Back in August we noted that Auckland city (the urban area defined by Stats NZ) has as many people as the next 12 cities combined. We also showed a map dividing Auckland up into 12 areas with equivalent populations to the cities. Unfortunately, the map is now out of date as Stats NZ revised their population estimates in October. As we noted in November, Auckland region’s population estimate was reduced by 77,500 – a whole Palmerston North vanished into thin air!

So how big is Auckland then? We thought you might like to find out for yourself. Below is an interactive map of New Zealand with circles for every “urban area” that Stats NZ defines, sized by their 2019 population, and coloured to indicate whether they are classified as small, medium, large or major. Click on the links in the following paragraph to see some preset comparisons or just explore your own mix and match combinations. Select/unselect urban areas by clicking on the circle or click-and-drag a rectangle across many circles at once.

Previously we were told that Auckland was almost exactly the same size as the next 12 largest cities: Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga, Lower Hutt, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Napier, Porirua, Rotorua, New Plymouth and Whangarei. That comparison is 5% too large – we can more closely match Auckland’s population by comparing the next 10 largest cities and the 18th (Whanganui). We can get an even closer match by grouping together the smallest 178 urban areas, from Kaitaia to Bluff. How close can you get to matching Auckland exactly?

A Diverse Supercity

Auckland is not only bigger than anywhere else in New Zealand, it is more ethnically diverse. Let’s look at the Auckland region as a whole and compare it to the other territorial authorities around the country. As before, you can pick-n-mix your own comparisons or click on the links in the next paragraph for some presets. You can also select to choose whether to compare the total of all people who live there, people who identify as Māori, or people that Stats NZ groups as “Pacific Peoples” or “Asian”. The circles are sized by the 2018 population estimate, and are coloured to indicate regions.

Roughly one in three New Zealanders live in the Auckland region. Roughly one in three New Zealanders live in the largest three regions: Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury (across 27 territorial authorities). If you learned your primary school maths you won’t be surprised to learn that roughly one in three New Zealanders live in the other 12 regions (across 38 territorial authorities). The national Māori population has a different distribution to the total, and roughly one in four Māori live in Auckland. That’s about the same as the top six territorial authorities: Hamilton City, Christchurch City, Far North District, Rotorua District, Whangarei District and Gisborne District. When it comes to the Pacific Peoples and Asian distributions, in both cases two of every three people live in Auckland. This makes the interactive much less interesting: see total Pacific Peoples and total Asian.


These interactive maps were created with D3, and were based on an Austrian election visualisation by Flooh Perlot (used with permission). The code and text can be reused under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Related Articles