Census 2013 and What it means for Auckland

It actually means not a lot – the real data needed comes out 2014


Today I attended a briefing along with other media on what the Census 2013 means for Auckland. And more aptly what does it mean for the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plan.

You can read the briefing material that I will be using for this post in the embed below:


The Key Findings were:

  1. Auckland population continues to increase
  2. Growth not as strong as the 2001-2006 Census period
  3. Auckland now houses 34% of New Zealand’s population
  4. Some parts of Auckland have increased more than others (see colour maps in embed above)


Auckland’s Population Continues to Increase

Auckland continues to grow with the count standing at 1,415,550 as of the Census 2013. What is noticeable though is that the growth period between 2001-2006 was higher than the 2006-2013 period by about 34,000 people. This would be owing that in 2001-2006 New Zealand was enjoying an economic boom while in 2008 the Global Financial Crisis hit putting a dampener on population growth as recessions do.  In saying that with Australia‘s own economic growth slowing and political future uncertain, backed with New Zealand is tracking up again on economic growth we have to be prepared for a faster increasing population period over the next eight or so years.

Owing to the Global Finance Crisis and Australia (up until now) having a strong economy, population growth was slower in the 2006-2013 period nationwide – not just Auckland. But again like Auckland with things looking good back here and Australia looking a bit green around the gills New Zealand’s population growth will increase faster in this next eight year period.

What was also pointed out that Auckland will be short on the official count owing to people not filling in the Census forms (that in itself is illegal under the Statistics Act). Not sure on those numbers but it could be as high as 100,000.


Growth not as strong as the 2001-2006 period

While that is true I point out again that we are at the bottom of an economic and population growth cycle. That cyclical trend is now starting to head upwards again which should last for some time yet unless the global economy collapses or World War III breaks out.

This slowing down in the 2006-2013 period brought into question the forward projections Statistics NZ produce and the Council and Planners use for planning missions. The forward projections have often understated our actual growth in Auckland and have done so since 1991. Check this presentation and slides from Dr Roger Blakeley and Population Expert Len Cook on this understating trend:




Those presentations do show that projecting is not a fine out and historically we have under projected. In saying this next year the next round of projections will be out for Auckland. These projections I was told by Chief Planning Officer Dr Roger Blakeley in relation to another question would determine when the Unitary Plan will come up for its first review in eight to ten years time.

This brings me to my main point that the Main Stream Media will try and play


Projections and The Unitary Plan


It was made specifically clear that the Census is a snapshot in time and can help “calibrate” the forward projections the Council and Planners use in determining plans. What was also made clear is that you can not compare the Census to projection data – that easily. That is why the Census data apart from which areas had massive historic growth does not help with the Unitary Plan owing to fluidity and change of location of our growth.

It is also of note that in 2010 the Auckland Super City and Auckland Council was formed and that on 2012 the Auckland Plan became fully operative. Currently the legacy District Plans from the old Councils are waiting to be phased out with the Unitary Plan once it becomes operative in 2016.

These legacy plans show the large growth in the Upper Harbour, Waitemata (CBD), Howick, Papakura and Franklin where there has been either apartment towers or large scale greenfield sites developed since 2001.

It was asked but if we look at development and growth over the legacy plans from 2001 until now the split was about 60:40 Brownfield:Greenfield development in Auckland – exactly the same as what the Unitary and Auckland Plans have set out.

Waitemata had some of the heights growth while South Auckland had some of the lowest apart from Papakura and Franklin. Why is this? Well the projections miss the fact of apartment building current and in the pipeline which gives large population boosts. I am assuming the projections are done using single dwellings as the yard stick so a large apartment tower as seen in the CBD and Manukau City Centre will cause spikes. Just a quick note those who look up the Manukau Centre Census Mesh Unit will know a jump of 150 in 2001 to 642 in 2013. This is owing to two 18 storey apartment towers being built in this period. Furthermore we have the M1 mix use tower being built (crane went up over the weekend) and we have three more 14-18 storey apartment towers in the pipeline. These have or will have sold out fast based on experience and history. This new growth surge in Manukau illustrates how projections can fall short for the planners and Statistics NZ compared to the actual at Census time.

Owing to this and the fact we are on the recovery/growth side of economic and population growth, it would be my educated call as a Geographer to maintain the high projection growth model in both the Auckland and Unitary Plans – and to plan accordingly.

The Unitary Plan as confirmed by Dr Blakeley has a main safeguard in the fact the UP can be reviewed by Council around every 8-10 years during its lifetime. I stress these reviews allow the Council to look at the time the history of growth and the projections then and either upscale or downscale the amount of zoning required in the Unitary Plan. Meaning do we need more or less intensification, more or less sprawl all owing to our population growth at the given time.

So at least we have the flexibility and safeguards with the Unitary Plan to review in a regular period and match our planning accordingly.


One final note. Auckland houses 34% of our population and that is still going to climb for a while to come. The question is that why the concentration and is it actually good for New Zealand as a whole.


Thoughts and comments on the Census news in the comments box below.



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