Aucklanders are enjoying cleaner beaches, higher incomes and using public transport more - but the economy remains stuck in the doldrums with flat export growth.
These are among the findings of Mayor Len Brown's second annual scorecard, which tracks progress to make Auckland the world's most liveable city.
The scorecard coincides with today's publication of the Herald's annual Project Auckland report, which examines Auckland's progress on the economic development front.
From a base index of 100 points, the mayoral scorecard rose another 3.4 points this year from 102.1 to 105.5, prompting Mr Brown to trumpet improved living standards for the city's 1.4 million residents.
Among the most satisfying results was a 6.4 per cent rise in employment and a big turnaround in youth unemployment, which rose 3 per cent after a drop of 16.4 per cent last year.
Public transport use continued to grow at 8.1 per cent, visitor nights rose 7.5 per cent and educational achievement improved by 4.7 per cent. Good progress was made tackling graffiti and reducing crime.
But on the bigger economic front, GDP per capita was in negative territory for the past two years. Exports were sluggish, up just 1.4 per cent this year, and owning a home in Auckland has become harder.
Mr Brown, who set out to lift the region's annual GDP by 5 per cent and increase exports by 6 per cent, said the low growth figures were symptomatic of the national economy.
Auckland, he said, was quietly idling from first to second gear.
"Clearly the marine sector has been damaged in the past four years. With food and beverage and our agricultural sector continuing to grow the outlook for a broadening of our export economic base in Auckland is looking particularly rosy," Mr Brown said.
He was particularly pleased to see the rise in employment and drop in the youth unemployment, "which still has a long way to go".
Increases in educational achievement, reflected in more secondary students gaining NCEA, and the battle against crime were other measures making Auckland more liveable.
On transport, Mr Brown said it was a case of "you build it and they will use it".
Despite latest figures showing a flat-lining of public transport usage, Mr Brown said Aucklanders could look forward to the introduction of electric trains next year, a fully integrated ticketing system, protection of the route for the city rail loop and huge gains on the Waterview motorway project, opening the first stage of transport projects for southeast Auckland called Ameti and extending the northern busway to Silverdale.
The scorecard rates the progress of Auckland across four categories - economy, transport, communities, environment - covering 19 measures.
Auckland is third behind Vienna and Zurich in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, 10th in the Economist Intelligence Unit's global liveability report and ninth in Monocole magazine's Most Liveable City Index.
By Bernard Orsman @BernardOrsman Email Bernard