Where we Live, Work & Play

by Drew Broadley

Areas in New Zealand, and their hourly population patterns during the week across a year.

When you have an opportunity of bringing together a new look at Aotearoa’s population, you start seeing some things that haven’t been seen before.

Having a breakdown of hourly population counts for 2200-odd areas of our country for over a year, it starts to tell unique stories. These areas start having personalities and you see very distinct human behaviour that make it clear around parts of New Zealand where people live, where they work and where they play.

Note: we are in the throws of writing a white paper on these new population behaviours and classifications using this type of data as there has been interest from overseas organisations around this type of work.

In the meantime, we’ve been able to create some stories using this data in an interesting way. Most importantly, in an easy way to understand.

Let’s start with one area of New Zealand — Parnell in Auckland, and I’ll explain how you can read this visualisation.

Parnell, Auckland — usual population patterns of people working Monday-Friday, 9am–5pm in the area with a few spikes relating to the Auckland Lantern Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.

First, follow around the circle clockwise. Start from Monday through to Sunday. As you go between these days, the lines show the numbers of population in that area. If the line is closer to the outside of the circle, that is when population is at its highest, and when it is closer to the centre of the circle, that is when population is at its lowest.

Second, we’ve visualised a years worth of data, by the hour, by weekday in these circles. As a week goes by, we wrap around again. This happens at least 52 times as we go through the 52 weeks of the year. Now what you’re seeing is the layering of the weeks of a year and the population count for each of those weeks, plus any patterns/anomalies relating to those.

Now, you should start seeing some trends for Parnell. Its personality is very much a working area, where people work the 9am-5pm pattern. But if you look outside of the patterns, you now see something that has happened on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings one week. That is because Parnell has Auckland Domain on the edge, and this is the Auckland Lantern Festival.

Now you have a concept of a normal personality, plus the exceptions that can happen outside of that pattern, here is a poster we created for 12 more areas.

We have A0 printed poster versions of this available, get in touch if you’d like one.

Poster for 13 areas of New Zealand that have some interesting behaviours.

This is a start of what the data can do, so if you’re a government organisation/entity that would like to know more about the population to help making decisions around feasibility or utilisation relating to the number of people in the area (visiting or resident), get in touch with Data Ventures: dataventures@stats.govt.nz.



The purpose of Data Ventures is to be a full service data agency, and be flexible to the needs of its customers — targeting problems that exist in the executive team level of an organisation.

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