The most disturbing statistics out on Friday – easily ignored because they can quickly become a jumble of numbers fitting into the “maybe” & “faraway” categories – were the local population projections through to 2043.
Statistics NZ produced estimates out of the 2013 census which were confusing – for Auckland, a census-night figure of 1.4 million but a subsequent estimated resident population of 1.53 million. For the new projections for the 30 years 2013-43, in 5-year steps, the starting point has dropped by 40,000 to 1.49 million.
After a growth rate of 2.4% in the 5 years to 2006, the rate of population increase in Auckland dropped to 1.2% in the 7-year period to 2013. The new projections range from a high rate of 1.6% (940,000 more residents over 30 years), through a mid-range of 1.3% (736,000 increase) to a low range of 1% (535,000). A population gain within those projected ranges would take Auckland’s population to a low point of just over 2 million to a high point of 2.43 million.
Broadly, the statistics show Auckland will carry on growing faster than the rest of the country. From having about one-third of New Zealand’s population, the projections show Auckland would have 40% of the total by 2043 – 2.4 million of a possible 6 million on the high side, or 2.2 million of 5.6 million in the mid-range.
Overall, the projections show an aging, dying country kept stocked by new migrants as the natural increase declines.
Over the whole country, the median age of regional populations will rise everywhere, but less in Auckland. From a median of 32 in 1996, Auckland’s median is projected to rise by 8.5 years to 40.5 in 2043.
At the other extreme, Tasman, at the top of the South Island, is projected to have a population increase from 38,800 in 1996 to 54,000 in 2043. The natural increase will turn negative in the 5-year period to 2033 and the median age in 2043 is projected to be 53.8 years.
The focus in the rest of this story is on Auckland, but the national focus needs to be on ways of growing the whole country. Without migrants, New Zealand’s population would age & decline even faster than these projections reveal. Auckland, in particular, will be propped up by net immigration (from overseas & elsewhere in the country), although its birth rate is projected to rise, which isn’t the case everywhere else.
Auckland’s birth rate was 113,700 in the 7 years to 2013 and is projected to fall by 1500 over the 5 years to 2018. By the end of the 30-year period, Auckland’s birth rate is projected to rise by only 19,300/5 years, while deaths are projected to rise from 37,500 in the last census period to 66,700 in the 5 years to 2043.
Statistics NZ shows 2 immigration spikes for Auckland (the main destination for immigrants), from a 5-year inflow of 41,700 to 2001, rising to 88,900 to 2006, falling to 11,500 to 2013, rising to 80,000 to 2018, and even flows of 40,000 every 5 years after that. Those even flows show where projections can easily go wrong, taking no account of inputs such as political manipulation.
Within Auckland, the population of the Waitemata Local Board area, which includes the cbd, has been growing rapidly since 1996 – from 44,900 in 1996 to 81,300 in 2013. It’s projected to rise by another 14,100 to 2018, and by 70,000 to 151,800 by 2043.
Around the region’s other 20 local board areas, rises of 30-60,000 are projected over 30 years – except for Manurewa, with a projection of only 16,500.
Franklin, in the south, is projected to grow by 57,000 to 125,200. In the north, Rodney’s projected growth is 42,000 to 99,300 and the Hibiscus & Bays area’s is 52,000, to 146,600.
And then there’s Great Barrier Island, which has the most unusual projections of 60 births, 60 deaths, no migration and a net increase of 10 in its population in the final 5 years of the projection period, taking it to 1010 residents, still short of the resident population of 1230 in 1996, which was followed by a steady exit over the next decade.
The medium projection for the increase in Auckland of children up to the age of 14 is for a rise from 311,500 in 2013, up to 375,500 in 2043. But the 65+ age group is expected to pass the number of children in the 5 years to 2038, rising from 169,800 in 2013 to 425,400 in 2043.
Statistics NZ’s population statistics manager Vina Cullum, said net migration exceeded 50,000 in 2014 but was unlikely to remain at that level. 60% of Auckland’s growth would be from natural increase, the rest from migration.
She said the projections weren’t predictions, but an indication of the size & composition of the future population.
What the statisticians don’t do is project how these anticipated courses might be changed – while the death rate might be a trifle hard to adjust, policies can encourage changes in the birth rate; a rising population in Auckland, and Auckland’s population as an ever-larger share of the total, should be treated with alarm if, at the same time, many regions won’t be able to support present infrastructure, let alone upgrades.
Attribution: Statistics NZ tables & release.