Why is Auckland one of the most livable cities in the world?

A sunny day at the Queens Wharf Auckland Waterfront. Pic: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

IT boasts two harbors, the world’s largest population of Polynesians, and lauded singer Lorde. Ranked as the third most livable city in the world in a recent Mercer survey, petite Auckland is punching well above its weight. And it’s not a one off.

Indeed, the city also came in eighth globally this year in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual livability survey. So, lacking the sweeping Lord of the Rings scenery of the country’s South Island, what is the secret to Auckland’s success?

Well, Auckland is a city with a plan. Literally. “The Auckland Plan” was launched by the city’s council in 2012 and is a comprehensive road map for the projected almost doubling of its 1.3 million population by 2040.

The majority of growth is to be in urban metropolitan areas where an estimated 400,000 new homes will be built. This strategy aims to improve on existing transport infrastructure and prevent urban sprawl.

Locals walking through Queen Street on a busy day. Pic: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

According to Participedia, the plan will “not only transform where Aucklanders live and work, and the transport services they will use over the next thirty years, but will also shape the economy, the environment, the education of young people, culture, and so on, and deliver the vision of the city becoming the most livable worldwide”.

However, keeping an eye on the ball will be paramount to the success of this metropolitan experiment and concern is already growing about skyrocketing property prices and traffic congestion.

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But outgoing mayor, Len Brown, is convinced that Auckland is, “just an underground train ride away from being number one in the world”.

Urban planning alone though does not explain why this New Zealand port is so desirable. Livability surveys rely heavily on criteria such as stability, healthcare, environment, education and infrastructure but a bit of natural beauty doesn’t go amiss. The key to Auckland’s visual attraction is water.

Viaduct Harbour is home to super yachts. Pic: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

Two large harbors frame a narrow isthmus between the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean. To the west are wild beaches. To the east are myriad islands with stunning scenery. If you venture inland you’ll discover thermal springs.

You don’t need town planners to tell you this is a stunning aquatic playground but the New Zealanders have made the most of it.

The rugged western coastline is peppered with beach walks, golf courses and popular surf spots such as Piha and Maori Bay. Viaduct Harbour is home to super yachts, superb restaurants and the ferries which potter out to the eastern islands.

The star offshore attraction is Waiheke Island where you can rent a car for an afternoon to take in the rolling hills, visit wineries with better than Bordeaux reds and feast on some of the country’s best oysters.

A picturesque bay on Waihehe Island. Pic: Troy Wegman/Shutterstock

For those wanting a more grounded lifestyle, there are fabulous views of nearby volcanoes from the iconic Sky Tower, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can bungee jump from the top. To take it down a notch, enjoy a pint of beer in one of nearby Britomart’s nostalgic hostelries.

All things considered, it’s easy to see why Auckland could be the ideal place to call home.

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