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Thousands Leave Auckland's Central Suburbs: Census

Auckland's central suburbs saw negative growth for the first time in more than a decade. File photo. Photo: Tim Marshall / Unsplash

Aucklanders are leaving the inner city to settle down on the fringes, according to the latest census data.

Thousands of residents have left the central suburbs in the past five years, while Papakura and Upper Harbour have seen enormous growth.

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Auckland's overall population grew by just 5.4 percent since 2018, a far cry from the 11 percent increase between 2013 and 2018.

Stats NZ principal analyst Rosemary Goodyear said there were several factors that could have taken the wind out of the city of sails.

"Population growth has slowed... there's been a lot happening: Covid, closed borders, and we've had fewer international students," she said.

Central suburbs were hit the hardest, experiencing negative growth for the first time in more than a decade.

The Waitematā local board area - which included the CBD - dropped by 1.6 percent from 82,866 residents in 2018 to 81,546 in 2023.

The Albert-Eden area dropped by 2 percent from 98,622 to 96,630.

"Particularly Waitematā and Albert-Eden have declined in population, and we noticed that some of the local boards on the periphery of Auckland, particularly Upper Harbour and Papakura, have increased by over 20 percent," Goodyear said.

"The information we've got here does suggest that living on the fringes of Auckland is something that Aucklanders are moving towards."

City Centre Residents Group spokesperson Antony Phillips said families were leaving the city centre because there was not space to raise their kids.

"There's a number of people who have left who have not been able to raise their families here," he said.

"We had a couple who had children and it was difficult for them... there's not the right infrastructure for families particularly around schooling."

He said the CBD lacked the amenities that many families needed.

"I think it just comes back to all those wonderful things we expect to see: schools, pre-schools, parks... we're seeing an increase of those but we don't have enough."

After 20 years of city living, Phillips said he was in it for the long haul - but many only lived in the CBD short-term.

"It's a forever home for me, however I appreciate that for many people it isn't," he said.

"It's much better than it used to be. We're starting to see better street lighting, better streetscaping, all of those things are improving but we're still not quite there."

Waitematā councillor Mike Lee said the census was a bad look for Auckland Council, which had been desperate to grow the CBD.

"[It's] contrary to what the council's stated strategic policy is: to bring people into the inner-city and make the inner-city a wonderful place to live, work and play," he said.

"Well, it's not working out that way and it's the council's fault, to be frank."

He said the council needed to make some changes.

"All of these things are mounting up, I'm afraid, and therefore we're losing people from the inner-city instead of gaining them."

Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick also had a wish list.

"I engage with constituents every other day... and the kind of things they want to see [are] greater use of public space, and people want a connected public transport system," she said.

"They also want a school in our city centre, which is something that I've been working on."

With a bit of work, Swarbrick said central Auckland could become a more attractive place to live long-term.

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