It has beautiful beaches, a temperate climate, and a multicultural population that has fostered an eclectic mix of food, music, and the arts. But is Auckland, an isolated outpost in the South Pacific, really the most livable city in the world?
An Economist Intelligence Unit survey released this week ranked the New Zealand city above Vienna, Melbourne and other previous winners, thanks to its success in suppressing Covid-19.
Wellington, the New Zealand capital, also climbed to fourth, while four Australian cities made it to the top 10.
The survey compared 140 cities around the world in terms of stability, healthcare, culture, infrastructure and a range of other factors.
“New Zealand’s strict containment allowed their society to reopen and allowed citizens of cities like Auckland and Wellington to enjoy a way of life that resembled life before the pandemic,” Upasana said. Dutt, Head of Global Habitability at EIU.
This distinction surprised some New Zealanders, who highlighted the housing crisis, traffic jams and low wages in the port city. Auckland was recently ranked the fourth least affordable city for housing in the world by Demographia.
European and Canadian cities have slipped in The Economist’s rankings due to increased stress on healthcare caused by the second wave of Covid-19 cases and demands to maintain social distancing restrictions.
Compared to many people living in cities in Europe or North America in recent years, Auckland’s 1.7 million people have had an enchanted existence. In February, the “city of sails” hosted the America’s Cup yacht race, as spectators flocked to rugby matches, concerts and other entertainment events for most of the year. .
Schools have remained largely open as authorities’ early decision to close the country’s borders and introduce social distancing restrictions limited the number of infections in New Zealand to less than 2,700 cases, which no ‘resulted in only 26 deaths.
Friday marks 104 days since the last case of community transmission of Covid-19 was reported, on February 28.
It’s no surprise, then, that more than 40,000 New Zealand citizens have returned from overseas since the pandemic struck last year, a trend that has pushed the country’s population to over 5 million by the end. from last year.
“I always intended to come home, it’s part of the Kiwi mentality to go overseas and gain experience and bring it back,” said Jane Henley, who gave up a job at the World Bank in Washington to return to Auckland as the pandemic began to spread. broadcast.
Henley said she returned home a little earlier than expected, in part because of concerns about gun laws in the United States. But she has few regrets, citing Auckland’s friendly culture, access to nature and the laid back attitude.
But Henley, an expert in sustainable building programs, admitted Auckland had significant challenges, including traffic jams, expensive housing and relatively low wages.
“House prices are similar to those in London or New York, or at least equivalent in relation to wages. But wages are much lower than they should be relative to house prices, ”she said.
Auckland house prices jumped 21% in the year through the end of May, with the average house price now standing at NZ $ 1.3 million (US $ 934,000), according to QV, a New Zealand real estate appraisal and services company.
New Zealand is grappling with a severe housing shortage, with around 22,000 people on waiting lists for social housing despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s election pledge in 2017 to both tackle the housing crisis. housing and inequalities.
“The truth is we have a two-tier city,” said Jan Rutledge, managing director of De Paul House, an emergency housing service in Auckland.
“It’s a beautiful city for those who have secure housing and jobs, but it’s very difficult for those who don’t. “
The success of Covid-19 in New Zealand has boosted its economy, which is expected to grow 2.9% in 2021. Unemployment is 4.7%.
The pandemic has also fostered a boom in film production in the country, with projects and international stars seeking safe conditions and a way of life without confinement.
James Cameron films several Avatar suites in New Zealand and work continues on Amazon the Lord of the Rings TV series, the government granting border exemptions to allow essential personnel to travel within the country. International film productions will generate spending of NZ $ 730 million this year, according to the New Zealand Film Commission.
Cameron, who is Canadian, and his wife Amis told an audience in Auckland this week that they live full time in New Zealand and “love it”.
The director said the past four years had been “absolute hell” in the United States during the Trump presidency.
New Zealand has shown the world another way, Cameron added. “It’s a certain sense of duty to each other, to be part of a team, to sacrifice yourself for each other.”