Chart of the Month: Where does your area’s population rank?

The recent release of the 2022 subnational population estimates provides the latest insight into how local populations across New Zealand continue to change. Population growth has slowed across the country, with regional migration again a key contributor to local population changes.

It’s clear that although Auckland was, is, and will (seemingly) always to be New Zealand’s largest territorial authority (that’s Super City status for you!), there have been some rapid changes in the ranking for a number of areas across the country. In the October 2022 Chart of the Month, we rank the size of each Territorial Authority’s population in 2022 and compare that rank to that area’s rank in 1996 (when the subnational population estimates series begins).

Some rapid moves up the ranks

The top three areas by population size haven’t changed in the last 26 years, but after that, all bets are off. Dunedin was usurped from its 4th place position in 2000 by Hamilton, who has held the spot ever since. Both Whangarei and Hastings have broken into the Top 10 over the period, with Whangarei moving to 9th place in 1998 and then into 8th place in 2013.

However, the most interesting changes have been the rapid move up the ranks for Selwyn, Waimakariri, and Queenstown-Lakes Districts. Selwyn District has rocketed up 25 places, from 38th in 1996 to 13th place in 2022. Queenstown-Lakes has risen 22 places, from 49th to 27th, and Waimakariri has risen 13 places, from 29th to 16th.

Honourable mentions go to Western Bay of Plenty, Carterton, Hurunui, Waipā, South Wairarapa, Waikato, and Central Otago Districts, which have all moved up at least 5 places since 1996. At the other end of the spectrum, 11 areas have seen rank declines of 5 or more rankings. That’s not to say that these areas’ populations have declined, but that other areas have seen stronger population growth which has leapfrogged them ahead.

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