Population and Growth

Whakatupuraka o te Taupori

Queenstown Lakes District is a high growth district within New Zealand. To help address this key challenge and assist with future planning, we have developed comprehensive demand projections. Demand projections provide a guide to the possible future population of the district and are used along with other tools to assist short-term and long-term planning needs.

Demand Projections

QLDC produces the following types of projections:

  • Resident population

  • Number of visitors (on both an average and peak day)

  • Number of dwellings that will be required in the future

  • Rating units

These are projected out for a 30-year period in five-year intervals for each of the district’s Stats NZ statistical area 2 geographies.

Disclaimer: These population projections have been prepared by council officers with assistance from data analytics company DOT Loves Data. The information contained in the population projections document is intended for general guidance only and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied on without first consulting professional advice.

The latest projections model three different growth scenarios; low, medium and high. The medium projection is considered the base recommendation, with adjustments to the growth rates used in the medium scenario used to produce the alternate scenarios.

Frequently asked questions

  • Demand projections include forecasts of resident population, visitor numbers, houses, and rating units. These are forecast out 30 years for all Queenstown Lakes District statistical area 2 geographies (as at 2022).

    These forecasts include several sub-categories including average and peak day visitation, resident homes and holiday homes, and various rating unit categories. Peak day visitation assumes all Queenstown Lakes district communities have their peak day simultaneously and in practice is only likely on very few days over the Christmas/New Year period. Visitor numbers are projected alongside resident numbers to give a true sense of the demand on the district’s infrastructure, and providing a peak day forecast ensures that infrastructure demands are met year round.

    Demand projections are forecasts of future demand on resources and infrastructure based solely on data available at the point in time the projections are calculated. They are not goals or targets, or developed with any particular policy outcomes in mind, but simply outline potential growth in line with current and historical data and are used to assist short-term and long-term planning needs. Unforeseen events such as natural disaster, pandemics, or the effects of changes in government legislation are not incorporated into the calculation of the projections.

  • Demand projections are produced under guidance from DOT Loves Data. The data analytics company has developed three different scenarios outlining possible growth for the district should an underlying set of assumptions be met. The production of each of these projections is summarised below;

    • Population projections were developed by age group and gender in five-year projection windows via a standard cohort component method. This is a deterministic method, meaning that the underlining assumptions about fertility, mortality and migration determine the projections results. The Estimated Resident Population count by age and gender at June 2018 is the population base, with the latest data available used for developing the underlying assumptions.

    • The visitor demand projections are based on historical patterns over time in visitor numbers, the relative proportions of different visitor types, and population growth. These are combined with the projected population results to make predictions about future visitor numbers.

    • Household and dwelling projections are based on assumptions around average household size and the ratio of population to dwellings.

    • Rating unit demand projections combine historical patterns of growth in each rating unit type and the relationship of this growth with population change.

  • A variety of different inputs are used to determine the growth in each of the projections over the 30 year time period. These include population and household data from Stats NZ, visitor data from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, QLDC consents and rating units data, historic ratios, and research on short-term accommodation.

  • Three projection variants have been produced: high, medium and low, using corresponding variations to the input assumptions in order to generate each projection scenario. These are deterministic projections, meaning that each projection variant represents a likely scenario should that specific set of assumptions be met.

    The medium scenario is considered the baseline scenario, with the high and low scenarios derived by adjusting the growth rates used in the medium scenario. For resident population, this is done by adjusting migration rates, and for visitor numbers this is done by using different timeframes for when full tourism recovery from the downturn caused by Covid-19 occurs.

  • Visitor forecasts include both an average day and peak day forecast. Average day visitors are calculated by dividing the annual forecast for total visitor guest nights (or guest days) by 365. Peak day visitors are calculated using historic ratios of peak to average day visitors. Peak day visitation assumes all Queenstown Lakes district communities have their peak day simultaneously and in practice is only likely on very few days over the Christmas/New Year period.

    Accurate forecasting of visitor demand is difficult due to the wide range of influences on tourist numbers. The visitor projections should be interpreted as providing an indication of the possible future visitor population should historical patterns and a specific set of assumptions be met in the future.

  • Projections are not forecasts or predictions of future populations. These projections are one tool for understanding possible future growth in the QLDC region and to inform long term planning. They are calculations of what will happen if specific assumptions about the demographic processes of fertility, mortality, and migration acting on the age structure of the population are met in the future. These assumptions are derived from past patterns. The projections provide information on plausible scenarios about future populations, not predictions of what the population will be, to help inform decision making.

    Many other social and economic factors, that are not part of population projections, also influence population change, including central and local government policies, global economics, changing lifestyle factors and social norms and expectations. The relationships between these various factors are complex and difficult to predict far into the future. As a result of this complexity, the reliability of projections tends to decrease over time and as population size decreases, that is, there is greater uncertainty in population projections the further forward in the projection period and for smaller area units compared to the district as a whole.

    When using the projections at an SA2 level, users should be aware than no adjustments for dwelling capacity have been made. This is so the projections can be used to assess current planning policies and requirements rather than trying to anticipate potential changes. For QLDC, should the demographic assumptions underlying these projections be met, the projected population of some SA2s will exceed current capacity limits. This would mean that any ‘excess’ population would either need to be accommodated elsewhere (where dwelling capacity was still available) or that a change in planning regulations would be required to meet this need. At the district level, all variants project a population-based demand for dwellings below the district’s dwelling capacity limits based on current planning requirements.

  • Increases and decreases in the projected house numbers represent changes in housing demand over the projection period based on household size and dwelling ratio expectations. That is, projected numbers indicate if additional or fewer households and dwellings are required to sustain the expected ratios for household size and dwellings, and do not represent an actual increase (new builds) or decline (destruction, abandonment, or re-purposing ) in dwellings and households in the district. A projected increase in dwelling numbers signifies that additional dwellings will be required to maintain the stated people-to-dwellings ratio, while a decline in numbers signifies fewer dwellings will be required to maintain that ratio.

  • In the medium scenario, the latest projections show resident numbers increasing to 100,558 in 2053 and an average day population of 150,082. This compares to the March 2022 projections of 84,753 and 124,602 respectively. Over the course of the projection period this equates to and 18.6% increase in residents by 2053 and a 20.4% increase in average day population than previously projected. The divergence between the March 2022 projections and the medium scenario in the latest projections occurs largely after 2033, and is outlined in the following graph.

  • The projections are utilised across Council in many workstreams, which includes:

    • The Queenstown Lakes Spatial Plan

    • Long Term Plan and Annual Plan

    • 30 Year Infrastructure Strategy

    • District Plan

    • Development Contribution Policy

    • Business cases

    • Masterplans

    • Strategies / Policies

    • Housing and Business Capacity Assessments

  • The projections are reviewed on a regular basis and updated when required. The release of the 2023 Census data in 2024 is expected to lead to some revisions to underlying assumptions. Timely revisions to the underlying assumptions and projections are also particularly relevant in this era of post-COVID recovery and very high migration where the underlying data is more variable than in the past. As a result, the underlying assumptions that determine the projection results will be reviewed in late 2024 and 2025 and the projections updated accordingly with the latest data.


Further information

A document produced by DOT Loves Data outlining the methodology and inputs used to produce the latest demand projections can be accessed below.