Question: Auckland – Metropolis or Megalopolis/Megapolis

Something to think about


As I have been chatting away to various people on the concept of Manukau being a second CBD in Auckland; two interesting and thought-provoking questions popped up. They were:

  • Can Auckland be looking at THREE CBD’s by 2040: the existing CBD, Manukau and Albany (or Takapuna (something the North Shore can figure out itself))
  • Is Auckland an actual metropolis or in fact a megapolis/megalopolis

As for the tri-CBD question; another time and another debate. Right now it is the metropolis/megapolis/megalopolis question for Auckland

Now before some one pipes up about the world megapolises and megalopolises being massive areas with tens of millions of people, I want you to put that world relativity concept behind and think of a New Zealand and literal Greek concept of the terms.


The best way to convey the information is an information dump from Wikipedia


metropolis is a very large city or urban area which is a significant economicpolitical, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. The term is Greek and means the “mother city” of a colony (in the ancient sense), that is, the city which sent out settlers. This was later generalized to a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or any large, important city in a nation.

Urban areas of fewer than one million people are rarely considered metropolises in contemporary contexts.[citation needed] Big cities belonging to a larger urban agglomeration, but which are not the core of that agglomeration, are not generally considered a metropolis but a part of it. The plural of the word is most commonly metropolises.[1]

Etymology and modern usage

This is a Greek word, coming from μήτηρ, mḗtēr meaning “mother” and πόλις, pólis meaning “city”/”town”, which is how the Greek colonies of antiquity referred to their original cities, with whom they retained cultic and political-cultural connections. The word was used in post-classical Latin for the chief city of a province, the seat of the government and, in particular, ecclesiastically for the seat or see of a metropolitan bishop to whom suffragan bishops were responsible. This usage equates the province with the diocese or episcopal see.

In modern usage the word has come to refer to a metropolitan area, a set of adjacent and interconnected cities clustered around a major urban center. In this sense metropolitan usually means “spanning the whole metropolis” (as in “metropolitan administration”); or “proper of a metropolis” (as in “metropolitan life”, and opposed to “provincial” or “rural”).


Metropolitan Area (to provide clarification)

metropolitan areametro area or metro is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industryinfrastructure, and housing.[1] A metropolitan area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalitiesneighborhoodstownshipscitiesexurbscounties, and even states. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions.[2]


Now there is no denying Auckland does have a metropolitan area, the catch is and this is where the mega’s come in is how we seen that densely population urban core (often seen or used in a mono-centric core model)



Megapolis and Megalopolis 

megalopolis (sometimes called a megapolis or megaregion) is typically defined as a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas. The term was used by Oswald Spengler in his 1918 book, The Decline of the West, and Lewis Mumford in his 1938 book, The Culture of Cities, which described it as the first stage in urban overdevelopment and social decline. Later, it was used by Jean Gottmann in 1957, to describe the huge metropolitan area along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. extending from Boston through New York CityPhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaBaltimoreMaryland and ending in Washington, D.C.


Before I go post the twin Greek definitions I want to point something out highlighted in red above: “defined as a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas.” With Auckland this could stem from a duo or even poly centric core model where you have more than (borrowing from the Metropolitan Area terminology): “a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industryinfrastructure, and housing.”

While drawing a long bow on a world scale, for a New Zealand scale this could be drawn as true especially with Auckland. Examples being the CBD itself and its Metropolitan Area which could be defined as the old Auckland City Council area and extending in part to West Auckland, while Manukau City Centre had its metropolitan area which was everything south of Otahuhu and the Tamaki Estuary. Two distinct separate parts of Auckland (only combined technically by just the new Unitary Authority called Auckland Council) with two very distinct senses of identity between the two Metropolitan Areas (being the isthmus and Southern Auckland).


Thus is we treated wider Auckland that has “a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas” (now this would include the North Shore entity as well) then we do have by definition a megalopolis/megapolis.

Let me draw on the two Greek definitions:


megapolis is a Greek word that derived from Greek: μέγας – great and Greek: πόλις – city therefore literally a great city. The metric prefix mega- represents the number of million (1,000,000) in the metric system.

megalopolis, also known as a megaregion, is a clustered network of cities with a population of about 10 million or more.[1][2][3] America 2050,[4] a program of the Regional Plan Association, lists 11 megaregions in the United States and Canada.[1] Literally, megalopolis in Greek means a city of exaggerated size where the prefix megalo- represents a quantity of exaggerated size.[5] Megapolitan areas were explored in a July 2005 report by Robert E. Lang and Dawn Dhavale of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.[6] A later 2007 article by Lang and Nelson uses 20 megapolitan areas grouped into 10 megaregions.[7] The concept is based on the original Megalopolis model.[3]


As I said ignore the world concept and look at it on a New Zealand concept here as it has to do with our planning.

  • Megapolis: Great City and representing one million. While “great city” might be a subjective term giving different interpretations of it, wider Auckland is the only “city” with over one million people. You could say Auckland is a Great City due to its world global city ranking (Beta) and its economic/population clout the city has in NZ. So on those literal terms alone Auckland is a megapolis and should always be treated as such.
  • Megalopolis: Now this is where it gets interesting on definition and planning fronts. Auckland housing 34% of New Zealand’s population and its sheer size topography wise compared to other urban areas in New Zealand could give the feeling compared to the world Auckland is a city of exaggerated size for where it is.

However, again depending on how one sees Auckland is depending on if you would term it Metropolis or a Megalopolis/Megapolis. Also the term you pick and hold to is how you would see in a planning sense how Auckland should be planned through the Auckland and Unitary Plans. Those who see Auckland as a Metropolis would support the compact city – mono centric core (the Metropolitan Zones are not cores) that could treat the city in a homogeneous manner in the sense of identity – currently portrayed in the Unitary Plan). Those who see Auckland as a collection of cities and towns often with distinct metropolitan areas or centres bundled together by a massive urban sprawl. They would see Auckland in the sense of identity as a heterogeneous  manner and thus the planning should be reflective of that (thus often opposed to the compact city – mono-centric core model).

So again: Is Auckland a Metropolis or a Megalopolis/Megapolis? How you answer that question is how you would plan and see Auckland through the life of the Unitary Plan. And it is a question that needs to be again asked.


And no I am not calling for reversing the super city either when Brisbane can handle it better than we can. 



BR:AKL: Bring Well Managed Progress

The Unitary Plan: Bringing Change

Auckland: 2013 – OUR CITY, OUR CALL

3 thoughts on “Question: Auckland – Metropolis or Megalopolis/Megapolis

    1. If I was to take the USA examples and shrink them down to NZ size I would draw three megalopolises here in NZ (according to the Wikipedia definitions given):
      A metropolitan area, metro area or metro is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories,
      A megalopolis (sometimes called a megapolis or megaregion) is typically defined as a chain of roughly adjacent metropolitan areas

      Thus I believe the three are the following

      Auckland solo: Auckland Isthmus, Manukau (everything south of Otahuhu and the Tamaki Estuary) and the North Shore (34% of the population)
      Upper North Island: The Freight Triangle: Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga (houses 75% of our population any how)
      Wellington: Wellington, The Hutt Valley, Kapiti and in a further stretch; Masterton, Levin, Palmy North. (must see if this combination does get over a million people)

      Now as I said in the original post, we are small fry to the world (although Auckland is not) but on very strict Greek Definitions and Geography that is how I would shape a NZ Sized Megalopolises

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