Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton still top NZ’s population rankings, but fifth place now goes to Tauranga instead of Dunedin. But just because these six main centres are the biggest, they’re not necessarily always the most interesting (or indicative) in terms of property dynamics…which is exactly where Queenstown comes in.
We’ve recently been questioned about how the population base around different parts of New Zealand has changed during the recent migration driven boom. Clearly, population growth is a key influencer on residential property demand and values, so it’s a good time to quickly run through the numbers.
The table above shows the current* top 10 population bases, and their growth over the past decade. Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton have stayed first, second, third and fourth, but Tauranga has overtaken Dunedin since 2007 to move into fifth place. Whangarei has overtaken Palmerston North to move into eighth, while New Plymouth has come into the top 10 over the past decade at Hasting’s expense. The fastest population increases amongst the top 10 since 2007 have been in the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of Hamilton (20.8%), Tauranga (20.3%) and Auckland (19.2%).
Auckland’s sheer size means it has played a defining role in NZ’s overall population growth. From 1997 to 2017, NZ’s population increased by 27%, or 1.01m people (from 3.78m to 4.79m). Auckland was responsible for more than half of that rise, with a population increase from 1.15m in 1997 to 1.66m in 2017, which means it’s home to an impressive 35% of NZ’s total population. As we all know, immigration has been a big part of recent population growth in Auckland. But as the graph above shows, it’s also been very significant in Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin.
In our research publications, the six ‘main centres’ are chosen because they are the six biggest population bases. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin are always the most interesting, or even the most influential for property dynamics. Indeed, our data shows that although Tauranga has fewer people than Hamilton, its property stock is worth about $6bn more (see the table above). The contrast is even starker in Queenstown and Dunedin. Queenstown’s** population of 37,100 is less than a third the size of Dunedin’s, but the value of its property ($21.9bn) is about $2bn higher.
Of course, Queenstown’s property market is often referred to as having its own ‘micro-climate’, with investors (many with plenty of equity behind them) dominating activity in an expensive area. This is very obvious from our CoreLogic buyer classification data. Across NZ as whole, multiple property owners (MPOs) with a mortgage have accounted for 23% of purchases in the past year, with MPO cash purchases accounting for another 13% - a total to investors of 36%. In Queenstown, MPO mortgage purchases are at 28%, with MPO cash accounting for 23%, equating to a total of 51% (see the graph above).
** Queenstown actually has the highest average value of property per person ($589,210) amongst these parts of NZ. Auckland’s figure is $303,376, while Dunedin is down at $152,819.