21 May 2013

A million extra residents is likely

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Written by Marnie Hallahan
Published: Auckland Now / North Shore Times – 21 May 2013

JURY'S OUT: Professor Paul Spoonley says Auckland will face some big challenges accommodating another million people

JURY’S OUT: Professor Paul Spoonley says Auckland will face some big challenges accommodating another million people

The question isn’t whether Auckland will grow by another million people in the next 30 years, says Massey University professor Paul Spoonley, it’s whether we want it to.

Mr Spoonley is director of research for the College of Humanities and Social Studies at Massey and an expert on New Zealand immigration.

He believes that Auckland Council’s prediction that the city will have to cater for an extra million people by 2040 “isn’t extravagant”.

However, he asks whether these extra people could compromise the liveability of our city.

“A million is sort of a magic figure, but it’s realistic. The question is do we want an extra million people,” Mr Spoonley says.

“While the jobs are here what about schools, hospitals and other infrastructure.

“Out of a million we would say there would be an extra 150,000 school children. Where do we accommodate them?”

According to Mr Spoonley, New Zealand and Ireland are the only two OECD countries where a third of the population lives in one city.

He says the figure of an extra million could well equate to the total increase in population in New Zealand but almost all of these people will settle in Auckland.

If this occurs the percentage of the country’s population living in Auckland could reach 40 per cent.

“The thing is it’s very difficult to manage population growth, you can’t tell people not to come here.”

Mr Spoonley is supportive of Auckland Council’s efforts to plan for future intensification.

“You can argue the details of the Unitary Plan, but in general we need a plan to shape the future of Auckland,” he says.

However, there are still some big unknowns when trying to predict housing needs, he says, especially on the North Shore where the population is aging quite rapidly.

“Whether people downsize as they get older and who is going to buy the bigger homes they leave behind, things like that we still don’t know.”

Mr Spoonley says that with birth rates declining New Zealand is using immigration as a population replacement as well as for population growth.

On the North Shore the most significant groups of immigrants are those from Britain, Korea and China, he says.

“And we do not necessarily know what their future housing needs will be.”

He adds that the population and demographic forecasts for Auckland will likely be adjusted when the results of the latest census are analysed.



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