New Zealand’s top towns to live and work

20/11/2018

A new study from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research for the Building Better Homes, Towns, and Cities (BBHTC) National Science Challenge uses a deep-dive analysis of census rent and wage data to compile quality of life and quality of business measures for 130 towns and cities in New Zealand.

"Households and firms prefer different amenities, which means places with high quality of life often have low quality of business. For instance, households appear to prefer sunny, dry locations near water, while firms appear to prefer to locate in larger cities," says Dr Arthur Grimes, Senior Fellow at Motu and one of the report's authors.

The report - released today - lays a framework so that BBHTC researchers can go on to identify  actionable solutions that we can use to improve our lives. 

"This study forms a solid foundation that will eventually lead to strong conclusions around what we can do to ensure New Zealand's regions enjoy both quality of life and quality of business," explains Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Challenge Director Dr Ruth Berry. 

The top eight towns identified as having the highest quality of life in 2013, were Whitianga, Motueka, Coromandel, Queenstown, Katikati, Mapua, Moerewa and Opotiki.

Quality of Life

Interestingly, the study shows that since the mid-1990s, places with increasing shares of their workforce engaged in education and health have risen in perceived quality of life. 

"We find no evidence that increasing employment share in the accommodation, food, arts, and recreational services is associated with an increase in quality of life, at least outside the large cities. It seems that places that are nice to live in are generally rich in employment in these sectors. However, intensifying those industries in a given city does not necessarily improve quality of life," says Dr Grimes.

Furthermore, there are a few cities in New Zealand that are attractive to both people and firms. These are Christchurch, Tauranga and Queenstown. 

"Over the 37-year period we analysed, people's perception of quality of life and quality of business in these places has remained relatively stable," says Dr Grimes. "However, as some cities do experience increases or decreases in these measures over time, it signals that it is possible for locations with poor performance on these measures to improve, and vice versa."

Unsurprisingly, in 2013, the top eight towns for firms (and hence work opportunities) were in or around New Zealand's three biggest cities: Auckland (Auckland, Waiuku, Te Kauwhata, Pukekohe), Wellington (Wellington, Kapiti) and Christchurch (Rolleston, Lincoln).

Quality of Business

The full working paper “Amenities and the attractiveness of New Zealand cities” by Kate Preston, David Maré, Arthur Grimes, and Stuart Donovan is now available on the Motu website.

Summary haiku:

People like to be
dry and sunny, by the sea,
but firms like cities.