Over the holiday break we’ll dig into the archives a bit. This post by Matt was originally published in February 2015.

Late last week Statistics NZ released their latest regional population projections from 2013 through to 2043. It once again highlights just how much growth is expected to occur in Auckland with them projecting roughly an extra 500,000 to 900,000 people in the region within 30 years – that’s a 36-63% increase on what we have today.

All 16 regional council areas are projected to increase in population between now and 2028, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“The short-term trend partly reflects the current high level of arrivals into New Zealand, and the current low level of departures,” population statistics manager Vina Cullum said.

“However, population growth will slow in the longer term as our population continues to age. This will see the number of deaths increase relative to births. Also, net migration (arrivals minus departures) exceeded 50,000 in 2014 and is unlikely to remain at that level.”

Auckland will continue to be New Zealand’s fastest growing region, and account for three-fifths of the country’s population growth between 2013 and 2043. From an estimated population of 1.5 million in 2014, Auckland is projected to reach 2 million in the early 2030s. That means out of every 100 people in New Zealand, 34 currently live in Auckland, but this will increase to 37 in 2028 and 40 in 2043.

Natural increase (births minus deaths) is projected to account for three-fifths of Auckland’s growth, and net migration the remaining two-fifths.

Of New Zealand’s 67 territorial authority areas, 51 are projected to have more people in 2028 than in 2013. However, only 30 are projected to have more people in 2043 than in 2028.

The fastest population growth between 2013 and 2043 is expected in Selwyn and Queenstown-Lakes districts, up an average of 2.2 and 1.8 percent a year, respectively.

The projections are not predictions, but an indication of the size and composition of the future population. Statistics NZ produces low, medium, and high growth projections for every local area every 2–3 years to assist planning by communities, local councils, and government.

You can see the annual projected growth for each region below. As you can see the growth Auckland is leaps and bounds ahead of anywhere else and the only region to even come close is Canterbury and only if it sees the high projection outcome.

Annual Population Change 2

Of course when you look at the change on an actual number basis Auckland’s expected growth is even more extreme. This is based off the medium projection. Due to most regions being a fairly similar size it can be hard to tell them apart. In Canterbury, the vast majority of projected growth will happen in the Christchurch City Council area or in the two surrounding districts – Selwyn and Waimakariri. I think that is going to make it increasingly important for the region to start looking at some rapid transit options – unless it wants to follow Auckland’s mistakes.

NZ Regional Population Projections 2013-2043

Another way to show the level of growth in Auckland in particular is below. This is the projected cumulative growth from 2013 to 2043 for Auckland and the rest of the country. Auckland grows by over 730,000 people while the rest of the country by only around 460,000 – of which about 80% is in Christchurch, Wellington, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Auckland vs Rest of NZ growth - 2013-2043

Every time the issue of Auckland’s strong growth comes up many people highlight the challenges it adds, in particular the cost of new infrastructure and housing however I feel it’s also worth remembering that it presents a lot of opportunities too. Instead of trying to cap the city’s growth like some have suggested in the past we should embrace it as that will not only make the city stronger but also help make the country as a whole stronger.

One question people often have is how realistic these projections are and how past projections turned out. As it happens Auckland tends to track slightly ahead head of the medium projection. Here’s what was predicted to occur from 2001 – 2026 – the blue area represents the range of low, medium and high growth projections.

Auckland Population Project - 2001 - 2

Stats NZ have also made predictions within Auckland down the local board level and in many ways this provides a more interesting and useful look at how the city is changing. Like we see nationally, there are expected to be some areas that grow much stronger than others and one of those is the Waitemata Local Board area which covers the city centre and inner suburbs. Population in the area is expected to almost double from 2013 around 81,000 to 152,500 which if it occurs would make the Waitemata Local board area have the third largest of any board in Auckland.

In addition to the City Centre the local boards that are likely to see a lot of greenfield development are also high on the list.

Auckland Annual Population Change 2

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  1. It’s a disgrace the results of this year’s census aren’t out yet. And might not be out till late next year. In my view heads should roll over this giant easily foreseeable stuff up. It will be interesting to see the results for Auckland and NZ population growth when the results of this year’s census are finally released

    1. If they had done it the old fashion way with paper/hard copy the whole thing would have been processed by now , as I know a number of the elderly who don’t have access to any digital device and never did fill it out and they tried to get the papers through the mail and never received them .

      And this goes to prove that the old way is better than the new way , and goes to prove trying to save money does not work

      1. I’m normally a huge proponent of any opportunity to make things digital, but it’s pretty clear they were wildly over-optimistic with the census. If I were trying to manage that transition, instead of saying “online only unless they ask for a form”, I would:
        – Do it the old way in terms of sending people around to every house/property.
        – Let people decline to take a paper form and say they’ll do it online if they choose.

        You’d still spend the same amount on labour so no savings there, but you could still print a lot fewer forms and your census would be accurate!

  2. Presumably these projections are being made by very talented statisticians using judgements based on known factors that have affected population changes in the past. Factors I’d guess they have used are the differential rates of having children depending on culture of origin, numbers of child bearing age by ethnicity, possible changes of immigration rates and even less predictable emigration. Then there is unpredictable changes in employment – we are unlikely to ever have another gold rush but the introduction of artifical milk and meat would make many of these projections problematic.

    The statisticians will have allowed for past known factors but I doubt they have consided rapid climate change. 25 years ago I was concerned about sea level increase of over 1 metre by now. Well I was way wrong; it has only been a few millimetres. But I’m still worried that rapid sea level change could occur by 2043. I’m not willing to bet money on it without reasonable odds but surely it is in the realms of possibility. Take just 1 metre and Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch will be badly affected but Hamiton and New Plymouth will be obvious places for the wealthier city dwellers to move to.
    Make that only 50cm but an exponentially increasing rate of change and we will up and move decades before the tide begins to wash our doorsteps. We will also be accepting many PI climate change refugees.

    Our problem is planning and financing rapid transport in Auckland with both requiring timescales of decades when there are serious risks of population being either higher than projected (ref the last 3 years) or way lower (volcanic activity, immigration freeze, rapid emigration to a wealthier Australia, climate change).

  3. I hate percentages, they tend to distort rather than help, yet so many people rely on them for just about everything – 100 percent of 1 is still 1, while 100 percent of 1000 is 1000. I was in a factory in the 1970s when wage negotiations did their annual round, and the union proudly announced they were going for an x percent wage rise. We realised that while those at the top of the wage rung would be getting a decent wage rise, those at the bottom would be getting just about next to nothing, So, much to our union’s annoyance we asked them to find out how much it would cost the company, and then divide it equally among all employees. The union was very reluctant as they totally relied on percentages, but we prevailed and got our way. That is why I don’t trust percentages. Sorry about drifting off topic

    1. Interestingly enough I believe KiwiRail & thr RMTU went with a flat increase for everyone rather than percentage based one at the last collective negotiation

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