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COVID-19
Population Report.

How we are behaving as a population from before and through COVID-19.

13 July 2020

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How is our population data produced?

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

Using the aggregated and anonymised mobile data[*] provided to us, 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 page.

Population – a view of the whole nation

As our population reacts to the environment of COVID-19, there is evidence of large increases in movement around New Zealand. Because of that, it’s now worth looking at our country as a whole. To do that we have highlighted international and domestic population numbers, as well as our national mobility index[*] as we continue through COVID-19 Alert levels.

To help explain what the numbers mean below, we describe domestic population as people who are outside of their local tourism region. These regions are defined by Regional Tourism Organisations.

Domestic population

+34%

CHANGE IN THE
LAST 2 WEEKS

International population

-1%

CHANGE IN THE
LAST 2 WEEKS

We see a large increase in domestic travel activity as school holidays really take hold. Activity levels of domestic travellers are comparable to those seen back during the Queen’s birthday weekend. This doesn’t mean that more people overall are moving about in New Zealand, rather, more people compared to the weeks prior are taking trips outside their region. The international population count continues to slowly trend downwards, as people seek repatriation flights to their home countries when they can.

National mobility index

-24%

CHANGE IN THE
LAST 2 WEEKS

While the trend in National Mobility shows a substantial increase since we moved to level 1, overall activity has decreased in the latest week compared to the week prior. Because the national mobility tracks mobility across all of New Zealand, the reduced travel for schooling and associated decreases in commuting may be driving the latest decrease, when considering overall weeks. Note that the latest weekend shows similar activity levels to the first weekend of the school holidays.

NOTE: The vertical lines represent COVID-19 Alert Levels as they progressed, starting at the first line when NZ borders closed, through to our current alert level.

Our population – average population

As we all settle into what is a new set of habits, it's important we understand what these new habits look like.

On this page of the report we have sampled average hourly representations of population estimates in New Zealand around six key areas across COVID-19 in New Zealand. We have used the population patterns previous to COVID-19 to identify these areas. Refer to our notes[*] at the end of this report to understand a bit more detail of what each areas/behaviours of New Zealand these graphs represent.

Percentages below represent the difference of average midday (12pm) peak population counts in lockdown.

retail

recreational

residential

tourism

transit

workplace

NOTE: The vertical lines represent COVID-19 Alert Levels as they progressed, starting at the first line when NZ borders closed, through to our current alert level.

Our population – before COVID‑19 and now

By looking at hourly population counts[*] across the country, we can get a good idea of how behaviour has changed in response to COVID-19. The data presented here uses hourly population counts for six types of areas[*] in New Zealand - retail, transit, residential, tourism, workplace and recreational.

In this part of the report, we cover off three periods: a normal week in 2019[*], two weeks ago, and one week ago. We have broken out the comparisons into two: one comparing last week to a normal week in 2019 to see the changes compared to last year, and the other comparing what has happened over the last two weeks. From doing this, these are the insights we have discovered.

Uses of these insights: The comparison to a normal week in 2019 can be used to offset other datasets designed prior to COVID-19. The figures contained in this report could be used to make adjustments to previously known datasets’ values. The two week comparison allows you to measure a sentiment of change over a shorter period. Footnotes

retail

1 week ago v normal week 2019

1 week ago

normal week 2019

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

1 week ago

2 weeks ago

In the first full week of school holidays we see a predictable increase in retail activity. Of particular interest is that more people appear to be around retail areas for longer during the day. Compared to a typical 2019 week, retail activity is markedly higher. Without the ability to travel overseas, it’s possible that Kiwis are spending more of their time in retail therapy.

recreational

1 week ago v normal week 2019

1 week ago

normal week 2019

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

1 week ago

2 weeks ago

In recreational activity across the last two weeks and compared to last year, we are seeing a steady pattern. Compared with last year, there appears to be a greater sustained level of activity throughout the week. Are they choosing to frequent recreational areas during the work day, feeding a healthy habit they picked up during lockdown? During the last week we saw overall increased activity compared to the week prior, which is unsurprising given that is the first full week of the school holidays, and signs point to more parents and kids spending some time together at home.

residential

1 week ago v normal week 2019

1 week ago

normal week 2019

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

1 week ago

2 weeks ago

There was very slightly reduced activity in residential areas last week, compared to the week prior. This likely reflects the people travelling through the school holiday period. Compared to a normal week in 2019, we see slightly more people in residential areas at all hours. This could be due to flexible working arrangements becoming more commonplace, or people that are still displaced from work due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

tourism

1 week ago v normal week 2019

1 week ago

normal week 2019

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

1 week ago

2 weeks ago

Activity across tourist areas showed a large increase compared with the week prior, as more Kiwis took the opportunity during the school holidays to frequent their favourite tourism hotspots. While overall tourist activity remains lower than a typical 2019 week, it is showing significant movement towards pre-COVID levels. This shows that with the creative incentives and us all coming together, NZ’s tourism sector could very well be sustained by domestic tourists.

transit

1 week ago v normal week 2019

1 week ago

normal week 2019

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

1 week ago

2 weeks ago

Transit activity showed a decrease last week, compared to the week prior. This likely reflects the reduced traffic as school holidays provide some respite to commuters experiencing the normal levels of congestion. However, when comparing activity to a typical 2019 week, there continues to be a dramatic increase. It may be more people that happen to live in suburbs that form transit areas staying home.

workplace

1 week ago v normal week 2019

1 week ago

normal week 2019

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

1 week ago

2 weeks ago

Workplace population numbers decreased slightly last week compared with the week prior. This likely reflects parents taking some time off to spend with their kids through the school holidays. As the other indicators show, some of them took their families on domestic trips. Compared to a typical week in 2019, this also remains very slightly under pre-COVID-19 numbers.

Our population – mobility during COVID‑19

In this section we explore mobility index for the population of New Zealand in six key categories[*] during COVID-19.

Our mobility measure[*] is created using the difference between maximum and minimum population estimates in categories of New Zealand over a day. This allows us to get an idea of mobility between each day of 2020 in this report compared to similar days from 2019.

retail

recreational

residential

tourism

transit

workplace

NOTE: The vertical lines represent COVID-19 Alert Levels as they progressed, starting at the first line when NZ borders closed, through to our current alert level.

The change of population mobility across regions before and during COVID‑19.

In this section we explore the mobility index patterns for the regions of New Zealand[*] during COVID-19.

Our mobility measure[*] is created using the difference between maximum and minimum population estimates in areas of New Zealand over a day. This allows us to get an idea of mobility between each day of 2020 in this report compared to similar days from 2019.

northland

auckland

waikato

bay of plenty

gisborne

hawke's bay

taranaki

manawatu-wanganui

wellington

west coast

canterbury

otago

southland

tasman

nelson

marlborough

NOTE: The vertical lines represent COVID-19 Alert Levels as they progressed, starting at the first line when NZ borders closed, through to our current alert level.

The change of population mobility across regions last week compared to before COVID‑19

The purpose of this comparison is to see how we are tracking in changes of mobility[*] in our progress throughout COVID-19 and its various Alert Levels (1 through to 4). As Alert Levels are escalated/de-escalated, this is a good figure to understand the impacts on New Zealand’s population and their behaviour.

1 week ago v normal week 2019

We see greater activity across most regions in New Zealand compared to a typical week in 2019. Regions that historically attracted domestic tourism lead the way. This seems to align with the general increase in mobility observed since alert level 1 was introduced, with activity rising above pre lockdown levels. Let’s hope we can springboard off this to sustain our tourism sector, as international travel looks unlikely in the short term with Australia experiencing what looks like a second wave of COVID infections.

The change of population mobility across regions across the last two weeks

The purpose of this comparison is to see how we are tracking in changes of mobility[*] in our progress throughout COVID-19 and its various Alert Levels (1 through to 4). As Alert Levels are escalated/de-escalated, this is a good figure to understand the impacts on New Zealand’s population and their behaviour.

1 week ago v 2 weeks ago

There is a decrease in the mobility across most of New Zealand compared to the week prior, although some regions experienced a slight increase in activity. This is consistent with the overall decrease in National Mobility (see national mobility index plot) seen across New Zealand, as more kids and some parents spent some quality family time together at home during the school holidays. Unsurprisingly, regions which had increased mobilifty are those typically associated with tourism, and the increase is likely driven by holidaymakers taking advantage of school holidays.