Hottish off the press: there are now more than 120,000 people working in Auckland’s city centre,* making it the biggest hub for employment in New Zealand. Almost 3,000 jobs were added in the last year.

That’s based on a fairly typical definition of the city centre, stretching from Wynyard Quarter to the eastern end of the ports, and inside the motorway noose (plus the western end of K Road).

There are also a lot of jobs in the ‘city fringe’ areas – Freemans Bay, Eden Terrace, Grafton, Parnell, Ponsonby, Newmarket – and there are another 67,000 people based there. All up, that’s almost 190,000 jobs across the city centre and fringe.

Stats NZ publish local-level jobs data each year, so we’ve now got quite consistent data over 20 years:

And I’m using the definitions below:

That’s pretty good growth over 20 years, you might be thinking, and you’d be right as there has been more than 50% employment growth. That’s actually very similar to the growth across the overall Auckland region, so it’s not a standout – but the city centre has done it within a ‘fixed’ area, and has dramatically grown its residential population in the same period. Unsurprisingly the biggest single area of growth within the city centre has been at Wynyard and through the Viaduct area with over 310%. The job numbers are set to keep rising, with a lot of new buildings underway and the City Rail Link giving even better connectivity when it opens in 2024.

It’s also interesting to compare the figures for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch city centres. At the start of the 21st century, Wellington’s city centre had the highest employment, even though greater Wellington is only a third the size of Auckland. It was only around 2012/2013 that Auckland pulled ahead. Relative to its size, Wellington is still much more city centre-focused, with this one area having 45% of all jobs in the urban region (Wellington + Porirua + Lower Hutt + Upper Hutt).

By comparison, Auckland has 15% of its employment in the city centre, or 24% including the fringe suburbs.

Christchurch had a relatively larger city centre than Auckland before the quakes – half the employment, but in a city one-third the size. This picture has changed since the earthquakes: most of the CBD core was demolished, Christchurch decentralised, and even with all the rebuilds so far, employment is still well down on pre-quake levels.

Lastly, you might be wondering where the other 76% of Auckland’s jobs are. They’re spread around the region of course, but here are the biggest employment areas from north to south:

  • Albany: 8,600 employees
  • Rosedale/ North Harbour industrial: 25,700 employees
  • Wairau Valley: 10,800 employees
  • Takapuna: 19,700 employees (includes Smales Farm, the hospital, Barrys Point Rd etc)
  • Ellerslie office parks: 12,900 employees
  • Penrose/ Onehunga/ Mt Wellington industrial: 58,800 employees
  • Auckland Airport and the airport corridor industrial: 28,800 employees
  • East Tamaki: 28,200 employees
  • Manukau/ Wiri industrial: 35,800 employees

The southeast corner of the isthmus is obviously a pretty wide area – Penrose, Onehunga and Mt Wellington combined have around half the jobs of the city centre, but across three times the area. The ’employment density’ of the city centre is 6 times higher. You can see that in this map showing job density.

* Or maybe just under 120,000 people, depending on how you define it. I’ve gone with the same definition Matt used last year, I think. But there’s a little area in his definition which I probably would have left out. Anyway, no one reads the footnotes.**

** If they did, they’d be like, hey, John Polkinghorne’s back! Whoo! What happened to that guy, anyway?

EDIT: apologies incorrect map uploaded late at night. Thanks to Hamish (see comments below) for correct map. Now fixed. -admin

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  1. Conspicuous in its absence for employment is west and northwest. Shows how important CRL is for that employment desert, but also how adding a distribution hub in the NW, if some chunk of port trade heads north, would be a welcome thing for this now mostly dormitory area.

    1. Agree. Central rail loop can’t replace local high paying jobs though. It will still take 40 mins from Henderson to the inner city plus the commute to and from stations. Kids in the west grow up not seeing workplaces or office buildings or any major industry in their wider neighbourhoods. Not like Takapuna or Manukau where you see the businesses and office towers and people working and going to work. It normalises the idea of going to work.
      We are creating a grossly unequal city.

    1. Thanks Peter – and yes it would be good to add Hamilton, probably Tauranga and Dunedin while I’m looking at that similar sized group. Keep up the good work with your own blog, which I enjoy reading too!

  2. Does this mean we also met the other stupid target set by the previous govt to justify early CRL construction, which Ministry of Transport officials confidently said would not be met? (Along with reaching 20 million rail boardings before 2020, which was hit 3 years early).

    I really hope those Ministry of Transport officials aren’t in influential roles anymore.

    1. That’s quite important, Snoozle. The sorts of decisions these officials are feeding ‘information’ to are critical to improving our country. When they get it wrong, what feedback is given to them, and what requirements are there on them to show that they’ve changed their models? If there’s not much, should their ‘information’ be considered worthwhile?

    2. “I really hope those Ministry of Transport officials aren’t in influential roles anymore.”

      One of them is now in Auckland Transport doing the same old as they did in MoT.

    3. For some unknown reason the person who came up with those stupid CRL targets was subsequently employed by AT and was promoted by the former head of strategy and planning and is now in charge of planning rapid transit and cycling.

  3. I find the blank areas surprising.

    From city centre to north:

    – the long one: that is AF Thomas Golf Course (not a park), Wairau Shopping Area (not a park), and the Wairau Valley / Hillcrest commercial area

    – the big wide one is Rosebank, another “industrial” area.

    – the more square one is Albany: the mall, and the bus station in the north east corner.

    These areas are also not populated. I was expecting at least some jobs in there. No wonder they look like a postcard from Pripyat.

  4. Can also see the heavy influence the major Heavy Industrial complexes have as well (Southdown/Penrose, Manukau/Wiri, East Tamaki/Highbrook and the Airport). And by influence not only in jobs but also traffic generation.

  5. “That’s pretty good growth over 20 years”

    Why is it good?

    Having so many jobs in small area has created huge problems for the country. We have had to spend tens of billions on transport infrastructure to serve that small area, with tens of billions more required.

    Those who work there face the lose-lose situation of having to buy a very small, yet very expensive, home near work, or live further away and face a daily commute.

    The sea has become polluted because the sewage from all this growth can’t be accomodated.

    The city consistently fails WHO air quality standards because there’s so many vehicles in one small area.

    Retail prices are very high because rents are very high.

    There’s almost no benefit at all, except to the businesses in the high rise buildings that benefit from the closeness of other businesses, but that benefit translates into profit that goes offshore for the most part.

    So, the country spends a lot to create something that generates money for someone else, whilst ruining Auckland. Brilliant.

    And that’s why New Zealanders are leaving Auckland faster than they are going there. There’s an exodus underway, with those leaving citing “too expensive, too congested”.

    I find it incredible that anyone could see a positive side to what is happening in Auckland. It’s a terrible situation when the largest city has more kiwis leaving than going there.

    1. The current negatives of Auckland you have described are as obvious as dogs balls but let’s be clear about where the blame lies: opposition to increased housing density, resistance to transitioning to a less car-dependent transport system, shortsighted carping about rates and taxes that has resulted in decades of chronic infrastructure underinvestment, and worst of all a completely unrealistic philosophy of “preserve in aspic” conservatism.

    2. “And that’s why New Zealanders are leaving Auckland faster than they are going there.”

      What’s your definition of “New Zealander”. Because the city is still growing incredibly fast. And internal migration from the provinces are a big part of that.

      I know that everyone should go and live a hunter gatherer life style in tune with nature like you do (with your computer used to write your comment and undoubtedly driving everywhere) but unfortunately some of us don’t think that isustainable or scaleable.

      It must be great to just come up with criticisms and no real answers. Must make life so much easier.

  6. Good stuff.
    It would be interesting to know how these stats compare with other similar cities to ours overseas?
    I’ve always thought 15% of the regions jobs (or 24% including fringe) is very low for a city, thus proving the de-centralised nature of Auckland, and therefore the relative level of difficulty in providing decent public transit for more than just the central city area.
    Anyone know how these stats compare?

      1. I think 24% is significant, especially from a productivity and fiscal perspective. What I mean by that there’s a substantial productivity premium attached to jobs in city centre, which means they will contribute disproportionately to GDP. And when you consider the fact that our income tax system is progressive (in an absolute sense), then I wouldn’t be surprised if those city centre workers end up contributing approximately half of Auckland’s income tax take. Plus the firms they work for will pay a decent chunk of corporate tax and rates as well.

        Main message: city centre is really important and– with the right policy settings–we all stand to benefit from its success.

  7. Geoff, I know you’re not in favour of population/ economic growth generally or you think it should be spread around the country somehow. Let’s put that separate issue to the side for now, and assume that there’s a fairly steadily growing population in Auckland and that they need jobs. How can those jobs be provided?

    NZ is a small country in a big global market. Agriculture is fine but a small part of the economy, resource-intensive and with limited potential to grow. NZ is too small to have an efficient manufacturing sector so many of those secondary industries are in decline. Most of NZ’s jobs and GDP are in the tertiary or service industries.

    These industries provide economic diversification, which is a good thing, they are less resource-intensive and have much higher potential to grow, with limited environmental costs, because they depend largely on the human mind and the great and wacky things it comes up with.

    Businesses like being in the Auckland city centre because, as you note, they benefit. How? Because they get ‘agglomeration benefits’, operate more efficiently and can therefore afford to pay more for their staff. Which they do; incomes for people working in the Auckland city centre are up there with the top in NZ, on average. Workers like the higher incomes, and the city centre has the best accessibility of anywhere in Auckland, which benefits both businesses and workers.

    Many of the foreign-owned businesses you refer to don’t HAVE to be in NZ – they might head back to Australia or wherever – but given that they’re here, they generally want to be in central Auckland, and there are plenty of local benefits that accrue to NZers from their presence.

    Transport infrastructure is a lot lower than the tens of billions you’re talking about, but after quite a few billions on motorways I’m looking forward to spending a few billion on public transport. And that money is not too high a price to pay when you spread it over a huge number of people.

    Spreading jobs around the region, say by banning growth in the city centre – we could call this the “David Seymour” method – would be very inefficient for transport, for agglomeration, and in terms of people having a wide variety of jobs to choose from.

    1. I wonder if on average those higher incomes mean anything though. Even extra $20,000 per year is not going to buy you much if your average house is $400,000 more expensive.

      It is also interesting to see this effect in action so strongly, even with all the progress in remote working and video conferencing.

      1. Absolutely, and I agree with both you and Geoff that overpriced homes and lengthy commutes are a bad thing. When it is just a rat race then that’s not good for quality of life. Cities can and should do better here. Transport of course is a key issue for GA, and I want to make housing a much bigger one in the next year too.

  8. Of potential interest is that after Wellington, the most centralised employment in New Zealand is in Dunedin with around 37% of jobs in the city centre. If you add in North Dunedin, with Otago University and Otago Polytechnic, I suspect that number would be around 50%. The city will become more centralised with the new Dunedin Hospital to be located in the core city centre.

    1. Hi Darren, very true, although the existing hospital is in the CBD anyway so perhaps not much difference except to the extent the new one might have more staff than the existing one?

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