There’s a lot of regular discussion about how much Auckland is projected to grow by over the next 30 or so years – “another million people” being the common catch-phrase. The “response to Minister’s questions” included as part of the documents released with the City Centre Future Access Study includes quite a lot of interesting information about Auckland’s future growth and how realistic the projections are. I think that a lot of the analysis probably has come about as a result of Central Government being somewhat sceptical (or perhaps just terrified) of the projected growth rates into the future.
The pure “population growth” numbers come from Statistics New Zealand population projections which presumably look at levels of natural increase (which is relatively easy to project) and immigration (much more unpredictable) before coming up with Low, Medium and High projections. Here are the different projections for Auckland over the next 30 years:
The Auckland Plan is based off the high projections, presumably to ensure that the “worst case scenario” in terms of population growth has been planned for. However, in the analysis of the merits of large infrastructure projects it seems that Central Government has insisted on using the medium projections – I guess as they want to be cautious on the low side of not ending up spending a lot of money on something that may not be necessary. Both approaches have a certain logic to them – but I guess the important thing to note is that all the analysis of the CRL’s merits will depend on the medium growth projections so can’t really be criticised as overly optimistic (particularly as they’re below Auckland’s historic rates of growth).
Putting the population growth projections into some sort of perspective can be achieved by comparing Auckland’s growth over the next 30 years with projected growth in other parts of New Zealand:To me, the graph above is an excellent illustration of why the bulk of new infrastructure expenditure in New Zealand that’s required for future growth reasons simply has to be in Auckland. If I were Len Brown I’d be emailing Central Government a copy of this graph on a daily basis to remind them of the need to invest in Auckland.
Looking now at where growth is expected to occur within Auckland, it seems that most of the analysis here has been derived from a fairly complex modelling process which doesn’t make too much sense to me. It’s outlined in the diagram below:
It seems as though things like transport accessibility and market attractiveness are key inputs into the modelling process, which is good. I suppose that any model is always only as good as the assumptions which sit behind it, but at least it seems that there’s a fairly extensive process that occurs to come up with the population and employment projections for different parts of Auckland.
The results of the modelling seem fairly believable at a cursory glance: significant growth in the city centre, city fringe, inner isthmus suburbs and then in areas where large chunks of greenfield land are proposed to be made available (whether that land is actually taken up in a market that seems to be changing towards more demand for inner city living is probably my biggest question with the results):It seems that a similar modelling process has then been used for employment projections – although this time without a Statistics NZ total number. Once again there are high, medium and low projections:The Census in a couple of months’ time should provide useful data to check past projections against – as I imagine the economic difficulties since 2007/2008 have had some impact upon past employment projections.
Different types of employment are also analysed in the modelling process, which is quite useful for projects like the CRL as the comparative growth of office-based employment as Auckland’s economy develops in the future is captured. As we will see, this has some important impacts on the location of future employment growth, but for now it’s just useful to note that “commercial” (which seems like it must be office-based employment) is projected to growth faster than other types of employment activity in the future:Now when these trends are looked at in terms of the distribution of employment growth around Auckland, growth in the city centre really stands out. Not particularly surprising as the strongest growth rates are for the very type of employment that’s most likely to end up in the city centre (plus the city centre is generally the most accessible point in the whole region):The notation that the graph above assumes CRL is place is interesting as I suspect a similar graph without the CRL in places would probably show significantly less employment growth in the city centre and fringe. After all, the capacity provided by CRL is key to unlocking the potential growth of the central city in particular.
I think what all the numbers above highlight most clearly to me is how, even using the medium growth projections (which personally I think are probably a bit on the low side) the scale of growth faced by Auckland over the next 30 years is simply massive. I am also quite impressed by the way in which it seems many of the further projections are derived (it’s not just plucking numbers out of thin air!) which leads me to believe that generally the scale, location and type of growth (both for population and employment) seem to be as soon an estimate as possible at the moment. And all of this growth just highlights to me how crucial the CRL is – imagining adding another 700,000+ people without being able to improve the frequency of our rail system beyond a train every 10 minutes is just a joke of a future.