Southern Auckland Now the Biggest Sub-Region (population) in Auckland. South Hospitality and Industry Bursting at the seams

Good problems to have = action needed

The Census 2018 figures came out earlier today and as a Geographer I was certainly in my happy place crunching number sets around population (and religious affiliation as a side quest).

I have long wondered when Southern Auckland would overtake the Auckland Isthmus (or rather Central Auckland) in terms of population numbers.

Population by sub region as of 2016 Source:

In 2013 when the last Census was done you could see Southern Auckland was rapidly catching up to Central Auckland and certainly in a position to overtake in the near future looking at 2016 when the graph stopped.

The growth figures below show how Auckland has grown by Local Board area:

Census 2018 Auckland by Local Boards. Source: Luke Christensen via Twitter

The urban fringe areas of Hibiscus and Bays (north Auckland), Howick (Flatbush), Papakura, Upper Harbour and Franklin have certainly taken a lot of growth and the pressure on infrastructure is certainly there (not helped by Auckland Transport slashing and deleting bus services in the affected areas either).

So what are the figures now?

Census figures are low but work with me here

Per the 2018 Census:

  • Auckland: 1,571,718
  • Central Auckland: 440,645 (28%)
  • Southern Auckland: 532,545 (34%)
    • Papakura

Now if that seems low it is probably because it is given the Census figures. So I got the Auckland Transport Alignment Program 2018 figures and applied the growth figures to them and this is what I got:

  • Auckland: 1,750,000
  • Isthmus: 495,000 (this included an extra 10,000 owing to a very mobile student and transient population) (28%)
  • Southern Auckland: 614,000 (35%)
    • South (Papakura and Franklin: 151,000
    • Manukau and Howick (including Otahuhu) 463,000

Even extrapolating ATAP figures out the percentage figures are still the same.


In any case no matter which way I slice and dice the numbers with the Census or ATAP figures the percentages were still roughly the same. That is Southern Auckland is now the largest sub-region in Auckland at 34% of the population with the Isthmus at 28% of the population.

Growth wise I would say the South is also the fastest growing sub-region as well which brings me to my next point.

Full Hospitality Spaces and low Land Vacancy Rates are two good problems to have – to a point

Reports of industrial land capacity being as low as 1.9% in South Auckland while rents/value are averaging $550/sqm and in some cases spiking $800/sqm. Rents are also up 5.5% as well (see: Revaluation boosts Goodman placement, retail offer out Thursday, 5 new projects)

In one way this is good thing as the market is reacting to the increased demand and desirability to develop in Manukau and its industrial surrounds especially as it means more jobs for the South. On the other hand the low vacancy rate and the creeping value of floor space is one of concern. Either not enough land is coming in stream in Wiri and the Airport or the land has been consumed in such a way we are not getting most efficient use of land. Either way continued low vacancy rates and increasing value of floor space means Manukau will reach the $1000/sqm threshold where it is no longer viable for industry but it certainly is for residential and higher end commercial uses. As soon as residential and commercial start becoming viable in an industrial area you get competition of land use and nine times out of ten industry decamping to elsewhere (taking their jobs with them).

The decamping of industry is going to happen one way or the other as it is a natural urban geography situation. But I rather see a plan in place that allows for maximum and efficient of industrial land followed by an orderly exit when decamping eventually arrives (given disruption to social structures reliant on the industry in the area that is moving).


The other good problem to have and this time in Manukau City Centre is the hospitality places ranging from bars, restaurants, food halls and cafes are more often than not brimming with patrons and their business. The not so good news is grumbles are starting to occur as the places are that full that either a seat is hard to find if you are a walk in or the wait list is starting to build if it is a full service eatery.

Okay these are good problems to have as it is showing confidence the wider Southern Auckland area is having in Manukau and its hospitality. New hotels springing up all over the place with even more on the way will certainly buoy that confidence too. Where the problem lies is that and especially as the South continues to surge is that #OurManukau area and its facilities are serving an ever wider catchment. That is the existing facilities inside the #OurManukau area are now too small and either enlarged or more facilities are needed.

Again not a bad thing in the expansion of facilities as it will mean more amenities and more employment into the Manukau area. But like the industrial complexes in the South strategies need to be in place so the expansion is done in an orderly fashion. Matching the hospitality places to patronage, making sure they are accessible to transit and active modes while existing facilities are given a spruce up should keep Panuku and ATEED busy – very busy.

No matter how the population numbers and growth figures were sliced and diced they demonstrated that Southern Auckland has surpassed Central Auckland in terms of population and population growth.

This will put even further strain on infrastructure, facilities and amenities in a Metropolitan Centre that was once a dormant 9-5 autocentric Centre now evolving its weekend and night economies. Growth is going to happen but we need to make sure this is in an orderly fashion!

Aerial photo of Manukau centre. Source: Panuku