New Statistics NZ population projections suggest it is possible Auckland's population could virtually double in the next 25 years; NZ total population could hit 6 million in only about 10 years' time

By David Hargreaves

Auckland’s population will virtually double to more than 3 million in the next 25 years, while around 18,000 new houses a year will need to be built.

The New Zealand population (currently estimated at about 4.8 million) will hit 6 million in little more than 10 years’ time.

These ‘very high migration’ scenarios are outlined by Statistics New Zealand in a paper titled ‘Auckland’s future population under alternative migration scenarios’, which appeared on the Stats NZ website with no fanfare last week.

The release of the paper by Stats NZ comes little more than four months after its two-yearly ‘Subnational Population Projections’ were released.

Those projections, while indicating much stronger Auckland population growth than the projections of just two years earlier, were forecasting long-term net migration gains for the whole country of about 75,000 for every five years.

At the moment the ANNUAL rate of net migration gain nationally is about 72,000.

While not giving any specific reason for why it has produced an update just four months after the latest series of population projections, Stats NZ says its new article “explores what Auckland might look like demographically under some alternative higher migration scenarios, then considers the resulting demand for housing”.

Stats NZ typically produces three scenarios for projections – ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’. The ‘medium’ projection is therefore assumed as the most likely.

The reality is that recent migration figures have been blowing the Stats NZ projections out of the water.

So while it is sticking with its projections as released in February, Stats NZ in the new article, has outlined – in addition to the ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ projections  – new ‘higher’ and ‘very high’ projections.

Stats NZ says that at a time of high sustained net migration gains, as experienced in 2014–17, it is reasonable to consider “whether a new migration regime may be unfolding”.

“Beyond the short-term, will Auckland consistently gain 42,500 people every five years through net migration (medium assumption)? Or perhaps as many as 72,500 people every five years (high assumption)? Or possibly net migration gains similar to the current 2016–17 levels?”

And it is those ‘very high’ migration projections as now produced by Stats NZ that suggest a near doubling of Auckland’s population to over 3 million by the early 2040s would be possible, along with a requirement for a much as 90,000 new houses every five years.

Specifically, Stats NZ says the ‘higher migration’ scenario for Auckland would be a net gain of 125,000 every five years, while the ‘very high migration’ scenario would be 175,000 every five years.

These ‘very high’ migration projections as outlined by Stats NZ in fact merely represent what HAS been happening in recent times, with current net inbound migration levels running at around 40,000 a year in Auckland.

Nationally, the new ‘very high’ projections give a national population of 6 million by 2028 and over 7.5 million by the early 2040s.

As far as Auckland is concerned, Stats NZ says a ‘higher migration’ or ‘very high migration’ scenario “implies a demand for new dwellings well above the building levels that have occurred in recent decades”.

In 2016 consents for about 10,000 new dwelling units were approved for Auckland. That’s the highest since the early 2000s but market commentators have been suggesting it’s nowhere near enough for Auckland to start catching up to the current shortfall.

Stats NZ says Auckland had an average of about 2.9 people per household (private dwelling) in 2001, 2006, and 2013. Applying this simple ratio to the population projections indicates how many more dwellings need to be built to accommodate the population

“The projections indicate many more dwellings need to be built in Auckland than was done historically, to accommodate a ‘high’ population projection – an average of 60,000 more dwellings every five years between 2013 and 2043. Under the ‘higher migration scenario’, the average needs to be at least 70,000 new dwellings every five years. And under the ‘very high migration scenario’, the average is closer to 90,000 new dwellings every five years.”

Stats NZ goes on to say that even “these simple illustrative dwelling figures” might under-estimate the demand for housing for any given population projection.

“…Stats NZ’s family and household projections have a more sophisticated methodology than simply assuming a constant average household size. They indicate average household size is likely to decrease slightly with an ageing population. This means more dwellings need to be built to accommodate the same population.”