During the past 2 decades, Auckland has had significant growth as a city and the population has seen annual growth of 1.8 percent year on year. Auckland is the most populated city in New Zealand with roughly 1.75 million however data shows for the first time in its 20 years population has fallen.
The population growth rate dropped 66 percent in the 2021 year to its lowest levels seen since year 2012 and it’s not just Auckland that is seeing this trend, major cities such as Wellington and Christchurch along with the West Coast and Southland regions are experiencing its affects. The downturn can be attributed to Covid-19 and the restrictions that were put in place which limited people’s movement. With the border restrictions, international migration which would normally contribute to population growth has also been affected.
A recent study by ANZ shows that the number of people leaving Auckland has increased significantly in the past few years. In 2016, net migration (the difference between those moving to Auckland and those leaving) was +12,000 however in 2020 this had decreased to just +3,000. On the other hand, the fastest growing region was recognized as the Northland region with close to 2 percent. Other regions that saw growth was Bay of Plenty with Tauranga movers in high demand and also people moving to Nelson in the Tasman region.
So what’s driving people out of the City of Sails?
It appears that Covid-19 has been a catalyst for many people reassessing their priorities and for some, this meant leaving the city life behind for a slower paced lifestyle. The appeal of having more space and being surrounded by nature is something that is becoming increasingly more popular.
People are also beginning to be more aware that time is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted and with the pandemic highlighting this, many are choosing to make a lifestyle change that will allow them to have a better work/life balance.
Another key factor that is contributing to the decision making of thousands of New Zealanders is the price of property in Auckland. It is becoming increasingly difficult for first home buyers to get into the market and this is causing people to look elsewhere.
Productivity is also said to be a driving factor contributing to the falling growth. With many businesses offering opportunities to work from home or from a distance, people have more choices today and this is quickly becoming a prerequisite for many when accepting the next job opportunity.
So, what’s next for Auckland? While the data looks bleak, it’s not all doom and gloom. The city is still a desirable place to live with a strong economy, good infrastructure and plenty of job opportunities. To restore the rate of growth in coming years, it is evident that something needs to change and this may mean a new approach to housing, work/life balance and social infrastructure.