Auckland In Top 3 Cities To Live

February 26, 2016
Iain MacLeod

Auckland has, for the third time, just been voted the third best international city out of 230 ranked in which to live in the annual ‘Mercer Quality of Life’ survey.

Which struck me as kind of strange as I sat in ‘peak hour’ traffic at 2.45pm (!) this afternoon as my wife and I fled the city for the beach house. I was thinking that there is much to really like about this city and I enjoy living in Auckland very much but I suspect those doing the survey must travel only between 11am and 2pm when the traffic flows freely. It isn’t KL, New York or God forbid, Jakarta, but we are not used to bumper to bumper traffic and we do not like it.

It also crossed my mind how much longer we would sit near the crown of the ‘best city in the world in which to live’ tree. Everyone I know now grumbles about spending 1-3 hours a day sitting in their car getting to and from work or to some other destination.

I blogged a few weeks ago how the Government had, after several years of telling us we didn’t need it, brought forward financing for the ‘we’ve been waiting for 100 years’ city rail loop and the final pieces to the freeway jigsaw. I hesitate to say ‘too little, too late’ as I am sure it will all help but with all the growth in population going on here – natural and migration led – I thank my good fortune we brought a house in central Auckland 21 years ago and don’t need to cross this city every day by car.

Not enough houses and too many people arriving right at the time that housing shortage was starting to bite has put a lot of people, particularly those immigrants, under real financial pressure. Migrants continued to arrive in Auckland at a rate of 42,000 or so last year – migrants being Kiwis coming home largely from Australia, Australians coming with them and the rest being resident visa holders coming to join us.

So the pressure is certainly on, but it is leading to changed behaviours. My eldest son who lives just down the road from us has dispensed with a car and catches buses everywhere. Another youngster that has joined us this week catches the train to and from work. We have two that catch ferries from northern and eastern parts of greater Auckland. All very regular, clean, safe and convenient. It seems the younger you are the more likely you are to prefer sitting on a train, bus or boat catching up on work or with friends…

Back to the survey! It ranks, as I said, 230 cities on factors such as culture and environment, political stability, safety, housing, education, and ease of doing business.

That pretty much sums up everything that makes Auckland a great place to live and raise families – great schools; so politically stable as to be dull; out of 1.6million people over 40% are foreign born meaning it is an incredibly vibrant place. I reflected on this aspect as I left the office earlier today. Sitting at one set of traffic lights I observed people from all over the world; women dressed in wonderfully bright saris, Sikhs with bright orange turbans, Chinese in huge sun hats, over dressed Koreans with gaudy sun umbrellas, the odd hijab and two young Arabs looking like they had just parked their camels somewhere.

Because central Auckland is home to two world class universities and satellites of several others, Downtown teems with youngsters from literally all over the world. Africans, Arabs, Asians – you name the country, they are probably here. The sweet smell of flavoured tobacco hangs in the air in the narrow street behind our office and is a meeting place for young Arab and other (mainly) Muslim men from mid-afternoon until well after the sun goes down.

Export education is now worth $1.5 billion dollars per year and a lot of that ends up in Auckland – high quality education at a relatively affordable price when compared to more expensive countries like the U.S. gives Auckland a real advantage.

It is a vibrant, cosmopolitan and outward looking city yet once you are through the traffic you can within 30 minutes be on any number of relatively deserted beaches, wandering across publicly owned parks and farmlands, chilling in rain forests, be on a boat fishing or sitting enjoying a glass of Friday afternoon Pinot Gris on a vineyard on an island that took you 40 minutes by ferry to get to.

It remains overwhelmingly safe with crime statistics continuing to fall across all categories (except sexual assault, but those that understand these things say that reflects higher rates of victims being willing to report rather than any ‘natural’ increase in offending).

The quality of housing is generally high (if you can afford one) and with the proposed changes to our residential zones things will get even more exciting as we look to moderately intensify areas like Mount Eden where I live.

Speaking of Mount Eden, as I climbed this extinct volcano a few days ago with my wife I realised, not for the first time, that what we take so much for granted is viewed with awe by the 3.2 million people who visit each year, many of whom it seems head for the summit of this piece of geological magic in the middle of the city. Auckland is dotted with these extinct volcanos and the views from their summits are the best in town – perhaps that from Mount Eden being number one. As I climbed I heard French, Spanish, Hindi, Korean, Chinese and a smattering of other tongues I could not identify.

Auckland scores high for things to do and places to, well, be human – eat, drink, socialise…

If you had been here today you’d have enjoyed 29 degree warmth with barely a cloud in the sky.

It really doesn’t get a whole lot better. Summer this year has been long and hot and there is no end in sight.

For what it might be worth, Wellington came in at 12, Sydney at 10 and Melbourne at 15 (that’ll cause a bit of inter-office banter no doubt).

Vienna came out on top, followed by Zurich – these two cities and Auckland, though very different to each other, always rank highly. Vancouver, as it always does, topped North America (never been there but everything I hear leads me to speculate it is the ‘Auckland’ of North America).

No prizes for guessing Damascus and Baghdad came last.

Which is interesting timing because today the first of several hundred Syrian refugees arrived in the country and are being resettled in Wellington – the 12th best city out of 230 to live in. I suspect most have never heard of New Zealand, would never choose to be resettled here, but many I hope will in time once they are more settled, thank their good fortune we invited them to seek shelter here.

I am sure we will make them welcome and safe to enjoy the very special country that this one is.

I am off for a weekend of wood chopping, weed pulling, sea swimming and getting all ‘beachy’, so…

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