Central city population growth

Our Urban Growth Plan identifies the central city as a key location for high quality living and a primary residential growth area.

Topographical map of Wellington identifying the central city suburbs in purple.
The Wellington city area surveyed to understand people who live there

We want to make sure the central city is an attractive place for people to live.

The 2013 census found that Thorndon, Wellington Central and Te Aro are home to nearly 17,000 people. Population projections estimate the central city will need to accommodate another 15,000 people over the next 30 years. Most of these people will live in new apartment blocks.

Te Aro is one part of the central city that has room to accommodate growth. Te Aro is an ideal location as it’s within walking distance to the CBD, the waterfront, Courtenay Place and Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

Survey of central city dwellers

To inform our planning for this growth area, we surveyed 5,700 households. We wanted to understand who lives in the central city, why they live there, and how they feel about living there.

The process

Nielsen’s managed the survey for us during September and October of 2015. Over 5,700 households in the Wellington central area were sent an invitation to complete the survey online. Two reminders were sent to those who hadn’t responded, with the last one including a print survey. We received a 25% response rate, or 1,313 surveys.

What we found – summary

Satisfied central city residents

Most people surveyed are happy with living in the central city– 85% are satisfied living here, and 90% would recommend living here to a friend.

There’s an increase in people choosing to live in the central city long-term; with those having lived there for over 4 years rising from 26% in 2008, to 34% in 2015.

The central city isn’t just a place for students either. Over a third of respondents are over 50, representing nearly two thirds of the owner-occupiers in the central city. These residents are generally happier and more likely to stay in the central city long-term, compared with younger residents.

Residents of all ages are seeing Wellington’s central city as an attractive place to live.

Advantages of central city living

Residents appreciate the advantages of living centrally with convenient access to education or work, shops and services, and restaurants, cafes and bars.

Residents also note inner city living can mean lower maintenance housing, a well-designed building and high levels of safety and security – all positive attributes of the city.

People are also positive about the public spaces within the city and the walking environment (easy access, safe, good lighting). However, there are less positive views about lack of protection for pedestrians from the weather, and the quality of some inner city buildings.

Disadvantages of central city living

The strongest dislike about living in the central city is the lack of private outdoor space – one in three people said this is a significant dislike.

The other issues included street noise, noise from other apartments, a lack of storage space, the cost of living centrally, and parking.

However, some of these perceptions changed with different age groups. The 18 to 49s said the lack of private outdoor space was a major dislike, while it was less of an issue for those over 50 – who are more likely to be owner-occupiers and choose apartments with sufficient private outdoor space. Students, young professionals and renters may not have the same flexibility and have a more restricted accommodation choice, such as places with limited outdoor spaces.

The over-50s are more likely to identify body corporate issues and graffiti as significant concerns.

Why people would move out of the central city

The lack of private outdoor space is also the main reason for all people considering moving out of the central city, ranking higher than job or family changes. This is true for renters and owner-occupiers.

The survey also shows those who rent or live in a studio apartment are more likely to move from the central city.

Overall, there is an increase in those wanting to stay in the central city, up from 57% in 2008 to 69% in 2015.

Satisfaction and housing attributes

We looked closer at attributes that changed people’s satisfaction. People more likely to be satisfied responded positively to having a balcony large enough to fit a table and chairs, and also not having noise issues. People less likely to be satisfied lived in a studio, or had no private outdoor space.

Satisfaction didn’t seem affected by the type of building people lived in (low-rise or high-rise), the number of bedrooms (as long as it was bigger than a studio), or if they had communal open space. Interestingly some people noted noise as an issue but it didn’t mean they disliked living in the central city. This may indicate people accept and know it is part of living in the city.

What else is in the survey?

We asked more questions and have information on: 

  • What people thought about their sense of community 
  • How people use central city facilities
  • How people travelled to work or school.

Where to from here?

We will continue analysing the survey information. Specifically, we will look at the Central Area chapter of the District Plan review our investment in streets and public spaces, and work with local developers and look for other opportunities to continue improving the central city for residents.