Auckland has ranked poorly as a city to raise a family, mostly because of its high housing costs and poor transport.

But Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has rubbished the finding of an international study, saying it defies all the evidence which shows Auckland is a growing, highly popular city for all people.

The study by German-based relocation company Movinga ranked Auckland 94th out of 145 cities, which were chosen for the survey because they had a reputation for being family-friendly. Helsinki in Finland placed top in the study.

Wellington ranked 38, because it was considered safer and more affordable, and Christchurch was placed at 52, also because of its lower living and housing costs.

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Auckland scored well on factors like air quality, educational achievement for adolescents, and safety.

But its overall score was dragged down by its unaffordable housing. Based on a measure of median monthly rent as a share of household income, Auckland was more expensive for families than London and New York.

The city also scored poorly for cost of living and mobility.

Goff questioned the findings.

"In some ways, Auckland speaks for itself," he told the Herald. "The growth in Auckland over the last decade shows just how popular a destination this city is for other people to come and live."

He said a more established survey, Mercer, consistently ranked Auckland as the third best city in the world for quality of life.

But the Mercer study looks more broadly at all factors including political and social stability, rather than specifically addressing Auckland's family-friendliness.

The Movinga study's authors said people's perception of their home city changed once they had families, and they prioritised new things like affordable childcare and activities for children.

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Goff accepted that Auckland faced major transport and housing problems and that these affected family life.

Mayor Phil Goff says more recognised surveys have placed Auckland in the top three cities in the world. Photo / Michael Craig
Mayor Phil Goff says more recognised surveys have placed Auckland in the top three cities in the world. Photo / Michael Craig

He believed that both areas were improving. Just under 15,000 homes were consented in the last year, five times more than a decade ago. And while congestion was still a serious problem, the latest Automobile Association survey showed it was improving.

Goff also highlighted recent initiatives targeted specifically at children, like free public transport on weekends.

Jade-Ceres Munoz, with daughter Paris. Munoz says she has struggled to find a good, affordable house in Auckland, but insists the city is still a great place to raise children. Photo / Dean Purcell
Jade-Ceres Munoz, with daughter Paris. Munoz says she has struggled to find a good, affordable house in Auckland, but insists the city is still a great place to raise children. Photo / Dean Purcell

Jade-Ceres Munoz and her husband moved to Auckland from Manila, Philippines with their daughter Paris four years ago and said the city had a few downsides.

Munoz, a digital marketing consultant, had already moved five times to find a better, more affordable flat, and the family was now living in a small two-bedroom flat for $550 a week.

"It was so hard," she said. "For the cost of the house, you get houses that are not insulated, cold in winter. I was moving every six months."

But on balance, she believed that Auckland was a good place to raise a family.

Her commute from her home in Forrest Hill to the CBD took 17 minutes. In Manila, which had some of the worst congestion in the world, her commute took around three hours each way.

Healthcare was also relatively accessible and affordable. Her daughter's vaccinations cost around $1000 in Manila, but were free in New Zealand.

"That's a very big benefit for me as a parent."

Munoz also lived for three years in California, but said she would never a raise a family there because of concerns about safety and the schooling system.

As well as factors like housing and transport, the Movinga study looked at the variety of activities on offer and family-centred policy like paid parental leave.

"A city may have great family infrastructure like education, healthcare and safety, but if the system doesn't allow parents enough or any paid leave in order to spend time raising their children, it makes it very difficult for working parents to juggle work and family life," said Movinga marketing spokeswoman Marta Blanco Amez.

New Zealand cities ranked in the middle of the pack for paid parental leave. Parents can get 22 weeks' paid leave, rising to 26 weeks in June.

Family friendly? How NZ cities ranked

AUCKLAND

City liveability

Housing affordability: 129 out of 145

Living cost: 130

Unemployment: 87

Education: 29=

Safety: 42

Mobility: 129

Air quality: 24

Healthcare: 52

Kids' activities: 86

Family legislation

Paid parental leave: 81=

Inclusive of same-sex families: 1=

Survey of local parents

Neighbourhood safety: 27

Family-friendliness: 34

Overall: 94

WELLINGTON

City liveability

Housing affordability: 83

Living cost: 84

Unemployment: 60

Education: 29=

Safety: 6

Mobility: 113

Air quality: 15

Healthcare: 47

Kids' activities: 100

Family legislation

Paid parental leave: 81=

Inclusive of same-sex families: 1=

Survey of local parents

Neighbourhood safety: 14

Family-friendliness: 4

Overall: 38

CHRISTCHURCH

City liveability

Housing affordability: 5

Living cost by income: 4

Unemployment: 76

Education: 29=

Safety: 30

Mobility: 114

Air quality: 82

Healthcare: 34

Kids' activities: 142

Family legislation

Paid parental leave: 81=

Inclusive of same-sex families: 1=

Survey of local parents

Neighbourhood safety: 39

Family-friendliness: 9

Overall: 52

Helsinki in Finland was ranked as the top city in the world to raise a family. Photo / 123RF
Helsinki in Finland was ranked as the top city in the world to raise a family. Photo / 123RF

Top 10 cities:

1. Helsinki, Finland

2. Quebec, Canada

3. Oslo, Norway

4. Munich, Germany

5. Copenhagen, Denmark

6. Stockholm, Sweden

7. Reykjavik, Iceland

8. Calgary, Canada

9. Montreal, Canada

10 Gothenburg, Sweden

Source: Movinga Cities of Opportunity: Best Cities for Families 2020