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State Of The City Update

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s fresh air, university ranking, and outdoor activities are international strengths, but the city’s higher cost of living, weaker prosperity, and lower reported levels of happiness present challenges. These are some of the findings in the latest State of the City Update.

Committee for Auckland Director Mark Thomas says this second update, following the release of the comprehensive The State of the City: Benchmarking Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s international performance report in August 2023, provides recently published indicators, city signature projects and other performance insights on the actions underway in Auckland which address areas highlighted by the report.

“The University of Auckland is now in the top 25 universities in the Asia and Oceania regions, having risen 19 places in a 1,500 international universities’ ranking study. It was awarded an excellent rating in employability, internationalisation, research, and teaching.

“However, ongoing cost of living challenges mean Auckland remains in the top third of cities with the highest cost of living, although this has fallen from among the top 30. Consumer prices increased at 5% on average last year, whereas the global cities average was 7.4%.

“Auckland’s overall prosperity, as measured by educational attainment levels, labour-force participation and the number of startups, has been impacted with the city ranking 80th out of 100 cities and at the bottom of the peer cities Auckland is assessed against[1].

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“Auckland’s “city brand”, based on a global perception survey, considering business investment attraction and liveability factors, is ranked 46th out of 100 cities. Auckland ranks in the middle of the peer pack, ahead of peer cities Helsinki and Tel Aviv but behind Copenhagen, Dublin, and Vancouver,” says Thomas.

The latest update shows Auckland is ranked 9th in the world for the quality of its outdoor activities recommended by locals and visitors, beating all of Auckland’s nine peer cities It is acknowledged for its variety of easy to access outdoor locations, numerous green spaces and 53 volcanic cones.”

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited Director of Economic Development Pam Ford says the region’s natural attributes contribute to its appeal as an international visitor destination which helps boost the economy, creates jobs, and connects Auckland to the world.

“It is encouraging to see Auckland’s international visitor numbers have increased by 83.9% in the year to January 2024 up to 2.08 million people. Although we’re still behind pre-COVID-19 levels, accommodation nights in the city rose by 5.2% over the same period, helping support the region’s economic recovery through visitor spend on the incredible range of experiences Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer.”

Deloitte Future of Auckland Director Kate Sutton noted that Auckland has among the cleanest air in the world, ranking 3rd for the Most Good Air Days on the latest daily measure out of 180 cities tracked. The city has very low recorded levels of dust, smoke, and other air pollutants tracked by the World Health Organisation.

She noted however that Auckland is the 72nd happiest city out of 250, the second lowest of the peer cites measured. “The cities transport system and lower productivity levels contribute negatively to Auckland’s overall score. Although Auckland public transport levels have been growing, they remain 15% behind pre-COVID-19 volumes, with any increase in levels potentially hampered by constrained transport budgets in the near term.”

Thomas says the State of the City Update also highlights some of the considerable work underway to improve Auckland’s performance.

“As part of supporting the work Auckland still must do strengthening its appeal on investment attraction and liveability, a new education, health and infrastructure-focused precinct is being developed at the University of Auckland’s Innovation Precinct in Newmarket. 20 co-locating companies across multiple tech sectors are based there and, in addition to hosting Australasia’s largest seismic testing facility, a new artificial intelligence development group and a co-creation space focused on aged care research has been added.”

Pam Ford agrees saying, “Tātaki Auckland Unlimited (TAU) is prioritising the development of high-value sectors such as medtech, cleantech and aerospace, that drive economic growth and create highly skilled jobs. TAU has partnered with Medtech-iQ Aotearoa to make Auckland a medtech “hotspot”, growing this high-value export industry and tackling health challenges that affect the community.”

Auckland’s first ever citizens’ transport forum was held to shape the direction of the city’s transport future. Run by think tank Koi Tū in collaboration with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, the project uses deliberative democracy principles deployed in more than 11,000 cities worldwide. This approach involves citizens in an inclusive, informed decision-making process using technology tools to solve challenging city problems.

The update also includes a Snapshot of Crime from NZ Police which shows an early but encouraging fall in reported crime in Auckland in the three months to the end of February 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

Thomas said this State of the City Update showed good progress in the key areas of innovation and knowledge, the two lowest performing areas in last year’s report. He noted Auckland still ranks well internationally in the sustainability and experience areas but that work on the harder to move issues such as connectivity/transport, opportunity and prosperity would take more time and effort.

The State of the City report for 2024 will be released later this year. The State of the City Update can be viewed here: State of the City Quarterly Update | April 2024.

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