Auckland hosted the 2021 America’s Cup, which was won by Emirates Team New Zealand. photo/photosport
It is distinguished by its beautiful beaches, mild climate, and multicultural population that has fostered an eclectic mix of food, music and the arts. But Auckland, the most remote outpost in the South Pacific, is truly the world’s most outpost
A livable city?
A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit this week ranked the city of New Zealand above Vienna, Melbourne and other previous winners, thanks to its success in quelling Covid-19.
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, also moved up the rankings to fourth, while four Australian cities took the top ten.
The survey compared 140 cities worldwide in terms of stability, healthcare, culture, infrastructure, and a host of other factors.
“New Zealand’s strict lockdown has allowed their community to reopen and has enabled citizens of cities like Auckland and Wellington to enjoy a lifestyle similar to life before the pandemic,” said Upasana Dutt, head of global living at EIU.
The honor surprised some New Zealanders who pointed out the harbor city’s housing crisis, traffic jams and low wages. Auckland was recently ranked as the fourth least affordable city for housing in the world by Demography.
European and Canadian cities have slipped in The Economist’s rankings due to the increasing pressure on healthcare caused by the second wave of Covid-19 cases and the requirement to maintain social distancing restrictions.
Compared to many people living in cities in Europe or North America last year, Auckland’s 1.7 million residents have a charming life. In February, the “City of Sails” hosted the America’s Cup yacht race, while spectators flocked to rugby matches, concerts, and other entertainment events for most of the year.
Schools have largely remained open as the authorities’ early decision to close the country’s borders and impose restrictions on social distancing reduced the number of infections in New Zealand to less than 2,700 cases, resulting in just 26 deaths.
Friday marks 104 days since the last case of Covid-19 was reported on February 28.
Not surprisingly, then, more than 40,000 New Zealand citizens have returned from abroad since the pandemic hit last year, a trend that pushed the country’s population to more than five million late last year.
Jane Henley, who gave up a job at the World Bank in Washington, said to return to Auckland as the pandemic began to spread.
Henley said she went home a little earlier than intended in part due to concerns about US gun laws. But she regrets a little, citing Auckland’s friendly culture, access to nature and relaxed attitude.
But Henley, an expert on sustainable building programmes, acknowledged that Auckland faces significant challenges including traffic congestion, expensive housing and relatively low wages.
“House prices are the same as London or New York prices, or at least the same as wages. But wages are much lower than they should be compared to house prices,” she said.
Home prices in Auckland were up 21 percent in the year to the end of May, with the median home price now at $1.3 million, according to QV, the New Zealand valuation and real estate services firm.
New Zealand has a severe housing shortage, with around 22,000 people on social housing waiting lists despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s 2017 election pledge to tackle the housing crisis and inequality.
“The reality is we have a two-tiered city,” said Jan Routledge, general manager of De Paul House, an emergency housing service in Auckland.
“This is a beautiful city for those with secure housing and employment, but it is a huge challenge for those without.”
New Zealand’s success in Covid-19 has boosted its economy, which is expected to grow by 2.9 per cent in 2021. The unemployment rate is 4.7 per cent.
The pandemic has also fueled a boom in film production in the country, as international projects and stars seek safe conditions and a lifestyle free of lockdowns.
James Cameron is filming many of the Avatar sequels in New Zealand and work on the Lord of the Rings series continues on Amazon, with the government granting border waivers to enable VIPs to travel into the country. International film productions will generate $730 million in spending this year, according to the New Zealand Film Commission.
Cameron, who is Canadian, and his wife Ames told an Auckland audience this week that they live full time in New Zealand and that they “love it.”
The film’s director said the past four years have been “absolute hell” in the US during Trump’s presidency.
Cameron added that New Zealand showed the world another way. “It’s a certain sense of duty to each other, that you’re part of a team, that you’re going to sacrifice for each other.”
Written by: Jimmy Smith
© Financial Times