Enlightening new data has just been released that allows us to peer into the impact of COVID-19 on our CBD activity and populations.
Provided by the partnership of Data Ventures (Stats NZ commercial arm) and SOLGM, the data uses aggregated and anonymised mobile data and looks at eight CBDs across NZ. It provides estimates of the number of residents and visitors, at every hour, for each of the eight CBDs including Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
The data gives a unique insight into changes with our behaviour from COVID-19 and provides an indication of how our CBDs are coping.
The data shows that there are significantly fewer people in our CBDs now compared to pre-COVID-19. Overall across the eight CBDs, there is a 19% decrease in the average number of people in CBDs, when compared to before COVID-19. The largest decreases are in Auckland, Tauranga and Rotorua.
Not surprisingly given the drop off in international tourism numbers, Rotorua’s CBD population has been hit hard, both day and night. The dual peak on Friday and Saturday nights however is suggesting that the hospitality and food and beverage markets are still attracting people back into the city centre.
Palmerston North has illustrated a progressive increase in CBD population from Monday through to Friday, while the Tauranga CBD has shown the opposite, with the CBD population dwindling throughout the week. This may well illustrate changing workplace patterns with working from home or flexible working becoming the new norm for many. This may also reflect the declining popularity of destination retailing in the Tauranga CBD, with a lower number of visitors Thursday to Sunday.
Local commentators are highlighting the investment in the wider Christchurch CBD, the creation of a leisure destination rather than a reliance on retail, for some of the reason that Christchurch is not seeing the same level of reductions as its northern counterparts. In Dunedin, one of the reasons given includes the Governments impending $1.4b investment in the new, centrally located Dunedin Hospital. $127 million in funding has already been released for design, demolition, project management and early contractor engagement.
The data is both insightful in providing evidence of what many have seen and experienced in our CBD. But more usefully, it helps us shape how each city and region needs to respond to the unique characteristics of our CBD. There is certainly no “one size fits all” approach.
Read the full report from Data Ventures here