New Zealand boasts “most liveable city” in the world for the first time

by Roxanne Libatique12 Jun 2021

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, has named Auckland the most liveable city in the world for the first time. However, Auckland University economist Robert MacCulloch begs to differ, insisting that the ranking proved that such titles were “meaningless nonsense.”

EIU’s latest “survey of liveability” in 140 cities worldwide named Auckland as the most liveable city due to how it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 19, for example, Auckland was already safe enough to allow concerts while many countries were still enforcing strict lockdowns.

However, MacCulloch slammed the ranking on his blog for basing solely on each city’s COVID-19 response and ignoring Auckland’s housing affordability crisis and other issues.

“Auckland’s housing affordability crisis, traffic congestion, weak infrastructure, and sewage pouring into the harbour when there’s heavy rain notwithstanding, the EIU has apparently chosen to give the city the top ranking because the virus is not on the loose in it,” MacCulloch wrote on his blog.

The EIU said it rated living conditions in 140 cities based on over 30 factors grouped into five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

The latest ranking also incorporated new indicators related to the COVID-19 pandemic, determining how each city had coped with overflowing demand on healthcare facilities and closures or capacity limits for schools, restaurants, and cultural venues.

Upasana Dutt, the head of global liveability in EIU, said New Zealand dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic efficiently, allowing restrictions to lift from culture and entertainment areas while other countries continued to enforce lockdowns.

“In terms of infrastructure, Auckland indeed scores lower than some of the other top 10 cities, but its high culture and environment scores and its control on the pandemic have pushed it to the top of the rankings,” Dutt said, as reported by Stuff.

MacCulloch advised the EIU to consider innovation and entrepreneurship, pointing out that the city’s purpose is “not to come and relax and stare at the view all day long and marvel at how ‘liveable’ it is.”

“New York is an edgy, happening place, as is London. Isn’t that what we want in a city? If you want peace [and] tranquillity and to be in a lovely environment, go and live in the Bay of Islands or move to Otago,” he added.

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