Far North District CouncilPopulation forecast
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Far North District

Drivers of population change

Development history

The Far North District is the northernmost district within New Zealand, located about 200 kilometres north of the Auckland. It is the largest of three territorial authorities which make up the Northland Region, the others being Kaipara and Whangarei Districts. Within the district, there are several towns of varying populations and socioeconomic characteristics. The northernmost town in the district is Kaitaia. On the east coast of the District, in the Bay of Islands, the main cluster of towns has Kerikeri, Paihia, Russell, Opua, Moerewa and Kawakawa. Kaikohe is located to the west of the abovementioned cluster and to the west of those, on the west coast is also the Hokianga Harbour with Omapere, Opononi, Rawene, Panguru, Kohukohu and Horeke. The Far North District Council was formed through the amalgamation of the former Counties of Mangonui, Hokianga, Whangaroa and Bay of Islands and the Boroughs of Kaitaia and Kaikohe. The district has three wards – Te Hiku (in the north), Kaikohe/Hokianga (in the west) and Bay of Islands/Whangaroa (in the east).

The most northern point of our district is the Aupouri Peninsula, home to Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach and New Zealand’s northernmost outcrop, the Three Kings Islands. Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) and Spirits Bay are very significant to Māori. Northland iwi claim that Kupe made landfall at the Hokianga (although others claim this was at Taipa) in the northwest of Northland, and thus the region claims that it was the birthplace of New Zealand. Some of the oldest traces of Māori kainga (fishing villages) can be found here. The Māori regard the region as the legendary birthplace of the country and the region was the European starting-point for the modern nation of New Zealand. Traders, whalers and sealers were among the first arrivals. From the 1790s, British and American sperm whalers had begun to use sheltered northern anchorages, and these visits increased in the 1830s. Northern Māori moved to coastal settlements, organised a supply of labour, and cultivated crops suitable for ships’ crews.

The gum and timber of the kauri trees brought more colonisers. Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands can lay claim to being the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, and contains many historic buildings, including the Stone Store, New Zealand's oldest extant building. The nearby settlement of Waitangi was of even more significance, as the signing place of New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori tribes and the British Crown, on 6 February 1840. From the 1840s onwards, mainly English and Scottish immigrants arrived in Northland. Many cleared the forests and started dairy farms. From the 1880s, settlers arrived from Dalmatia, in Europe, to dig for kauri gum. Much of Northland developed as a source of produce and raw materials for commercial Auckland. To promote settlement the Auckland provincial government offered each settler 40 acres (16 hectares), with additional acres for family members. Grants of land were also made under later schemes.

Migration patterns

Settlements initially developed as harbour and river ports, dependent on the north’s coastal shipping fleet for transport and communication. Enterprising settlers set up stores to supply goods and services. By the end of the century, timber towns began appearing in inland areas. Over the District as a whole, however, settlement remained scattered and sparse. Land communication was difficult between most areas of the north well into the 20th century. Livestock farming developed in the early 20th century – first to supplement natural resources such as timber and kauri gum, and then to replace them. By 1900 it was obvious that the indigenous forests were a fast-diminishing resource. Although much of the north was not ideal for farming, many areas were gradually brought into use for sheep and cattle. Small dairy factories had been established by 1910. After the Second World War, state subsidies and grasslands research assisted farming. For those farmers who could afford it, aerial topdressing increased productivity from the late 1950s. Improved roads and new technology in the 1960s led to closure of many smaller dairy factories, leaving two centralised processing plants at Kaitāia and Moerewa.

Horticulture, particularly fruit farming, has always been a distinctive feature of the region. Kerikeri developed as a citrus-producing area from the 1920s and later diversified into tamarillos and kiwifruit. Mining in the region focuses on non-metals or industrial minerals – clays, limestone and road metal. Ceramic clay is mined at Matauri Bay. Most manufacturing is based in or around Kaitāia and Kaikohe, boat-building and ship repair occurs at on the Kaipara Harbour. The District’s coastal waters support a substantial commercial fishery, based on finned fish such as snapper, flounder and mullet. There are also crayfish, scallop, cockle, pipi and tuatua fisheries. In the 1920s Russell was already a holiday resort and deep-sea fishing mecca. As roading improved, the Bay of Islands became the focus of tourism. By the last decades of the 20th century the region’s mix of historic, cultural and natural attractions, and its benign climate, guaranteed a booming tourism industry.

Ōpua in the Bay of Islands opened to ocean-going vessels in 1924, but closed for security reasons during the Second World War. In 1957 it re-opened as an international port. Aerodromes were built in Kaitāia and Kaikohe for military purposes during the Second World War. There are now two commercial airports: at Kaitāia and near Kerikeri. The Far North District had no direct commercial flights to parts of the country other than Auckland until 2003.

In the last 20 years, published Census information shows that the population of the Far North District has been increasing steadily, between 0.3% and 1.3% per annum. The population of the Far North District in 1996 was 54,500 and at the last Census in 2013 was 60,600. In the past few decades, the Far North District has gained new residents from many different places in the region and further away in New Zealand as well as from overseas. The District also lost residents to several different places around New Zealand. Usually, internal migration (within a territorial authority/TA, region or country), is strongly influenced by age – that is – people moving to and from different places at different stages of life. Overseas migration tends to have a strong relationship with economic conditions and government policy.

In the 2008-2013 five year period, the Far North District gained 582 residents from Auckland City with much smaller net gains (20-30 persons over five years) from Christchurch City, the Rotorua District, Thames-Coromandel, Nelson City and the Hauraki District, amongst other minor ones. The large net migration gain of Auckland City residents is related to mature adults, empty nesters and early retirees being attracted to the “seachange” lifestyle in the area. The pattern in recent years has been for older adults to sell residential property in Auckland or in regions further south and with lower (although steadily increasing) house prices in the Far North District, be able to afford larger lifestyle properties in the area for less than the cost in Auckland City. The net number of overseas arrivals during the same period was 450. Note that because this information is based on the Census question “Where did you live five years ago?” it does not necessarily mean that overseas arrivals moved directly to the Far North District. They may have moved elsewhere first and then within those five years migrated to the District.

The Far North District lost residents during the 2008-2013 period to the adjacent Whangarei District, Hamilton City and to lesser extents, Dunedin City, the Waipa District and Tauranga City. The main TA to which the Far North District lost population to was the Whangarei District (loss of 549 persons over five years) which may either represent younger couples and young families moving out of the District in search for employment or alternative housing options closer to employment in larger centres (such as Auckland City) or older residents. Interestingly, even though there is a net gain of 582 persons from Auckland City, this is a balance of 2,697 people who left the District to live in Auckland between 2008 and 2013 (approximately a loss of 540 persons per year) and a gain of 3,279 persons (approximately 655 persons per year). Those who leave the District for Auckland are presumably young residents aged 18-24 who leave in search of education and employment opportunities. Those who move to the Far North District from Auckland City tend to be older people, empty nesters and early retirees.

Almost 43% of all Far North District residents (23,775) did not move between 2008 and 2013, that is – stayed at the same address. Of the residents who did move between 2008 and 2013 (19,584), 18% moved within the District, 11% moved to the Far North District from other parts of New Zealand and 4% moved to the Far North District from another country. (7% - not applicable between 2008 and 2013, i.e. persons born between 2008 and 2013).

The abovementioned migration information relates to long term/permanent migration moves. However, on a daily migration scale, i.e. journey to work, connections to nearby TAs and self-containment of a TA can be assessed. Of the total number of people who work in the Far North District (19,518 as at 2013 Census), 87% (17,058) are also residents here, 13% live outside of the District and commute here for work. 1,035 people travel here from the Auckland City TA for work, 384 from the adjacent Whangarei District and interestingly, 123 people from Dunedin City, which could be related to some long term work in the District. Of the total number of employed Far North District residents (20,901), 82% also work here, within the District and 5% live here but work outside the District (note – for 13%/2,730 employed residents who live within the District, the work location was unknown). 480 residents travel to the Whangarei District for work, 276 to the Auckland City TA with lower numbers of employed residents travelling to places such as Wellington City and the nearby Kaipara District for work. These figures illustrate that the Far North District is relatively self-contained in terms of employment and journey to work but there are some pronounced flows in and out of the District for employment purposes.

Historical migration flows, Far North District, 2008-2013
Historical migration flows, Far North District, 2008-2013
'Overseas' refers to arrivals only.

Population and household forecasts, 2013 to 2043, prepared by .id the population experts, May 2016.

Note: The migration flows depicted above are historical and do not represent future or forecast migration flows or subsequent council boundary changes. The arrows represent migration flows to the area as a whole and do not indicate an origin or destination for any specific localities within the area. Overseas flow shows overseas arrivals only, based on answers to the census question “where did the person usually live 5-years ago.

Housing role and function

Different parts of the Far North District have established different housing roles and functions over time. The Far North District as a whole has had a relatively stable migration profile in recent years.

Since the early 2000s, the District has gained young and established families aged 35-44 years old with young children aged 0-9 years. The age segment representing mature adults, empty nesters and early retirees aged 45-59 years has also contributed to a net gain and has also been increasing over time. Those aged 60-64 years are also contributing to a net gain in the District and as these residents age in place, they will add to the older end of the age structure of the Far North District in the future. The historic patterns of those aged 70 years and over moving out of the area is set to continue as older people move closer to healthcare facilities and aged care facilities outside the District. There have been consistent losses of young school-leaving age adults, 17-24 years old who leave the District for education and employment opportunities elsewhere outside the District, usually in bigger centres such as Auckland City, Hamilton City, Christchurch City or Tauranga City, to name a few.

Within the District, there are some variations in terms of housing role and function. Areas such as Ahipara and Herekino, Bay of Islands Rural, Kapiro, Kohukohu and the Hokianga North area gain young and established families aged 30-39 years with children aged 0-9 years. There is a loss of 18-24 year olds, as is the case for the District as a whole. There is little change in older age groups. Areas such as the Kaitaia Township and Kawakawa-Moerewa gain older, more mature families aged 35-49 years with children aged 10-14 years to go along with a loss of young adults in their late teens and early twenties. Even within the township and surrounding parts of the Kerikeri area, there are differences in housing role and function. The Kerikeri Township experiences a gain of young couples and young families aged 30-34 years with children aged 0-9 years. There is a loss of 18-24 year olds but a gain of mature adults aged 40-49 years, early retirees and retirees. The Kerikeri Surrounds area is slightly different and while there is still the expected loss of young adults aged 18-24 years, a gain of families is evident as is a pronounced and consistent gains of early retirees and retirees aged 60-69 years, who are taking advantage of the new housing opportunities. This is followed by losses of those elderly and frail elderly adults aged over 75 years who tend to migrate out of smaller towns and closer to larger centres for healthcare and aged care opportunities. More holiday/lifestyle and “seachange” oriented areas such as Mangonui-Coopers Beach-Cable Bay do see a gain of young families aged 30-34 years with children aged 5-9 years old but the main migration trend is that of 50-69 year olds who seek retirement resettlement in the area from outside the TA (i.e. areas such as Auckland City).

Housing supply

Settlement and development of towns in the Far North District was historically related to farming, forestry and settlement around shipping ports. Since the 1980s the permanent population has increased slowly but steadily, mainly on the east coast. Given the spread of towns around the district, The Far North District, along with nearby Northland Region neighbours (Kapiro District and Whāngārei District) are the most rural region in the country, historically with little more than half the population in urban areas. In the last 20 years, an average of 312 residential building consents were issued in the Far North District per year.

More development occurred in the District in the pre-2008 period than after. Before 2008, the period of 2004-2007 had the highest total annual numbers of residential development consents recorded in the Far North District in the past twenty years. During this time, almost 460 new dwellings were consented each year. After the 2008 global financial crisis, construction and housing development confidence took a dive in many places around New Zealand and the world and this is reflected in the figures after 2008 where the total numbers of residential consents issued dropped to below 150 per year. In terms of actual Census dwelling additions, there were 1,890 new dwellings in the District between 2001 and 2006 (380 per annum) and around 300 dwellings per annum in the latest 2006-2013 Census period (2,103 over seven years).

The Karikari Peninsula-Maungataniwha area accounted for 21% of all residential development in the 2006-2013 and 13% in the 2006-2013 period. Kerikeri Township Surrounds have been consistently high in terms of new dwelling additions since 2001 and contribute between 46 and 64 new dwellings to the District on average per annum. The Bay of Islands Rural area has been experiencing increasing levels of dwelling additions with around 46 new dwellings per annum in the 2001-2006 period and 50 per annum in the latest 2006-2013 period. Mangonui-Coopers Beach-Cable Bay has also experienced relatively steady levels of new housing additions with many holiday homes and hillside estates built in the past 15 years. Since 2013, both residential building consent numbers and the numbers of completed new dwellings has been on the rise in the District with every year since 2013 experiencing higher numbers of new residential building consents.

Houses are the main type of dwelling consent issued in the Far North District and this makes sense given that the Far North District is not a totally occupied urban environment with built environment constraints and still has room for growth around existing towns and settlements, both inland and on the coast. 92% of all dwelling consents issued since 2007 were for standalone houses (1,874 in total) whereas only 8% (152) were for “other” types of dwellings (This is a Statistics New Zealand classification which includes more than one dwelling unit within the same structure, such as semi-detached, row or terrace houses, flats, units and retirement village units).

At the start of the forecast period, rates of development are 120-130 new dwellings per annum with several developments occurring in different small areas. The Carrington Drive subdivision in Karikari Peninsula – Maungataniwha is the largest single estate in the TA which commenced prior to 2013 but continues to develop and increases in rate of development from the late 2010s. The Matauri Beach Road subdivision in Kaeo - Matauri Bay – Whangaroa commences early in the forecast and builds out to capacity by the mid 2020s. Stages 1-3 of the Quail Ridge Development in the Kerikeri Township Surrounds area develop close to 90 dwellings over the 2015-2025 period with later stages of the Quail Ridge development commencing from the mid 2020s and adding over 100 dwellings to the Kerikeri Township Surrounds area. Kerikeri Township also has several developments occurring in the short and mid term including Access Heights (Riverbank Drive), Orchard Estate and The Ridge extension. The forecast also includes several developments in the Mangonui - Coopers Beach - Cable Bay area, the largest being the greenfield development around Coopers Heights and Kauri Grove as well as the Cable Bay Estate - Stratford Drive greenfield development.

Rates of infill development vary by small area as some areas will have existing limits on lot size subdivision allowances, district plan zoning permissions and restrictions and the age of housing stock which is considered more adequate for redevelopment and intensification than others. Factors such as proximity to amenities, services and places of employment in townships and other established centres as well as housing demand also play a part in determining rates of infill development in different parts of the District. The least amount of growth (addition of new dwellings) is anticipated in areas which are either already established or have lower levels of demand for further development and residential growth there, in the forecast period at least. Russell and Rawhiti and surrounds, Kaikohe Township, Kohukohu and Hokianga North area and Kawakawa – Moerewa are expected to have low levels of growth in the future and coupled with ageing in place, some of these areas will lose population. In terms of high total rates of residential development, Kerikeri Township Surrounds is expected to have high levels of growth with around 16% of all residential development forecast to occur here. The Kerikeri Township area (within the Kerikeri Township Surrounds) is also expected to grow at a high rate, contributing over 12% of all residential development to the Far North District during the 2013-2043 period. Other notable areas which will experience high levels of residential development are Mangonui - Coopers Beach - Cable Bay, Karikari Peninsula – Maungataniwha and Kaeo - Matauri Bay – Whangaroa. These areas are anticipated to have a share of total residential development in the TA between 8% and 11% during the forecast period.

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