people who *are* willing to write under their own names on the internet (user guideline 4). Use your real name, or we will put your comments in moderation.

      2. Three consecutive three term governments and not a Muldoon in sight (OK Steven Joyce is doing a bit of an impression at the moment but he doesn’t have nearly the same infuence), that’s some good evidence in my mind.

      3. Which NZ culture are you thinking of? The early Maori culture, the more refined later Maori culture with Kaitiakitanga at the centre? The early european hard man every one for themselves culture, the post war culture of rugby, racing and beer?

        Culture is a continuum, you won’t have much luck preserving a specific culture even if you keep a stable population as people age and die and new people a born or immigrate.

      4. Oh, “traditional”. Ding ding! Warning sign! Which is useful given the ramble that follows.

        It’s nonsensical anyway. What does traditional even mean in an NZ context? Untouched bush with no people, pre-1200? Maori civilisation pre-1800? Or a very few decades of white midde-class quarter acre sections in the 20th century?

        In any case, NZ is a very urban nation, with a high proportion of people living in cities compared to other countries.

        1. I have no connection to MRCagney. Diversity of opinion would be wonderful in a newspaper if we had one. Instead, this is a blog for people with the common characteristic of daring to hope. I think it has plenty of disagreement, yet manages that disagreement better than most blogs.

          1. It might be nothing to do with racism. I’m white European and I don’t find anything particularly admirable in, for example, modern British urban culture – or its equivalent across the Channel. I do, however, find much to admire in the stolid English yeoman and his French compatriots.

            Living in cities is not a pre-requisite for sophistication. Look at Russia, where much of its cultural output came from boyars living out in “the bush.” Look at England, where any gentleman worth his salt lived in the countryside (perhaps retaining a Chelsea apartment). Indeed, the vast scale of human history teaches us that the rural urge is the urge that drives change and progress (Russia eastwards, USA westwards). When the population begins to agglomerate in cities, that urge to greater things so often dies (vis Aztec culture).

          2. I’m with Marx on this one: he celebrated the dynamism and progressivism of cities over the reactionary conservatism of rural areas. Read 18th Brumaire sometime. Very scathing about the “stolid French yeoman”.

          3. I only quote Marx when he agrees with me. The rest of the time he’s a dangerous German radical

          4. “Living in cities is not a pre-requisite for sophistication.” Yip, it just seems to be the pre-requisite for having a vaguely OK transport carbon footprint. Ruined by all the overseas travel, of course.

            It doesn’t have to be this way, and cities may not even be feasible in 100 years’ time. We do need to include 1-4 acre smallholdings on the edges of cities but somehow regulate to stop them being the trophy commuter-owned manor houses they are becoming. 1-4 acres is probably ideal for small family-run mixed-use horticultural operations. If we are going to somehow transition to a lifestyle that is less environmentally damaging, properties this size will be important. Just not how they’re used today.

          5. “Just not how they’re used today.”

            How are they used today? Do you have any statistics on how this type of land is used in the Auckland region?

          6. Direct experience of owning one of said properties and knowing neighbours who do likewise. Good Franklin soil used for spray-free tree crops (primarily satsuma, clementine and avocado) sold at a farmers’ market and we don’t commute to an urban area. We also have plums, pears, apples, quince, lemons, limes and peaches for our own use. We also have specimen trees that don’t produce any food – they just look good. In short, it’s the antithesis of your stereotype.

            Our neighbours grow figs commercially (they don’t commute to the city either) and a few doors down it’s lemons and more avocados. A bit further away it is grapes, more avocado, lavender (for oil), passionfruit and feijoas.

            The season for mandarins is almost here and I am well aware that we can only command a minuscule price premium over imported Australian supermarket product. The romantic idea that this land is very valuable just isn’t supported by the prices that the public is willing to pay for the produce of that land. In spite of that I shall continue to grow good fruit and sell it. The income is worthwhile, if not great and I enjoy doing it.

          7. MFD, that’s great. I have visited many such successful small horticultural operations, and am involved in similar growing (I have 70+ fruiting trees/shrubs in an urban setting, and have been involved in setting up three different community gardens).

            But I have seen and visited more trophy type properties owned by commuters, so I’d be very interested to know what the statistics say. At the moment, if you’re making any money from a sustainable small horticultural operation, you’re doing well, as you have to compete with unsustainably grown produce transported with cheap unsustainable fossil fuels..

            My comment was to do with the future – if fossil fuels are no longer so cheaply available, and we instead value sustainable horticulture and agriculture, it will mean we need more properties like yours. So planning for that time now means tagging and saving the soil, keeping the development off the good soil.

            The reason it may be imperative to also regulate to stop the “trophy” type properties is that we don’t need those cars on the road, we don’t need the energy wastage and soil-destruction that ornamental garden design and maintenance can cause (if there’s no overall ecological design), we don’t need the full ecological footprint that the large houses incur (construction waste, heating and maintenance resource use), and we don’t need the properties to become overpriced due to their large manor-type houses.

      5. ^^^ The above is an almost classical example of the thought patterns of what I call “conservative leftism”, as in this article which Peter has previously linked to: https://fightback.org.nz/2016/10/19/aucklands-no-choice-elections-blue-greens-and-conservative-leftists/ . It combines left-wing-sounding critiques of capitalism with a reactionary defence of traditional lifestyles, opposition to migration and to modern urban living, smearing anything which has changed in this country since 1984 as being Rogernomics or right-wing liberal. Ironically given the NZ parochialism, the attack on “free movement” and the term “radical centrism” are taken straight out of the vocabulary of the British conservative left (Jeremy Corbyn, Tariq Ali etc).

        These are the kind of people who switched from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump just to spite the neoliberals. This kind of Left has about as much chance of a future as King Cnut trying to order the tides around – short of totalitarian population-control and a “Fortress NZ” mentality, so no-one give this guy a gun. Thankfully, it is possible to be critical of capitalism and supportive of open borders and urbanism, as I am.

        Also, FYI, the “radical centrist” candidate in France just whipped the fascist candidate, and thank the good Lord for that.

        1. You have fundamentally misunderstood Cnut.

          The whole point of the story is that Cnut was trying to put his Yes-Men court-dwellers in their place, because although he was a King he was subservient to God and, as such, the tides weren’t going to listen to him no matter how much his court talked him up. Despite the inescapable religion, the story’s Cnut actually had a fairly modern point about the limits of human agency… just religiously reasoned. (One should note that absolutism and totalitarian rule, i.e. the most powerful states, developed a long time after Cnut… we’re talking Early Modern at the very oldest. That is, Cnut would have been acutely aware of the limits of his political power over human affairs too.)

          Ironically, of course, is that we now put the tides to use. Sure, reclamation is risky and sea walls are hardly certain, but the tide now generates power. So, the moral lesson to draw is that the Man doesn’t need your subservience to have your co-operation.

          However, generally, I am sympathetic to your point. I would draw your attention to the once controversial notion of “socialism in one country” to imply that contained borders and “left-ish” thought are mutually incompatible.. Furthermore, I again recommend Auf Wiedersehen, Pet as a fictional case study in how free (ish) movement (across borders) offers an escape from limited economic opportunities at home.

        2. “the “radical centrist” candidate in France just whipped the fascist candidate, and thank the good Lord for that.”

          There’s some benevolent “Lord” who is able to influence the supposedly democratic French elections and you are thanking him for delivering the outcome that you prefer!? The world just gets more bizarre every day. He sounds like a nasty piece of work; the sort of toff who would have had his head chopped off in revolutionary days.

      6. Would that be the contemporary Nu Zild culture that champions its gas guzzling tit pulling big mac chewing sprawl that’s going to cook the planet? If Nu Zild was a province of 4.7 million in China they would’ve flooded it with a dam to offset the obscene amount of carbon and methane emissions that the imbeciles here are producing

    3. I have to disagree. When I look back on growing up in NZ in the 1970s/1980s they were dull monochromatic times.

      Unless you were a white straight male, it would have seemed very oppressive by today’s standards. Give me our multicultural, diverse current culture any day over big backyards.

      The only thing good about it was everyone in Chch cycled everywhere until the late 80s.

      1. That was the world in general. Things and people change with time. Multiculturalism has little to do with these changes.Technology has been the main driver of these changes.
        Having a larger population to a point has also helped in turning Auckland into a proper city. It would have done so anyway with more careful immigration policies and better government policies through the 70’s,80’s and 90’s where NZ was almost irreparably damaged by Muldoonism/Rogernomics/Ruthenasia. With better government policies our economy would have been stronger, we would have retained more NZers and we would have better infrastructure today.

        1. It’s interesting you say Rogernomics/Ruthenasia irreparably damaged NZ, when no government in last 23 years has attempted to unwind this in any serious way and is basically a replica of what happened in Australia, the UK and Canada, although each country took a slightly different approach.

          Like you I don’t think multiculturalism is vital for a vibrant society, but one thing is for sure, the world’s ethnic european population is falling. Without immigration NZ would be facing an ageing and shrinking population, which is not a great situation.

          1. Australia was much more social in how they went about things (in many ways they are very backwards). Their unions are much stronger there than what unions are left here for example.
            I’m not saying that NZ didn’t need to change. What the problem was that Government (mostly National) racked up massive debt then sold off highly valuable assets for token sums mostly to foreign buyers. Had they taken a more careful approach like Australia then the country would probably be better off to the tune of about $100B (ie net govt debt at zero, more spent on infrastructure), and we wouldn’t necessarily be sending several billion each year to other countries (particularly Australia’s banks). That money circulating through the NZ economy would have be a virtuous circle. Australia has made good gains at NZ’s expense over the past 3 decades. Without those gains it wouldn’t have been so popular for NZers so more would have stayed here and we would have grown that way.

            If birth rates are too low then there are ways to encourage people to have more children – maternity leave, childcare, more government paid services for children to reduce their cost to parents etc.

          2. I agree that Muldoon created a significant hole for NZ, had we had MMP back then it could have been a very different story. Probably wouldn’t have got more than 3 years and wouldn’t have been able to be Finance Minister as well.

            I think the Australian bank thing is a bit of a myth. All four banks are listed on both stock exchanges, and generally the holdings by New Zealander’s is around 15 – 20 %, about our population as a proportion of Australia’s. So basically the NZ capitalisation in the banks is about the same as it would be if they were NZ owned banks based here.

            Given the well off tend to have less children I don’t think those sorts of financial incentives have much impact on the birthrate.

    1. I suspect there are many others in your boat. However, if we attempt to keep the population stable we have to accept we will have an even more rapidly ageing population, with a lower proportion of working age people to cover the costs of healthcare and welfare driving up taxes.

      This has the potential to spiral as younger people leave for larger countries with more vibrant cities and lower taxes. While I think our current rate of growth is not sustainable, I don’t think a level population is a future I want either.

    2. Need and want are not relevant.

      Fail to plan and you plan to fail. It may well be a cliche, but how do cliches start out – As observed truisms. 🙂

  7. NZ MUST NOW.

    1.)Make Jacinda the leader and change government, some National supporters vote Act to keep a balance of smart people to buffers Labours naivety
    2.) make NZTA fund Rail
    3.) SkyTV needs to run a net based solution for cheaper and possible try some free models.
    4.) Make Hamilton the Capital with rapid rail connection all cities.
    5.) Keep immigration high
    6. STOP Corroborate welfare and imprison MPs who are corrupt.
    7.) Remove RMA, and stop funding private tertiary education.

    1. See, Vera, plenty of diversity of opinion here! 🙂

      Pies, what’s Jacinda got that Andrew hasn’t? A purely innocent question here… no idea where it might lead.

      1. He is seen as out of touch, angry and boring it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not impressions are important and it’s hard to change the publics perception.

        He also has a tendency to go gun-ho opposition to anything National says which National strategists understand so bait them with policy then watch Little double down against luring him into a trap which they did with immigration

        1. I was talking about this some weeks ago and some additional points were made:

          1) He has terrible political judgement… wedding Labour to the Greens (quite aside from having created a situation where ACT is the only party able to criticise populist immigration rhetoric without being hypocritical) essentially served no purpose other than to affirm National’s (dubious) interpretation of macroeconomics because it was also seen as necessary to issue assurances that a Labour-Greens govt. would work as if it were National.

          2) There are massive inconsistencies between the policies that Little’s Labour has put out and the a priori assessment of positions a Labour party would take. The most obvious example of this is with immigration, but it also reflects Little’s status as a hold-over from the “Not John Key Party” days of, um, last year.

          3) Angry Andrew is reasonably unknown… and when his known, it’s within the context of the perceptions noted by Harriet.

          Replacing Little with Ardern thus becomes less an expression of faith in her capabilities as a leader and more a hope that you can scapegoat all of Labour’s issues with Little and achieve a clean slate via a “purge”. One replaces Little with Ardern specifically because she has symbolic potency, i.e. is relatively popular and relatively young… which is why it is seen as an Ardern or Little dilemma (in my opinion).

          (Notice, I buy into these opinions… I have started the scapegoating process… it is entirely possible Little is rather like David Potter on Rake… left raging in private about the direction his party is taken and his inability to do anything about it… although unlike this fictional parallel it’s about policy rather than endemic corruption swamping all else.)

          1. Conveniently from June 23rd through to the election the Labour parties constitution allows a direct vote on the leader by caucus, bypassing the usual convoluted process. Will be interesting to see if a coup is being lined up.

          2. I’m enjoying this. Without tv, I think I miss quite a bit of the media angle. Why won’t you vote Labour if JA is leader?

  8. I think Sydney was perfect size at about 3.4 million form my experience. I think 4 max million for Auckland could work. 1 million for Hamilton and 1 for Wellington and maybe 3 for Christchurch.

    1. I think NZ will reach 10m, even if world population stablises. It’s a nice place to live and we grow enough food to feed 40m already. But, of the city predictions I don’t see Wellington getting over 500k in any scenario (city itself, not greater area) on the basis that hills are expensive to build on, insurance costs are going to just get steeper, and “building up” is also costlier there than elsewhere. Also, government won’t grow as fast as overall population and much government growth will probably be housed outside the capital… so no real jobs growth (it already has plenty of brewers and baristas).

    2. Why would you want to turn the single greatest/best dairy productive land in THE WORLD (Waikato) into a city of 1 million people? What a waste! The urban sprawl of Hamilton is already larger than it should be.

        1. That is all well and good and we have other land for higher value produce etc. The simple fact is that the world has an increasing demand for dairy and the Waikato Region is the best in the world for Dairy farming.
          The value add should be in developing more products with that dairy in this case, not in putting cows in sheds and feeding them grain etc rather than grass. Yes Hamilton could hold more people provided it goes up not out. It already is large enough area-wise.
          Same goes for Sailor Boys comment – up not out then fine but we all know that just won’t happen and soon enough the Tron will stretch all the way from Huntly to Cambridge and TA – all with the private vehicle not PT.
          There is simply no need for Hamilton to be such a large city when it’s main purpose is to act as a service centre for the surrounding farms and small towns UNLESS it is strictly within it’s existing boundaries. Because of it’s flat stable nature it would be great to see a whole lot of medium-high density in the city centre. Develop inter-city rail and Hamilton really could become a commuter city for Auckland as well as developing it’s own industries further.

      1. Hamilton’s current footprint (Includings town from Huntly to Te Awamutu, Cambridge and Morrinsville could comfortably sustain 1 million people. There are already over 200,000 people there.

  9. As a nation we need to decide in essence do we need to provide infrastructure for 5 million more people [be they locals or tourists] or 25 million more cows.

    ‘Cos – we can’t do both – and still have a country worth living in at the end of it.

    But I doubt we’ll get either decisions made in a timely measured way, because that requires a Government that is willing to pick winners and losers. And thus choose having good/desirable outcomes over bad ones.

    And they don’t like doing that – well at least *overtly* these days, unlike it was back in the 40’s and 50’s when the Government planned to, did actually build houses and provide jobs for the predicted populations.

    Current Governments are happy to let stuff happen with dairy cow populations, stand alone houses or tourism growing like topsy without any provision for infra. or thought as to where it should and shouldn’t be happening, or for that matter even thinking about how to manage the inevitable downsides of the “growth”.

    And given each dairy cow shits and pees as much a 6 tourists [or locals] a day – even if both use the local farm “paddocks” for their business, I know which population growth will be the easier one to manage.
    Hint: Its not dairy. Especially when it results in nothing more but a bigger mountain of Whole Milk Powder.

    But, just like we can’t keep growing NZs dairy herd [or car herd for that matter] ad infinitum, and keep dumping the resulting pollution on the fields and in the air all the while hoping it will go away quietly and without causing any issues. As it doesn’t.

    We similarly can’t keep allowing standalone houses or motorway development to run rampant everywhere because some developer or motorway planner chooses to put it there.

    We need a much smarter growth policy all round, that is aware and manages growth of all kinds, in a much better way, for what is now an obviously resource constrained planet.

    And certainly not the same old ideas that we have used from decades ago simply gussied up with new clothing which always assumed that limitless growth, forever, was possible and desirable. Which is what we’re still getting even now.

    It probably was sustainable, just – back when we had 1 million people and few million more sheep.

    The New Zealand human and flora and fauna population of tomorrow whatever form that takes simply can’t look, be and act like the NZ of yesterday. Because that way is not actually sustainable.

    And thats not a left or right political thing, its a fact of nature thing.

    1. Largely agree, although I’m not sure that government picking winners is the way to go, as they are just as likely to pick loosers – Marsden Power Station, Glenbrook, Tiwai Pt, Manapouri etc. The current government are having a go at it too with Convention Centres, Tiwai Pt again.

      We definitely need to plan ahead more, put the rules in place (cow numbers per hectare etc), but we could do with less attempting to pick winners in my opinion.

      1. You can’t guarantee every pick is going to be a winner [and if you do you’re not trying hard enough or trying for the moonshot type picks], but what you need to do is make some picks and then keep picking and choosing more.

        So that enough of them will be winners that the inevitable failures you get along the way won’t matter.

        Hell its better than not picking, and just letting the decision happen – then you’re not being able set your destiny at all.

        Those examples you cited are all known duds, but some of those were from decisions made 40 years ago, in a time and a galaxy far far away.
        So how many duds do you want to keep puling up to illustrate your point?

        What about the failure to electrify Auckland railways 70+ years ago? or failure to build Robbies Rail?
        Or how about the adoption of the 3 foot 6 inch rail gauge, or selling off NZ Railways, opening railways to competition from trucks? Killing off Coastal Shipping? Not having a national ports [or airports] strategy.

        Failure to preserver PT rights of way in Auckland over the decades?

        The list of “failures” you can mention is endless, but to sit around saying “we can’t make a decision in case its the wrong one”, is worse than making a decision, with the best advice at the time AND Then if its wrong, revisit the damn decision.

        Its the making a bad call, then letting it stand forevermore which is the worst outcome.

        1. If by pick winners you mean plan our future urban areas so they are well laid out, have good allowance for rapid transit, putting in place water quality standards, managing fish stocks for the future etc then I agree with you.

          However, if picking winners is deciding between human or cow population growth then I disagree – the government should not be making that sort of bet. For example if they were to go with 25 million cows or 10 million tourists the bottom could fall out of either of these markets rendering them useless.

          The government should be putting in place the framework to allow any of these things to happen if the market allows and they can be achieved within acceptable standards, such as water quality. I would suspect 25 million cows and acceptable water quality will never work.

          The last thing we need is Steven Joyce taking a bet on our best economic path for the next 50 years and deciding on tourism only to find the cost of jet fuel kills that industry.

        2. Yes, a well crafted reply and makes the point, that last sentence sums up, imho, exactly where we are now with various proposals involving LR. Especially with NW and NS rail solutions where the proper long term should be HR and eventually an HR ring NW to NS via upper harbour.

  10. Whether we like it or not there are 600,000 kiwis living in Australia who will probably come back here as the persecution by that government gets worse. We need a plan now to stop them all showing up and immediately claiming benefits, housing, healthcare and subsidised education. Bring in a rule that requires you to live here for 5 years before you qualify for help from the taxpayers regardless of citizenship.

    1. Nope. Citizens of NZ, no matter where they are, deserve help and succour.

      Yes, they turned their back on NZ to earn 40 pieces of silver, but when the prodigal son returns, give him your fatted calf.

    2. If there are 600,000 kiwis living in Australia, then they are probably well educated and have been well employed, and they will make great kiwi citizens when they return home. They might just speak with a slightly annoying accent and watch Home and Away a bit more than average, but that’s never been a punishable offence….

      1. Guy, depends when they come home… do they come home when they are retired?
        Luckily most of them will have been paying compulsory Super in Oz so should be able to fund their own retirement (and hopefully the government adjusts their super payments to reflect that so the burden doesn’t lay with the NZ taxpayer for people who have enjoyed living in Oz). Chances are however if they have been living there for long enough, have property and super then they will stay there in the warmer climate until such time as the money runs out then will look to come back here and live off the NZ taxpayer unless they can qualify for Federal government backed super payments.

  11. Have there been any work done on a geospatial max for Auckland based on your transport modelling? Assuming roughly similar work nodes; scale up rather then scale out; with some minor scale out.

    Vs say the scale out model some people still love to push.

    It would also be interesting to put the overall into historic context. Consider a country like Austria with a population of 8.6 million and Vienna with a population of 1.8 million.

    How the scale up of a city like Vienna from the 1820s to 1920s would compare to Auckland.

  12. “New Zealand has experienced large positive effects from migration. These benefits, which were worth something on the order of 4.3% of GDP, principally arose due to the benefits of a larger and more diverse population for consumer choice and fiscal sustainability.”

    Just wondering about the impacts of this research on planning, as regards satellite cities. IT people often suggest there is a threshold minimum population in a particular industry in a particular city for the industry to function. As a result, people suggest satellite cities can function if they specialise in one specific industry.

    I’ve always thought that sometimes people fall in love and marry someone from another industry, so one-industry cities wouldn’t quite work. 🙂

    The research you quote seems to suggest it also wouldn’t work economically, as the satellite cities wouldn’t have sufficient diversity for consumer choice and fiscal sustainability.

    1. It all depends on what you mean by a satellite city. If you mean something like Hamilton, which is a few hours away from Auckland and where most people work locally, then yeah, that’s pretty workable. But it will only grow organically in response to demand – difficult to engineer, especially if you’re trying to build it all around a single industry that may fall off a cliff if global demand changes.

      If you mean something like Albany, which is at the edge of the Auckland urban area and where people commute all over the city and meet a reasonable share of retail and employment needs locally, then that can also work. But it’s basically going to function as an extension of the existing city, meaning that it won’t fundamentally alter the transport and infrastructural challenges.

      If you mean conjuring up a 50,000 person city from scratch in (say) Drury, and expecting everyone to work locally and never set a tyre on the Southern Motorway, then that *won’t* work. It never has.

  13. Shouldn’t we be planning for ten million cars? Sorry, I must have been channelling NZTA.

    More seriously, you are correct. If we want systems that make sense in the long term, we should plan in the long term. We build bridges and railroads that will last 100 years, but only analyse their operations for 20 years and their economics for at best 40 years. After that we assume a miracle happens and everything is fine.

  14. Don’t we already have a plan for 10 million people? It involves 7 million living in Auckland with the same number of houses, roads, buses and pipes as now and 3 million spread across the rest of the country.

  15. I think it is a great exercise to imagine what a 10 million country would look like – from a transport and urban planning perspective. There is a good chance NZ will have more than 10 million and, therefore, lets allow the cities and towns respond to it. This means having the flexibility to adapt if the population were to grow. So reserving space for parks, schools, commercial, residential, roads, rail, water all makes perfect sense.

    Off topic a bit but following on from the comments above – overpopulation is a myth. There are plenty of resources to handle many more people than there is now and no one is going to starve to death because we cannot grow enough food. Famines are caused by political factors – no famine in a democracy.

    1. Overpopulation is not a myth, Adrian. This might be a trolling comment, but if not, I would refer you to the great work of http://www.populationmatters.org.

      I disagree that we can reduce our environmental impact at “*any* population level” to something workable, particularly when mitigation right now is mainly about doing things the same way, but a bit less terribly. This is a planet full of other animals, plants and wonders. We need to achieve balance and all of the facts show us that we’re in ecological overshoot. Life on planet earth would be better if we stablised the human population at present day levels (and if we went into decline over time).

      Where are we headed if the human population just grows and grows and grows? Why would we do that? None of the problems that we presently face: congestion, pollution, overcrowding, pressure in schools and on healthcare, resource shortages, habitat destruction, extinctions, would not be easier to tackle if we stabilised or reduced the human population over time. 7.5 billion of us is enough. Adding 240,000 humans every day, 80 million a year is daunting.

      Policy-wise, this doesn’t mean huge changes, it means promoting and rewarding small families, moving away from a pro-natalist culture (equitable benefits & promoting alternative lifestyles), educating women (everywhere) and not creating welfare systems that pay people to have large families.

      I wish this could be a matter for more open policy discussion because it’s a much brighter picture than growth for the sake of growth. We talk about the challenges of population growth, rapid urbanisation etc., that’s out in the open, but why don’t we discuss mitigation in the same way that we do when we talk about, say, climate change?

      1. Climate change is an issue that we can address by changing behaviours and investing in new technologies. We can do that without any serious impact on people’s rights or material wellbeing.

        Reducing population growth, by contrast, means that we must either figure out how to make people die faster or breed slower. Full stop. Over the last century, we’ve repeatedly tried to do either (a) or (b), generally finding that the results were appalling and that we don’t really want to build the future of humanity on the methods of history’s greatest monsters.

        The one thing that *does* seem to work without massive human rights violations, as I’ve said above, is raising incomes in the developing world and educating and empowering women so that they have more ability to make choices about their bodies.

        As I’ve also pointed out, that’s not a quick solution. Many countries have already undergone the fertility transition, and the world’s still growing due to demographic lag and longer life expectancy.

        So it’s not so much that I’m unwilling to have the conversation as I am uncertain what the point of it is. If you want to come up with a scheme to double incomes in Bangladesh and educate more women there, great! It’ll probably benefit everyone involved. But if you’re not discussing solutions of that nature, you’re not really solving the problem.

          1. Peter, i agree – breed slower. The difference in growth rates between populations where people start breeding about 9 years old (actually more countries than you might care to think) and countries like ours where people are now breeding often nearer 40, even at the same replacement rate (i.e. only 2 children each), has a massive effect on population. It’s like an accelerating car vs a single person on a skateboard. Both move, but one faster than the other.

        1. “…and investing in new technologies” Whilst I agree, I do so with caution.

          I’ve been interested in technology since I was a kid. I’ve been in the tech sector in various roles since the early 90s.

          One thing that I’ve learnt is that disruptive tech can sometimes appear out of nowhere, perhaps by reusing existing technologies in a novel way. Another thing that I’ve learnt is that the tech industry is not at all green, even creating green tech is a dirty business.

          Every device you own contains poisonous chemicals (essential doping agents in semiconductors for example) and is produced only through massive amounts of energy.

          I’m not saying that I’m turning into a neo-Luddite, nor am I saying that tech will always be an incredibly dirty business – What I am saying is that it will take a long time before tech comes anywhere close to being green. Unless some new disruptive tech comes along 😉

          1. To clarify, I don’t really mean investing in developing new technologies – the payoff from innovation is uncertain and as you note there are unintended consequences.

            Rather, I think we should invest in rolling out a combination of existing and improving technologies that have been proven to work. For instance, we know that insulation and double-glazed windows reduce energy consumption to heat homes. We know that bicycles and electric trains move people around quite efficiently in cities with a low carbon footprint, if transport systems are planned properly. We know that solar power is cost-competitive with coal *right now*. There’s no good reason not to scale this stuff up at the moment, all over the place.

            As the saying goes: the future is already here, just unevenly distributed.

      2. Countries that have rapid population growth don’t have welfare systems that encourage large families, they often don’t have welfare systems at all.

        The countries that do have welfare systems that encourage larger families often have birth rates that are below replacement level, so they are clearly not doing much to encourage larger families. Getting rid of them may end up just harming children from larger families.

        Educate your population and you will have lower birthrates, with a well educated society thrown in, it really is the way to go.

      3. I think you are conflating two things: human beings and current policy. It is possible to have more human beings and change policy regarding allocation of resources. I think we should change policies rather than the alternative.

      4. I looked at that webpage. “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder — and ultimately impossible — to solve with ever more people.”

        Sir David Attenborough, Population Matters patron

        It makes sense but does it not forget one factor which is humans can innovate to solve problems? And the issue is not purely about our numbers but our habits?

        For example: Less animal products for a start, less wastage, more high rise, gyms connected to power our systems, less un needed activities: Entertainment, some Sports, Politics, all not essential for survival,

  16. The real reason everyone wants population growth is so there is more taxpayers they can sponge off when they retire, and/or they stand to make more money from their current investments if the population grows. Otherwise if you want big city living, you can simply go overseas to one of many big cities.

    What NZ has going for it, is its relatively low population and its culture of democratic socialism. Excessive immigration dilutes both of these. It makes NZ more like the places people are coming from – India, China etc. If it was better living in those places, why would they be coming here?

    Having a stable population means you do not need to continually upgrade infrastructure. You could build long term projects of the highest quality as you would know they will not need to be torn down in a few years and replaced with something bigger.

      1. Like a different world… They need 2 million dollars in Ohura for a water line. About the cost of two Auckland houses… But in Auckland – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11784545 – 5mm of rain and raw sewerage goes into the harbour.. Anyone moving to Auckland will be paying off their mortgage for the rest of their lives… I would rather have Ohura’s problems than Aucklands any day.. Houses for $20k leave a lot left over to pay for a water tank…

    1. The real reason everyone wants population growth is so there is the same proportion of taxpayers they can sponge off when they retire, stable population would result in less taxpayers to cover our costs and look after us when we get old.

        1. In an NZ context I think it is sustainable. In a world context it probably isn’t, but the vast majority of the world don’t get access to pensions anyway. I don’t think bringing in a few people from overseas to help pay our pensions and staff our retirement villages will have one iota of difference on world population sustainability.

      1. I’ve been saying for quite some time that this was the reason why Key was so keen on getting new immigrants – not only do they boost the GDP, but they also mean that they will be there to pay taxes and support the baby boomers in their retirement. Remember how everyone else was saying that we would have to raise our retirement age (including even the Retirement Commissioner) and Key was just like “Yeah naah, not on my list” – it was precisely because he knew that by keeping immigration at record high levels, that retirement age could have a chance to stay the same.

        Plus, extra votes for National tend to help as well. So refugees are kept low (750 per year, while new business migrants are kept high (75,000 per year…)
        Refugees? = Poor people (lower socio-economic earners tend to vote Labour).
        But immigrants? = Keen on business (therefore self-sustaining, keener on National).

        Yes, I’m cynical, but it all ties together….

        1. Here’s John Key in front of one of their 2008 election billboards: https://cdn.thestandard.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/wave-goodbye-billboard-words-are-cheap.png?x57220

          My hypothesis is that the factors that would cause more Kiwis to stay here rather than move to Australia are pretty similar to the factors that would cause more people to move here from other countries. So it’s probably quite difficult to devise a policy that encourages more New Zealanders to stay without *also* boosting immigration from other sources.

          This isn’t to say that the specific policies that National have followed in government have been optimal, or even desirable. The uptick in net migration is probably as much about failure elsewhere (eg the recent increase in immigration enquiries from the UK and US) as success here. But I would say, rather strongly, that policies that succeed in reducing demand to migrate to NZ will also cause more young New Zealanders to move overseas.

    2. “The real reason everyone wants population growth is so there is more taxpayers they can sponge off when they retire….”

      More importantly they want jobs for their kids, You would to , if you had any.

  17. Excellent article, and decent discussion below. Given that birth rates are falling, as is the rate of natural population increase, immigration is likely to play a larger role in our population growth rate in the future. To some degree, this gives us the ability to control our own population growth, through the quick, clean & simple political process.

    I’m interested in whether people think we should plan *for* population growth, or plan population growth itself.

  18. Mmmmmm, population…. very complex question. So many feedback loops!
    I think cases can be made that NZ will grow quicker than projected, and slower!
    The case for quicker growth:
    – Aus’s prospects seem less buoyant moving forward. Less kiwis will leave, more will return or not leave in the first place, and NZ could in relative terms be a more attractive employment destination than Aus
    – We are a bastion of (relative) safety in a volatile and unsafe world
    – Despite some not insignificant issues, our healthcare and education systems are good by world standards
    – Unlike many western countries, our population will continue to grow, assisting with economic growth

    The case against growth, I think, primarily centres around housing. Overall, NZ must be a far less attractive destination than it was 15 years ago, for potential immigrants (other than very wealthy ones), given our housing costs.
    Similarly, we will reach limits of growth if we can’t build enough homes, and the prospects don’t look great. Build costs are horrid, and as a small island country we are always going to struggle with that.
    The hope is some of the bigger building players can advance prefab innovation.
    I think another factor that could limit NZ’s growth is natural disasters. There is every chance that a major earthquake could strike Wellington or Christchurch (Alpine fault) in the next 30-40 years, and either event would be a major blow. Tauranga is also quite susceptible to quakes.

    1. We are so far behind on our housing we can’t even get back to scarce. Key importing 75000 new party voters every year doesn’t help.

      There’s also the 830 something new cars on Aucklands roads every week. Nobody is building them new roads.

      It’s crazy, adding massive amounts ofnew citizens to make the economy work is like adding more lanes to a motorway to cut traffic.

  19. ‘Thanks to MMP and good-government reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, we have relatively stable and trusted political institutions, which means that our economy is less likely to be derailed by nonsense like Brexit or the Trump clown show.’

    I don’t think Brexit is nonsense at all. There are a lot of very disenfranchised and downtrodden people in the UK (and in NZ), neo-liberalism has had its benefits but also many costs. I’m pretty tired of the rhetoric that emanates from the urban middle class that fails to understand the phenomenon.
    I’m not saying Trump is the answer at all – rather, the centre-left has failed to develop and articulate an alternative vision.
    There is something fundamentally rotten in the west, and Brexit and Trump is a reaction to that, even if it is the wrong reaction (in my opinion)

    1. That point probably needed further explanation.

      Brexit and Trump seemed to arise from a lack of trust in “the system”. The causes are multifarious and include both deep-rooted racism and bigotry as well as the deleterious long-term effects of 1980s and 90s policy reforms on employment and economic prospects for many people. If we want to avoid the same we need to have a political system worth trusting. I see good-government initiatives and a robust civil society as crucial to that.

      My hope is that MMP has improved public confidence in the political system by ensuring that (a) many points of view are represented in Parliament and (b) major parties must seek consensus with other parties *prior* to making big changes. It seems to have been working that way, although I’m a bit concerned about how hard it is for new parties to enter Parliament.

  20. The Opportunities Party – run by two economists – are on record as saying the positive economic effects of immigration are marginal at best. Does that mean your linked article is more an outlier than representative?

    http://www.top.org.nz/responsible_immigration_sorting_fact_from_fiction

    Someone is yet to explain how all these recent immigrants will pay their way. If they take an existing job rather than creating a new one they havent increased the tax base one iota but they certainly have created costs in terms of new infrastructure demand.

    1. The overwhelming consensus from research into the economic effects of immigration is that it has little positive or negative effect on wages for the ‘native’ population. Even relatively large inflows of migrants, such as the Mariel Boatlift, which increased Miami’s labour force by 8% in the space of a few months in 1980, have little effect: https://www.cgdev.org/blog/what-mariel-boatlift-cuban-refugees-can-teach-us-about-economics-immigration

      And, to be clear, this evidence directly contradicts some of the assertions that TOP is making in that piece (about immigration lowering wages). They are misrepresenting the evidence.

      Over their lifespan, migrants tend to pay their way through taxes, and other contributions to society. They don’t require any more of an infrastructure subsidy than a young ‘native-born’ New Zealander trying to buy a home. They also tend to make a disproportionately large contribution to innovation and startups: https://www.inc.com/magazine/201502/adam-bluestein/the-most-entrepreneurial-group-in-america-wasnt-born-in-america.html

      Set against this, immigration tends to be quite good for immigrants – it opens up new opportunities for them. I’d estimate that migration is responsible for approximately 50% of the economic mobility that my family has experienced over the last 500 years – higher education accounts for the remaining 50%.

      In economic terms, immigration offers something close to a pure Pareto improvement – ie it makes some people better off while making *almost nobody* worse off. That’s a very rare thing in policy-world: we usually have to impose costs on *somebody* in order to achieve net social benefits.

      1. To clarify further: if you delve into the study I linked to in this post, it shows that most of the positive welfare effects of migration come about as a result of its effect on market size and consumer choice – ie not through effects on wages or productivity.

        Finally, NZ *already* has an immigration system that does what TOP says it should do, ie prioritise skilled migrants. We can quibble about the specific occupations that are included on the list, and the unintended consequences of student visas, but in a big-picture sense they’re calling for more of the status quo.

        Overall, TOP’s economic analysis and policy recommendations are very bad.

        1. Peter, from my brief review of these papers, almost all of the benefits are “financial” economic and non-financial utility effects e.g. happiness, satisfaction, culture etc. are not costed into the models.

          For example, while a Maori in 1850 might have gained significant financial benefits by 1870 from European colonisation, he might have been willing to trade those extra pounds for a country without Europeans.

          It could be my poor reading and if so I stand corrected, but it seems to me that an economic model needs to be more than a financial model and should incorporate multiple forms of utility. We know some of the happiest (highest net utility) countries in the world are also the poorest.

          1. The paper I linked in the post estimated the magnitude of non-financial benefits, but reported them in monetary terms to enable a consistent comparison with other benefits (or disbenefits) that have financial values: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002219961630040X

            One important non-monetary benefit from migration arises in the dating market. A large share of Aucklanders seem to have found partners who moved here from elsewhere. They presumably derive significant benefits as a result.

          2. Peter, how does immigration improve the dating market? Now I’m not a statistical whizz, but given two populations with the same distribution of attractiveness, and assuming heterosexual relationships (to keep it simple), and assuming the same distribution of gender, it doesn’t matter whether the population is 100 or 10,000, your odds as an average male/female of meeting someone attractive don’t change at all – in 100, 50 males are looking for 50 females, in 10,000, 5,000 and so forth.

            Now of course you could predicate that immigrants change the distribution of attractiveness, or the distribution of gender, but the former is hard to justify and the latter makes it harder for one gender.

          3. People have varied tastes, preferences, and interests, and it’s easier to find someone compatible with yours if you have a larger or more diverse pool of people to match with.

  21. Great to read this article, I have often had this conversation and theorised much in the same way as you.

    What I would really love to see is a political party adopt 10m as it’s population framework and create policy based on making that a reality in a set time.
    If we fall short and only achieve 7.5-8m by say 2050, no problem – plenty of structure and sustained growth.

    Having a more mature / sophisticated internal market would be great for NZ businesses, and of course it would attract more foreign firms too.
    Kudos on the article.

  22. Having a democratic, beautiful, happy country will always attract people.
    These are the basics for creating jobs like the many we now have in tourism, education, IT, entertainment, construction, Americas Cup, Masters Games, Rocket Lab, etc. There are many NZ businesses taking on the world. Xero, Pushpay, Datacom, CBL, Vista, Skyline enterprises, Douglas Pharmaceuticals, Fand P, Fonterra, Gentrack, Orion Health, Truscreen and many more.
    Unfortunately the number of NZ people who support the NZ share market and NZ businesses is low, Over the years we have lost many good companies (about 50 last year) selling to overseas buyers.

    1. A big part of that is that property is a huge chunk of the NZ investment portfolio. Taxing it more fairly (More tax on property) would encourage stock investment to support start ups and expansions in NZ businesses.

  23. I’d be happy if NZ had planned for 4.5m people.

    As Peter found, I have driven around NZ over the past month from Bluff to Cape Reinga – twice – and our infrastructure is already inadequate in many places.

    Always playing catch-up instead of building for the future….and doing it over and over and over….repeating the same mistakes apparently endlessly.

    The blue end of the political spectrum is most crippled where imagination is concerned. They not only can’t see the future to save themselves, they too often refuse to accept the present either. Climate change, anyone?

    They don’t own this tendency exclusively, of course, but they make a brave effort in that direction.

  24. Well done, Peter. 155 comments so far; I think this one touches a nerve. As I learned at the “Climate Conversations Training” last year, everyone is grieving over what we’re doing to this Earth, just in different ways.

    1. Thanks Heidi. It’s been an interesting discussion; certainly a fair amount of grief and anguish on display.

      However, I think the discussion also illustrates why we have problems growing: rather than take a pragmatic view and figuring out what we can do to get out ahead of it, people prefer to argue about whether it should happen. The energy people spend argue that somebody else should solve our problems by not having babies would be better directed towards looking for solutions to the problems that we are causing.

      1. Well yes, sort of – a good discussion to be sure, but the issue I have is that people advocating growth is the answer have essentially only a very short term view – obviously New Zealand CAN grow, the real question is not so much whether it SHOULD grow, but the ultimate one: what to do when we STOP growing. Obviously, growth has to be finite – nothing can keep growing for ever – but so if we have to stop growing sometime, what benefit to we get by growing for another 20 years and stopping then? If you have to stop some time, why not simply stop now?

        1. It will be a long time before NZ needs to stop growing. Even if the world’s population started shrinking we could grow for another 200+ years.

        2. But it isn’t “people advocating growth” it is people advocating for planning for growth. Rather than just putting their heads in the sand and saying it shouldn’t happen. Unless there is a political shift and we just shut down immigration and even then we still have relatively high natural population growth by developed nation status.

          NZ has been excellent so far at just ignoring problems and hoping they go away, population growth being one of the main ones. Those chickens are now coming home to roost and it appears to be the same people who wanted to do nothing to prepare for the problem coming, that are now saying let’s do nothing now the problem is here.

          Coming back to NZ I realised what a bunch of tight arses we are. We don’t want to spend money on anything unless we directly benefit. It is lucky we have had such a low population until now because with the attitudes we have, it would be a disaster otherwise.

        3. As goosoid points out, having a plan for what we will do *if* growth happens more rapidly than expected is not the same as planning to increase the growth rate. It’s about getting out in front of something that *could* happen, in order to maximise the upside and minimise the risks.

          And, as I’ve pointed out in the past, based on *widely available* data, a majority of the city’s population growth is due to natural increase – ie Aucklanders having kids – rather than immigration: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2015/11/25/why-is-auckland-growing/

          So unless you want to start drastically restricting *New Zealanders* right to have children, we will need to plan for some level of growth, at least over the next 50 years. So why not just plan for a few scenarios to ensure we’ve got options to address a range of outcomes.

  25. At least New Zealand First, Greens and Labour are opposing a mass immigration. Perhaps they understand the risks to our environment for which Nuns does not?

    We can handle managed growth with skilled immigrants, but not flooded with low skilled ones who simply depress wages of fellow Kiwis on low incomes. This is what National has delivered and we are now all about to pay for it.

    1. The primary problem associated with immigration is the backlash it prompts from people who are afraid of change or unwilling to live with people who don’t look the same or speak the same (first) language. Some political parties may see advantage in chasing those votes, but that doesn’t mean the underlying attitudes are healthy or based on evidence.

      There is little evidence that immigration reduces wages, even among low-skilled workers – something you would realise if you had read *any* of the relevant literature on the topic, eg: https://www.cgdev.org/blog/what-mariel-boatlift-cuban-refugees-can-teach-us-about-economics-immigration

      As far as the environmental effects, I’m far more worried about the impact of dairy intensification, which is mainly being pushed along by white New Zealanders. If we have credible environmental management policies, a few extra people aren’t a problem. If we don’t, restricting immigration won’t make a damn bit of difference. If you’re worried about New Zealand’s environment, focus on the real problems rather than pretending you can fix things by building a wall.

        1. Do you think this is actually the wrong policy? Perhaps it’s counter-intuitive, but

          1. Skilled/rich immigrants distort the NZ housing market, making it harder for NZers to buy houses
          2. The work shortages are in largely unskilled jobs

          Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to import low-skilled workers, who can’t afford houses and distort the market, but can fill work needs?

        2. Genuine question and it’s purely based on observation with no stats to back it up. My observation is the largest proportion of immigrants in NZ are working jobs that would be below the median wage – bus drivers, retail, fast food, cleaning etc.

          I suspect these are areas that if we didn’t have migrants there would be some serious labour shortages. The last three at least I would have thought are very low skilled jobs, how does immigration account for this?

          1. I believe the low wage imports are because the pay is so low kiwis won’t do the jobs. This leaves two obvious choices; raise the pay until Kiwis will- or import labour who will do it cheap.

            The second option involves providing more infrastructure, housing, retirement money etc etc than the first.

            For some reason our Govt doesn’t think the first option feasible…

          2. Here’s a link to data on the occupation of migrants in NZ: http://nzdotstat.stats.govt.nz/wbos/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=TABLECODE4

            In 2007-2009, Stats NZ surveyed 25,840 migrants employed in NZ. Of that number:
            * The largest single employment category was professionals – 7530 people, or 29% of employed migrants
            * This was followed by managers (4770 people, or 18%) and technicians and trades workers (3290, or 13%)

            In other words, 60% of employed migrants worked in three skilled occupational categories. (NB: This is not to say that other employed migrants are unskilled, merely that they include jobs with a range of skill levels.)

            This is consistent with what you’d expect from NZ’s immigration system, which places a high priority on access for skilled migrants. 65% of the employed migrants entered through skilled migrant visas, and another 19% entered via partner visas (usually partners of skilled migrants).

            I would encourage you to refer to the publicly available data on the topic rather than relying upon ill-informed reckons.

      1. “The primary problem associated with immigration is the backlash it prompts from people who are afraid of change or unwilling to live with people who don’t look the same or speak the same (first) language”

        What rubbish. Has it occured to you that kiwis actually like their country the way it is? TBH, you don’t appear to “get” NZ very well. I suggest you get out into the provinces for a refresher course in what people actually like and want to stay the same about their country.

        The real question is why are you so intent on wanting everything to grow? More people, more commerce, more cost, more profit? Why do you fear and reject the notion of standing still and simply enjoying where you are, as it is? Why the desire for greater consumerism? Why faster, noisier, bigger, grow, grow, grow? What is the point of it?

        Humanity is taking life on Earth into the 6th mass extinction. Science is predicting the era of man itself is coming to a close. Why do you want the processes bringing that about to hasten?

        Try to allow yourself to approve this comment – I would love to see your answer, because this desire you have for more of everything seems to drive everything you say and do with GA.

        1. It’s pretty simple: I’m sanguine about population growth because I have a basic level of respect for people’s preferences and desires that you seem to lack.

          Why is the world’s population growing? Largely because people are living longer and (for the moment) having more children. Why are these things happening? Because people *prefer* to be alive, and *prefer* to be able to start a family. I take those preferences seriously.

          In the short run, I can’t see any way of reducing the human population (or significantly cutting its growth rate) that doesn’t involve violent and oppressive violations of people’s right to be alive and to have a family. In the long run, I hope that we’ll get population into balance by improving living standards and educating and empowering women so that they have a choice about how many kids to have.

          But in the short run, we will have to manage a growing population, and devise new ways of living within our ecological limits. That’s going to mean changing some things, including accepting some changes that people don’t like. Such as, say, reducing people’s ability to make a quick buck by polluting waterways and pumping methane into the atmosphere.

          You might not like this. Hell, I’m a bit nervous about it. But the alternative is far, far worse. It means accepting mass famine and the preventable deaths of hundreds of millions of people – or worse, it means building extermination camps on a larger scale than the Nazis. If you seriously think that’s a better alternative to figuring out how to plan for a growing population, you need to reexamine your moral compass.

          1. Well, Malthus was mentioned earlier and “someone” had to bring up the Nazis…

            You put it as if there are only two choices- plan for growth or start some new killing fields.

            There’s at least one more choice- and that’s plan to grow only to a strict limit. Or even plan to not grow at all.

            We are lucky to still have this choice of choking down the growth to save our immediate environment, and indeed the only planet we have.

            You can’t expand continually in a finite area- it increases the pressure to breaking point. Then it breaks.

          2. Well, no. We know that a third-to-a-half of population increase is due to immigration. So, if we turned off the immigration tap, we could likely reduce population growth to a bare minimum.
            No killing fields, no extermination camps, no birth control.

        2. “I have a basic level of respect for people’s preferences and desires that you seem to lack”

          But as polls have consistently shown, most New Zealanders do not want current mass immigration to continue. How do you reconcile your statement with that fact?

          I don’t think you really answered my question. All that you have written over the years indicates that your desire is less about catering for growth, and more about promoting growth. I suspect if the global population was stagnant, you would still want ten million here.

          Perhaps you can’t answer my question, because perhaps like so many you are so caught up in deriving purpose from growth, that unconciously the idea of zero growth feels like some kind of end, and therefore to be avoided? I think that’s the primary challenge the western and developing world needs to overcome, as runaway capitalism (which requires perpetual population growth to try and sustain perpetual consumerism growth) brings us all to a premature end.

          1. I think you have reading comprehension problems. As I have explained *at length* in comments above, population growth is going to keep happening over the short to medium term, even if fertility rates decrease faster, due to rising life expectancies. In Auckland, a majority of forecast population growth is expected to be due to people having kids. It’s a fantasy to say that we can just abruptly end population growth (without killing a lot of people), and I don’t see any value in planning for fantasy scenarios.

            Survey evidence show that New Zealanders have quite varied views about immigration, with many people reporting positive attitudes. Around half of New Zealanders think that immigration has a positive effect on the country. A slight minority report opposing further increase in immigration rates, but only a minority actually want immigration to *decrease*: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/321686/nz%27s-mixed-attitudes-to-immigration-revealed

            New Zealand’s an immigrant nation. Everyone here had ancestors who got on a boat or a plane relatively recently. I think most people are aware that immigration has been good for *them*, and a lot of people are generous enough to let others have the same chance.

          2. “Closing” immigration would put pressure on salaries

            There 600k+ NZ living overseas. Auckland is now a place many of them would probably like to live (compare to overseas cities). If salaries went up, then it’s likely even more of them would come home. So it might not really fix the problem. ie. NZ is doing well and people want to stay or come to NZ.

            If we close the door to students, then the education sector would likely have a lot of difficulty.

            Fundamentally NZ is a country that people want to live in at the moment. We shouldn’t close our eyes to the rest of the world for some sort of self serving purpose of “I was here first”. If we are doing well, then we have enough space of them to join the party.

            1000 or 2000 years ago, no one lived in “NZ”. In 1000 years there may also be no-one living in “NZ”. I’d say most of us (over 90%) either have family or close friends with relatives that came to NZ in the last 20 years.

            Certainly we can’t have 10 people living in one small house (*), so limiting the arrival rate is important.

            (*) This may happen anyway, happened before the current immigration situation so it isn’t really new.

            So, really the only things we should ask are:

            1. Serve a purpose – fill a needed job, support family or some other special need.
            2. Support themselves.
            3. Speak the language.

            Personally I think immigration is important. Even though my family first came to NZ in the 1860s, my father came in the 1960s. My wife came in here in the 00s. ie. with immigration I or my children would not exist.

            A counter point is a country like Hungary. Patrick retweet this a few days ago:
            https://twitter.com/george_szirtes/status/866583848922079232

            We should all know Viktor Orbán’s views.

        3. ‘Has it occured to you that kiwis actually like their country the way it is?’ I think you are probably right. However, has it occurred to you that it is completely unrealistic?

          We are all changing every day as we age, technology continues to change. Even if New Zealand were to keep a static population it would keep changing, possibly for the worse. For example an aging population could put strain on government budgets with flow on effects to health, education, welfare and conservation.

          Keeping one variable static while everything else changes around it is not always a wise thing.

      2. I disagree with the first point — it’s not just some pesky bigots. This line of thinking is really harmful.

        I don’t think people are necessarily opposed to any kind of different. But there can be very real and very negative effects on people’s lives. For instance, if you’re a woman in Auckland, and it’s 8pm, it’s still OK to go out. In Brussels, you’ll have to brave the constant cat-calls, insults, and harassment, mostly from immigrants. Same for gay people, except they occasionally get beaten up too. If the unanimous response from politicians to those issues is to look the other way (which it was during most of my life), then expect a lot of backlash. People don’t like hearing that their problems don’t exist.

        Immigration in Belgium has been managed about as well as housing in Auckland. So we ended up with an immigrant population with a high level of unemployment and disenfranchisement. Ideal environment to promote crime. And bored teens who spend their evening hanging around and harassing women. It takes only a very small group to ruin it for everyone. The response from the traditional political parties (all of them) to such problems is Political Correctness, i.e. just deny they exist. At some point, after a gangster fired an AK-47 on the police, the mayor of the local council came on TV, explaining that it’s just really nothing, and we don’t have to worry about anything. That was the mayor of Molenbeek, which got a lot of press last year for being a “jihad hotbed”. Coincidence.

        Traditional political parties have fared badly in recent elections. Far right on the other hand, well, if the choice is to do something about it, vs look the other way it doesn’t exist, then it becomes an easy choice.

        The press and TV, also curtailed by PC because they’re afraid to be associated with far right politics, didn’t really use to report on any problems either. Until around 2010, when they thought F— it, and stories started coming up. A school had to temporary move out of its buildings until problems with immigrants were back under control. A advertisement agency (widely known for a campaign for tolerance, the “hate free street”) moved because they grew tired of hiring security to get people safely to their office. Irony. And so on. Most scary part, people who actually experienced this on the streets in the city tend to say it’s much, much worse than what you see in the press.

        And, very conveniently, if it’s all just the imagination of a few bigots, then nobody really has to deal with the “unemployment and disenfranchisement” problem.

        Meanwhile in Auckland we have a policy of both (1) avoid building a lot of houses no matter what the costs are, and (2) allow a lot of immigration. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

        1. Scaremongering much?

          I think it is unreasonable to compare NZ to Europe. Migration in Europe is shaped by colonial history (past) and the EU (now).

          The dynamic here is different.

          Further, due to our location we are able to a certain extend chose who comes to NZ.

          1. Um no, mainly pointing out it’s really naïve to think that immigration never has any negative effects.

            While the dynamic is not exactly the same, some things are remarkably similar. I’m sure you can think of a group of people in NZ which is overrepresented in the unemployment statistics, the crime statistics, and in prisons.

          2. Yep. Maori people. Who have been here longer than anyone else. So I’m not sure what your point is, exactly, unless you’re obliquely observing that Europeans tend to construct societies that make life more difficult for non-European people and leave them overrepresented in the ‘bad social outcome’ statistics.

            I also think it’s pretty rich for a Belgian to be lecturing other people about the bad behaviour of foreigners who move to other countries when you guys still have statues of King Leopold, one of history’s greatest monsters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrocities_in_the_Congo_Free_State

          3. No Peter — again — I’m pointing out that your statement is wrong. I thought it was worth pointing out the ruinous consequences of that attitude. It’s precisely that attitude which allows everyone to just stick their heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems which need solving.

            To be clear, yes I’m very glad New Zealand is managing this better than Belgium.

            Also pointing out to Nicholas that no, New Zealand is not somehow magically unique in the world.

          4. Naive? Sure why not.

            Of course, immigration has positive effects as well. You and me for example – we would not exist without immigration.

            It’s disingenuous to claim that immigration has only negative effects. Better not drive a car as they are imports and only pollute the earth.

            Your claim that the culture clash in parts of Europe is some form of warning cry for NZ, just doesn’t wash it for me. NZ’s context is entirely different and to try draw comparisons, is, as I said, scaremongering.

            RE: Maori. I heard a very powerful talk by the chairman of Ngai Tahu Mark Solomon at the CFO summit this year. I was hoping they’d put the video online, but I haven’t see it yet.

            Regardless of who’s fault it is historic in the long run the segment of our society that prefers the “suck it up, or lock them up and push them down” point of view is not productivity. Either we try help and continue to try helping giving them a chance to find a path forward. Or there will always be some sort of social ring fence that continues to cause tension.

  26. One last point I think is important to make. These problems NZ is facing at the moment are good problems. Certainly better than Hungary as the example I linked above and also many parts of Europe at the moment.

    Sometimes there is no in between. It’s either good or bad.

    It’s going to be painful. It may be distasteful to some, but certainly not all.

    This pressure of “forced” change driven by our success gives us the chance to drill down into who we are as a country and thus grow.

  27. 10 million – no way. The world is grossly overpopulated. And we would be too at 10 million. Our environment is already massively degraded.

  28. Transportation is the key for Auckland’s further development. It is hardy realizing greater Auckland planning if the overall transportation network is not extablished.

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