Why Does New Zealand Only Have One City on the World’s Best Cities Ranking?
NZ Cities Fall from Grace in Liveable City Rankings
World's Best Cities is an index that (you probably guessed!) ranks the best 100 cities in the world. Little old New Zealand only appeared once on the index, with our largest city Auckland coming in at number 68. Their methodology factors in environment, immigration and diversity, key infrastructure and institutions, as well as employment, income, arts and culture and online reviews of the city itself.
In a separate paper, the 2022 Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Global Liveability Index saw New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, and Auckland plummet in ratings. In 2021, both cities were riding high, with Auckland rated as the world’s most liveable city and Wellington as the fourth; now Auckland is sitting at 34, and Wellington at 50.
Their EIU Index rates cities on an array of factors such as education, healthcare, crime rates, political stability, environment and culture. The authors of the survey noted Auckland and Wellington’s 2021 success was largely to do with our mammoth effort to keep Covid-19 out of the country, which at the time proved to be very popular with survey respondents.
The New Zealand Herald confirms this, reporting that the EIU Index’s authors said “both countries benefited in early 2021, when Covid vaccines were scarce: their closed borders kept cases down, keeping liveability high. However, this changed as a more infectious Covid-19 wave struck in late 2021, which made closed borders less of a defence.”
"Although New Zealand's lockdowns ended in December, before our survey period, its cities no longer have a Covid advantage over well-vaccinated European and Canadian cities."
“Cities in New Zealand and Australia are listed among the biggest fallers in our rankings, including Wellington and Auckland, which tumbled by 46 and 33 places respectively.”
In other words, New Zealand’s success was nothing to do with our cities themselves, rather our ability to keep a deadly virus out.
These not so stellar ratings beg the questions – why are our cities not more liveable? What are we doing wrong and just as importantly, what are we doing right?
A Cost-Of-Living Crisis
We all know that living is expensive right now. All of us are probably feeling the pinch in some way or another as inflation has sky-rocketed and the grocery bill alone can leave your wallet significantly lighter. Inflation rose to 7.2% in the final quarter of 2022, according to Stats NZ, and food prices a whopping 10.3% in one year.
The cost-of-living crisis has been touted as a real threat to liveability by Upasana Dutt, head of the EIU’s Global Liveability Index. As Newshub reports, Dutt has said that “our biggest concern now is the impact that the cost-of-living crisis, including the soaring prices of energy and food, will have on liveability, particularly on stability scores around the world. That may affect the recovery in next year's index."
Perhaps if living here wasn’t quite so costly, our rating would fare better? Yet despite the ghastly cost of food, housing and oh we forgot to mention fuel, our cities still have their magic.
Auckland is applauded by World's Best Cities for its luscious and easy access outdoors, being ranked 9th in the outdoor category. “Too many green spaces to count” and the magic of the cities 48 dormant volcano cones received praise.
The index is not wrong, Auckland is unique in its geographical location providing access to natural marvels in every direction. If you have 45 minutes to spare you can enjoy the wild and majestic West Coast beaches or find your zen in the native forests of the Waitakere ranges. An hour’s drive gives your access to Northland and the picturesque white sand beaches such as Tāwharanui, or a further thirty minutes leads you to Te Arai. Weekend trips to the surfer’s paradise of Raglan, rolling hills of Waikato or calm waters of the blue waters of the Coromandel Peninsula are typical of many Aucklanders lives. We are lucky indeed.
Spending time in nature is more beneficial for us than we realise. As The Mental Health Foundation note, people who connect with nature generally have lower levels of anxiety and depression. In fact, “Nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, and creativity and can facilitate concentration.” So, reading between the lines, living in a city like Auckland is positively impacting your wellbeing. That is a win right there.
A Growing Cosmopolitan Vibe
As World's Best Cities notes about Auckland “not surprisingly, the city is becoming more cosmopolitan.” The newly built $600 million-dollar Commercial Bay district adds immense value with over 100 high quality retail and dining spots, not to mention the countless restaurants and shopping opportunities the city presents.
Wellington has an urban magic of its own. Known for its arts scene, eclectic galleries and vintage shops, and of course the main event – food. In fact, Wellington has more eateries per person than New York City – with one restaurant to every 240 residents, a fact backed up by Anna Calver, the marketing and communications general manager for WellingtonNZ.
Rotorua’s Unexpected Rise
Forbes Tick of Approval
The sleepy-but-culturally-rich North Island city of Rotorua was named as a top 50 travel destination by Forbes in their article Best Places to Travel in 2023, both surprising and not surprising us at all. Forbes’ list focused on destinations that "range from quick weekend getaway options, to trekking out to some of the most remote parts of the earth,” and Rotorua certainly provides a unique weekend experience.
Rotorua was the only New Zealand city to receive the honour and is largely recommended due to its adventure activities. Forbes aptly described it as "the adventure capital of New Zealand's North Island, with activities that range from Class V white-water rafting to bungee jumping to a one-of-a-kind pedal-powered 'Shweeb Racer'."
Māori culture is also to thank for Rotorua’s ranking. Forbes noted the ease and access of which one can learn about tikanga and Māori ways of life in the city due to an array of different cultural experiences on offer.
The Bottom Line: Living in New Zealand Has It’s Perks, but Isn’t Cheap
Despite the positives, a cost-of-living crisis is hindering our liveability – no-one can solve a cost-of-living crisis overnight, but you can take solace in the fact that if you are struggling, you’re not the only one.
That aside, New Zealand’s cities still have a lot to offer – from nature to cultural richness to restaurants and a burgeoning cosmopolitan vibe, living here has plenty to offer.
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