Aucklanders Do NOT Connect With Their Community/Communities

Auckland Ranks Lowest in Well-being Index


Pocket park being trialled on Quay Street. Credit: Auckland Council
Pocket park being trialled on Quay Street.
Credit: Auckland Council

I saw the following presser from Sovereign Insurance (in partnership with AUT University) about the 2013 Well-being Report. In short Auckland is at the bottom of the index (meaning we are a disconnected and depressed lot) compared to and especially our European cousins. The report and the presser highlights issues I have long been pointing out for the last four years and included in my submissions to both the Auckland and Unitary Plans.

First the release from Sovereign:



More than three-quarters of Aucklanders don’t feel connected with their communities, according to the groundbreaking new Sovereign Wellbeing Index.

And the creators of the index suspect the city’s urban sprawl is partly to blame, which could be good news for supporters of the Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, which allows for greater residential intensification.

Nearly 10,000 New Zealanders were surveyed for the inaugural index, which found that less than a quarter (22.3 per cent) of Aucklanders  felt close to people in their local areas.

Christchurch people and Wellingtonians fared only slightly better, while West Coasters had the strongest local connections, with more than 40 per cent saying they felt close to people in their local areas.

Research leader Professor Grant Schofield of AUT University’s Human Potential Centre was not surprised that our three biggest cities rated the lowest for their community connections.

“To a certain extent, all of our cities are designed around the Kiwi dream – the quarter-acre section in suburbia,” he says. “But this often means that people are not working near their homes.

“The person-to-person interaction is something we’ve ignored when we’ve been building our societies. It’s pretty hard to make friends with people when they’re sitting in a car in front of you on the motorway.”

In fact, the community connections of New Zealanders as a whole rated astonishingly poorly – in a comparison with 22 European countries using the same survey, we ranked by far the lowest, with 74.6 per cent of us not feeling close to people in our communities. Slovakia came out on top, with more than 40 per cent of people feeling connected, followed by Hungary and Norway.

The UK was second to last, but still significantly ahead of New Zealand.

“Compared with European countries, that’s where we do the worst – knowing the people in your street, knowing the neighbours, having a community around you, locally,” says Professor Schofield, who lives in Takapuna and works at the nearby North Shore campus of AUT. “It’s almost like we don’t have that neighbourly living as part of our social culture any more.

“The idea of local living is something that’s completely escaped us. In parts of Europe that’s absolutely not the case. It’s very local – you live, work and play in the same place.

“In New Zealand it’s seen as such a negative thing to live in high density areas, and I’m not convinced that’s the case. Northern European countries do quite well with that sort of living, and their wellbeing’s higher.

The index was developed by the Human Potential Centre in partnership with Sovereign. It takes a wider look at how well New Zealanders are functioning and prospering than traditional economic indicators such as GDP.

The index is the first large-scale assessment of how New Zealanders are faring on a personal and social level, and was undertaken with the vision of helping to frame personal choices and public policy and action in New Zealand.
Sovereign CEO Symon Brewis-Weston says the results show that New Zealand faces some very real challenges.
“Sovereign chose to support New Zealand’s first wellbeing index because we wanted to better understand the challenges and opportunities ahead of us in the area of health and wellbeing. Our lack of community connection, when compared internationally, is one of the biggest challenges revealed by the research. It’s vital we address this to make New Zealand a better place to live.”

Every New Zealander now has the chance to see ‘how well they are living’ by taking the wellbeing quiz




The release on our dreadful well-being shows our social and physical planning (as well as prevailing mindsets by politicians and the wider City) is still lagging behind and in need of serious redressing. Now that redressing via the Auckland and Unitary Plans is happening but it will take time to undo damage that started back in the 1960’s when car was promoted king above all else (despite it can be argued that cars are anti social and exclusive devised that do not promote accessibility and social cohesion of a city).

My own submissions and advocacy to respective Plans and the Council have made for increasing pushes around “Sense of Identity.” ‘Sense of Identity’ first made its way in the City Centre Zone Objectives and Policies of the Unitary Plan. I took the concept and blended it into the Metropolitan Centre Objectives and Policies to give rise to the Super Metropolitan Centre. That is Auckland operates with the core City Centre and the two secondary core Super Metropolitan Centres (Manukau City Centre and Albany) as the “primary” glue which emphasises “Sense of Identity.” It is Sense of Identity that can promote well-being through a social connections nexus where people can gather and “socialise.” It is hoped that this would spill over back into local communities and further increase our well-being. Remember historic cities (pre 1950) had connected communities both at the local level, and at the higher level when everyone when to the “Centre” and socialised.

My upcoming post on Downtown Auckland projects and developments that came from yesterday’s briefing with the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, and Urban Design Champion Ludo Campbell-Reid will look at attempts at promoting those public city spaces that promote socialisation thus well-being. Now this is done at the City Centre level – so the highest level. The question is (and was asked in my written question to the Deputy Mayor and Ludo) when will this trickle back down to our other centres especially in light of the Sovereign Well-being report.


In the meantime and as I said earlier we have a lot of work to do to get our well-being up to much healthier levels.


Manukau Mall Station and the Manukau Metro Town Centre (looking West to East)
Manukau Mall Station and the Manukau Metro Town Centre (looking West to East). Part of turning a car dominated area into a more social inclusive area. Part of promoting a Sense of Identity