Hamilton Community Profile: A Tale of Two Communities

Community Profile 2015 - © Hamilton City Council

Community Profile 2015 – © Hamilton City Council

Recently Hamilton City Council published 2015 Community Profiles for 11 distinct areas of the city. They present some facts and figures from the most recent NZ national census, conducted in 2013, along with some newer council-initiated community surveys.

After crunching the numbers in a spreadsheet, a few areas stand out, for various reasons.

East Area 1 (Sylvester, Flagstaff, Horsham Downs, Rototuna, Huntington)

East 1, being the most recent large-scale development, might be a good indicator of some of the qualities of future city development, both on account of its relative ‘newness’ and also its remoteness from the CBD. It has Hamilton’s 3rd highest median age, at 36 years (12% above the city-wide average), and average median income across its 6 neighbourhoods is $35,367 (28% higher than the Hamilton average, and indeed highest of any of the 11 Hamilton areas).

This area could be the poster child for city fringe development. Much attention has been given to landscaping and maintaining a clean and attractive environment, and the network of gullies makes an excellent recreational resource. It also boasts arguably the most comprehensive and highest quality network of shared paths anywhere in the city. And it’s the limb extended toward Auckland that makes commuting between the two cities less undesirable. Some of these factors no doubt contribute to its showing in the self-assessed quality of life numbers, where 58% thought their quality of life was either “High” or “Fairly high”, with the “Mediums” bringing the total up to 98%.

By virtue of being the most well-off area, household finances are less likely to be a constraint on car usage. And indeed this is by far the most car-dependent area, with 93% of residents arriving at work/school on census day in private or company motor vehicles (Hamilton average: 85%). It also has the lowest proportion of car-free households, at a mere 2.3%, around 1/4 of the city-wide average, along with the highest proportion of households with 3 or more motor vehicles, at 19.7%. In spite of the high quality of walking and cycling amenities, the area had the lowest proportion of commutes made by active transport, at just 3.9%. Of course, as a relatively outlying dormitory suburb the distribution of employment is obviously going to be a significant factor in all of this.

Bucking the overall trend for the area, the newly-opened Rototuna Junior High School boasts 60% of students arriving at school by bike, probably one of the highest rates in the country. Arguably if there was a more favourable ratio of employment to residential development in the area we could see similarly impressive commuter numbers.

West Area 5 (Hamilton Central, Hamilton Lake)

One might expect that this area, encompassing the CBD, was going to be something of an outlier compared to other neighbourhoods. By many of the metrics it is fairly ordinary, with age distribution slightly thinner at the low and high ends, and 75% in the 16-65 age bracket. Average median income across the Hamilton Central and Hamilton Lake zones was almost 20% less than that of the newer northern suburbs.

Where it really distinguished itself was in the proportion of residents choosing the top level of ‘High’ in the self-assessed quality of life category. Remarkably, at 28% this figure was nearly double the equivalent metric for East Area 1 above (which, at 15%, was 2nd equal with East Area 2), and almost treble the Hamilton average; the proportions of residents rating quality of life “Fairly High” or “Medium” were slightly lower than the Hamilton average, around 93% falling in to one of the top 3 categories.

While no less than 90% arrived at work/school via private or company motor vehicles on census day, one would imagine the average commute was shorter, and a healthier 5.6% used active transport. Household car ownership was on the low side, with 15.1% of households having no cars, 45.8 having only one (although smaller average dwelling size/less co-habitation could be factors), and only 10.6% having 3 or more cars. The council is looking to double the number of people living in the central area, and planned projects  to beautify and humanise the CBD and better link it to the river will surely bear fruit in years to come.

Indeed, while there’s still too much real estate sitting empty, in mid-2015 it was announced that CBD retail property vacancies were at 10 year lows. Has the decline of the CBD been arrested?

Insights for future developments

Of Hamilton’s upcoming new subdivisions, Rotokauri, at least, will have significant employment and something of a mix of business and residential, but what about Peacockes? Will the latter be something of a suburban dormitory monoculture, similarly remote from workplaces, and car-dependent in spite of the high-quality cycling facilities planned? What will this mean for traffic levels across the city?

Let’s hope we can see more diversity in upcoming future developments.

2 comments on “Hamilton Community Profile: A Tale of Two Communities

  1. Interesting Lake area 15% of households having no car (or 85% have car/cars) and 85% drive to work.
    If they had used Census data http://www.stats.govt.nz/datavisualisation/commuterview/index.html# they would see 414 people “walked or jogged” to work out of the 1,674 “total people who went to work on census day”.

    • That is strange. So which numbers do we believe? I’m so confused.

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