COVID-19 Impact on Local Councils’ CBD Population through to 2021.

The change in population mobility in the CBDs compared across the last month and before COVID‑19.

28 January 2021

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16% DECREASE

IN AVERAGE POPULATION ACROSS OUR CBDs COMPARED TO BEFORE COVID‑19

Months after lockdown, most of the CBDs are still quieter than they were before COVID. In the Rotorua and Palmerston North CBDs mobility is close to old levels. Auckland, Tauranga, and Wellington are furthest behind.

The New Year period four weeks ago tanked mobility in the CBDs. With many workplaces and stores closed, there wasn't much to draw people into the city. But the CBDs burst back to life after the break - in Wellington, mobility was four times as high last week as it was four weeks ago.

How are these insights produced?

Data Ventures is working together with the major telecommunication companies in New Zealand.

Using the aggregated and anonymised mobile data[*] provided to them, along with Stats NZ expertise, Data Ventures has created population estimates of residents and visitors in New Zealand every hour down to suburb level. Read more in the footnotes.

In this report, we look at the population in 8 central business districts: Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. More information on how we have defined these areas can be found here.

The change in population mobility across CBDs last week compared to before COVID‑19.

Here, we compare mobility last week to a normal week a year ago. This gives us a snapshot of how many people are coming and going in the CBDs now compared to before COVID.

Our mobility measure is created using the difference between maximum and minimum population estimates in New Zealand CBDs over a day.

NOTE: Comparisons to the previous year are based on a four-week rolling average for the same period.

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

The change in population mobility across CBDs across the last four weeks.

Here, we compare mobility last week to 4 weeks ago during the New Year. This gives us an idea of how many people are coming and going in the CBD in a normal non-holiday week, compared to during the New Year.

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

NOTE: For reference the weeks in question are 'last week": week beginning Monday 18 Jan 2021 and "four weeks ago": week beginning Monday 28 December 2020

Mobility in the CBDs across COVID‑19 and the New Year.

In this section, we explore how mobility in the CBDs has changed during COVID-19 and into the start of 2021. To do this, we have calculated our mobility measure for each week, compared to a similar week in the previous year.

Here, we highlight each city one by one. The selected CBD is shown in yellow. Grey lines represent the other CBDs. This allows us to see how each CBD is tracking compared to others around New Zealand

This lets us see how the Christmas and New Year period affected mobility in the CBDs. We can also see the lasting effects of COVID-19 on our central cities.

The first time we returned to Alert Level 1, mobility in several CBDs was higher than it was before COVID. Now, four months into Alert Level 1, there isn't any clear trend towards a full recovery. Rather than a return to normal, we may be seeing a new normal.

It's possible this is because of long-lasting changes in work patterns. Work-from-home arrangements have become more common, so central city office workers may no longer be commuting into the CBD during the week. The hit to personal finances caused by COVID might also have put people off heading into the central city to shop.

Over the Christmas and New Year period, mobility was especially low - CBDs aren't a popular holiday destination. Because the comparison to the previous year is based on a four-week rolling average, this doesn't tell us how the 2020 holiday season compares to the same week in 2019. Instead, we see how much mobility drops around those holidays, compared to the weeks before and after.

Note: Comparisons to the previous year are based on a four-week rolling average for the same period.

auckland

NOTE: The selected CBD is shown in yellow. Grey lines represent the other CBDs. The vertical lines represent COVID-19 Alert Levels as they progressed in each area, starting at the first line when NZ borders closed, through to the current alert level.

Population in the CBDs - before COVID‑19, 4 weeks ago, and now.

In this section, we look at hourly population counts in the CBD over the course of the week.

We cover off three periods: last week, four weeks ago during the New Year, and a normal week at the beginning of 2020. We have broken out the comparisons into two. We first compare last week to a normal week in 2020 to see how the CBDs are doing compared to the same time last year. We then compare last week to four weeks ago to see how mobility in the week around the New Year compares to a more normal week.

Note: Comparisons to the previous year are based on a four-week rolling average for the same period.

auckland

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

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4 weeks ago

hamilton

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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4 weeks ago

tauranga

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

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4 weeks ago

rotorua

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

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4 weeks ago

palmerston north

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

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4 weeks ago

wellington

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

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4 weeks ago

christchurch

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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dunedin

1 week ago v NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

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NORMAL WEEK 1 YEAR AGO

1 week ago v 4 weeks ago

1 week ago

4 weeks ago

NOTE: For reference the weeks in question are 'last week": week beginning Monday 18 Jan 2021 and "four weeks ago": week beginning Monday 28 December 2020

How the different alert levels have affected the CBDs.

Now that we are in the new year, we can look back on the whole of 2020. This lets us see the patterns of population in New Zealand's CBDs that came with each alert level.

New Zealand has spent several months now at Alert Level 1 - for now, it is the new normal. But CBDs across the country have been affected differently. Looking back over 2020, we can see how the population in the CBDs has changed at Alert Level 1 compared to Alert Level 0.

In Auckland, Rotorua, and Christchurch, we see the difference between those two levels clearly at night - before COVID, there were far more people in these CBDs overnight. At Alert Level 1, there are fewer people in the CBDs over the whole week. This could be because less international tourists are coming into the country and staying in central city accommodation

In Wellington, the difference in population patterns between Alert Level 1 and pre-COVID weeks is greatest during the work week: Monday through Friday. The weekends look similar at Alert Level 1 to how they did at Alert Level 0. It seems like the biggest effect of COVID on Wellington’s CBD has been that fewer people are going into the central city for work.

In Hamilton, Palmerston North, and Dunedin, population patterns in the CBD at Alert Level 1 look very similar to before COVID. This could be because these cities have fewer central city office workers and less accommodation in the CBDs than other cities around the country.

NOTE: Click on the graphs to view a larger version

auckland

NOTE: Each thin line represents one week. We have broken these down according to the alert level. The bold lines show the average hourly population for that alert level. Alert Level 0 represents pre-COVID.