Future looking bright – Whangārei District Council

“Whangārei’s economy is based on manufacturing, health care and social assistance, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing.”

Whangārei Mayor, Sheryl Mai

As provincial New Zealand grows, Whangārei is at the forefront. The district has experienced a rapid rise in population over the past 10 years increasing by nearly 14,000 people between 2013-2018.

Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai says the recent population surge is due to fewer people leaving New Zealand, larger numbers of returning New Zealanders and strong interregional migration, particularly from Auckland. People are being attracted by Whangārei’s strong economy, natural beauty and relaxed lifestyle.

Mayor Mai says the upper North Island, including Auckland, is an economic powerhouse of New Zealand. Despite comprising only 20% of New Zealand’s land area, it contains more than half of New Zealand’s population and economic activity.

“Whangārei’s importance is underpinned by the fact it’s a hub for Northland, is the only city north of Auckland, and is home to major retail, employment and service centres. Whangārei also offers key infrastructure such as Northport, Whangārei Airport and Whangārei Hospital. These aspects are key drivers for the growth of Whangārei, encouraging inter-regional movement of people and goods.”

Mayor Mai says that Whangārei’s economy is based on manufacturing, health care and social assistance, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Opportunities exist particularly in primary sectors, which are expected to grow exponentially, she says. A number of key projects are also helping to stimulate the region’s economic activity even further and positioning it well for growth.

Investment in rail, road improvements, investigations into shifting Ports of Auckland to Northport and investment in hotels and tourist activities are all currently underway.

With growth comes challenges however, and according to Mayor Mai some of the biggest challenges facing Whangārei District include pressure on housing, infrastructure, the labour market and caring for the environment.

“House prices have increased by 55% over the past 10 years. In order to increase housing stock, new projects are needed, particularly townhouses and apartments. Council has estimated that 12,000-20,000 new homes need to be built by 2050 to meet demand. This construction activity gives a boost to our local tradespeople, including trainees and apprentices.”

She says that Whangārei’s infrastructure also needs to keep pace with the exponential growth of the district.

Key projects include the new town basin park, central city revitalisation, new Civic Centre and the recently completed Whau Valley water treatment plant.
Mayor Mai says that the new water treatment plant will secure Whangārei’s urban water supply for decades to come by increasing the capacity of Whangārei water supply from 15,000 cubic metres processed each day to 22,000 cubic metres a day.

“We’ve needed to plan carefully for our growth”, says Mayor Mai.

“Our decision-making has needed to be strategic and coordinated, to ensure the demands on our infrastructure, housing, employment and environment are met. Focuses include reducing environmental impact, improving training and education initiatives as well as making the district more resilient.”

Early into the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Council endorsed a Covid-19 Response Strategy to set a path for the recovery and reset of the region’s economy in response to the economic crisis associated with ovid-19. Mayor Mai says that while it is acknowledged that the economy will not go back to the way it was before Covid-19 Council is taking the opportunity to make the economy better.

“As the economy resets, we are working to maximise existing strengths and ensure we are more resilient to future shocks through a broader economic base.

“We want to be sustainable for our environment and communities, and more inclusive, to ensure our whole community sees the benefits.”

Mayor Mai says Whangārei district’s attractive natural environment with world class beaches, proximity to Auckland and connection to international and national markets through Northport and Whangārei Airport will continue to make Whangārei an attractive place for people to live and set up businesses.

“Growth results in change. We need to ensure that our communities understand what that change looks like and are engaged in the process and decision-making that will impact on their community.

“We want everyone to enjoy the benefits of a strong economy and a bright future.”


• 96,000 population reached in 2019 including 18.1% population growth 2013- 2018 (NZ: 10.8%)

• 30.1% of population identify as Māori (2018)

• 2.6% average annual growth 2013- 2018 (NZ: 1.8%)

• $48,790 GDP per Capita (NZ: $58,271)

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