Neighborhood Stereotypes and Recent Voting Patterns in Auckland, New Zealand

Today’s post employs an unusual strategy for analyzing electoral geography, that of comparing local election results with neighborhood stereotypes. Here we look at the Auckland vote in New Zealand’s 2023 election, doing so in light of popular perceptions of different parts of the city as revealed by a detailed “judgmental map of Auckland” (published in 2017 in Newshub; see the previous post). To make the comparisons easier, I have overlaid maps of the 2023 election on sections of the stereotype map. My analysis of these combined maps is merely suggestive and is not informed by any firsthand knowledge of the city. It should thus be taken with a grain of salt.

We begin in the heart of the city, Auckland Central. The stereotypes of this Green-voting and strongly left-leaning electorate reflect its division into relatively rich and poor areas, an unexceptional feature for a central-city location: “expensive dining,” “hipsters,” “cruise ships,” “shows,” “porn,” “student ghetto,” “intensification,” and “done up.” The only term that I find confusing is “done up.” From a quick investigation of the term’s use in New Zealand, I infer that in this context it means “refurbished” or perhaps even “gentrified.” If this interpretation is correct, it is not a surprising designation for a Green-supporting area. As the map of the Green party-list vote in Auckland shows, support for the party is strongest near the urban core and declines in the peripheries (ignore the essentially unpopulated western expanse of New Lynn on the map).

The two Auckland electorates that selected candidates in the libertarian-leaning ACT Party, yellow-shaded Epsom and Tamaki, are affluent, inner-suburban communities. On the stereotypes map, Epson is prominently labeled “Double Grammar Zone,” a term that I originally thought might refer to a pretentious manner of speaking found among its well-off residents. Actually, the term is much more prosaic:

Three magical words significantly inflate the value and appeal of an exclusive group of Auckland residences. “Double Grammar Zone” is a most alluring catch-cry to many in this already searing hot market. Yes, these words offer the chance of access to the prestigious and successful Auckland Grammar School and Epsom Girls Grammar School. Experts have long pointed to the difference in price for properties located within the DGZ and noticed that gap widening as the city’s average house price continues to hit monthly record highs.

It is not surprising that residents of such an affluent neighborhood would support an anti-populist, economically conservative party. As the party-list vote map (below) shows, support for the ACT Party is highest in the city’s wealthy eastern fringe. In Epsom, the neighborhood labeled “professors” seems out-of-place; I can only assume that the voting patterns of this area are more like those of neighboring Auckland Central. At first glance, I found the “wankers” label mystifying, as I only understood this word as British term of general abuse that that originally denoted “masturbators.” The Urban Dictionary, however, claims that in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK, “wanker” primarily means “someone excessively and annoyingly pretentious and/or false, with a strong likelihood of working in the creative industries, especially ‘new media.’” I would not expect such “creative types,” however, to vote libertarian; perhaps this “wankerish” part of Epsom also has a different voting profile than the rest of the electorate. The label “Jon Ken” is even more mystifying; all that I could find when searching for that name was a nurse at an Auckland hospital.

The other ACT-supporting electorate in 2023, neighboring Tamaki, is labeled with several terms signifying establishment-oriented affluence: “yuppies,” “old-school suburbia,” “quite nice,” and “almost as nice.” The large-font label “Hannover Finance” refers to “a New Zealand non-bank finance company that focused on lending for high-risk property development that failed in 2010…” Its inclusion and prominence on the map perhaps reflect the common concern in Auckland about surging property prices. One label seems out-of-place for affluent Tamaki: “The Projects.” This term calls to my mind urban redevelopment initiatives in downtrodden neighborhoods. But the economic gradient between wealthy Tamaki and poor, Labour-voting Panumure-Otahutu (labeled “P-O” on the electorate map) to its south is steep, leading me to wonder whether the label has been placed a little too far to the north. But then again, the mapmakers have vastly greater knowledge of Auckland than I do.

The only electorate in the core region of Auckland that supported Labour in 2023 is Mount Albert. Its tags on the stereotype map suggest a relatively poor and ethnically diverse area that is changing as younger and more affluent people move in (“more hipsters,” “coffee,” “next to be gentrified,” and “halal.”) Such a district would be expected to heavily support both Labour and the Green Party, and that is exactly what one finds (see the map for the Green Party-list vote). I am confused, however, by the “Butcher’s” label in northern Mount Albert; perhaps it refers to upscale Omak Meats.

Two electorates in the southern part of the Auckland isthmus, Mount Rosekill and Maungskiekie, voted strongly for Labour in 2020 but switched to the National Party in 2023. Some of the labels placed here suggest a stable working- and lower-middle-class social environment: “alright suburbs,” “shabby suburbs,” and “panel beaters” (car-repair shops). “Mecca” and “noodles dumplings” probably indicate concentrations of immigrants from the Middle East and East Asia, respectively. (“McGehan Close,” to the contrary, denotes a street noted for its “hopelessness,” but it is located in Mount Albert, not Mount Rosekill, indicating either an error by the cartographer or one by me when I combined these maps.)

Labour’s main Auckland stronghold is in the southern part of the city (see the maps below). This is a decidedly poor and ethnically diverse area. The stereotype labels here are telling: “cleaners at your office,” “hardcase,” “Apia” (the capital of Samoa), and, in large font, “extra police resources.” The stark “extra police resources” tag, however, also extends into a much better-off electorate (Takanini), which switched from Labour to the National Party in 2023. To the north of Takanini are two relatively well-to-do electorates that have long supported the National Party and shunned Labour. One of them, Pakuranga, also has relatively high levels of support for ACT. Some of the stereotypes for this electorate, such as “bratty teens” and “wealthier bratty teens” are interesting, but I am especially intrigued by “paranoid South Africans.”

West Auckland (see the map below) includes another electorate that supported Labour in 2023, Kelston, although it did so by a relatively thin margin. Some of its stereotypes – such as “P-Labs” (meth labs) and “Tongans” – indicate the presence of rough neighborhoods and of a large Polynesian immigrant community. To its north is Te-Atatu; noted for its low- and medium-cost housing. The prominent label “Cheryl West” found here refers to a character in a popular television show who supposedly typified the “Westie” personality, defined by Wikipedia as someone “from the outer suburbs who [is] unintelligent, undereducated, unmotivated, unrefined, lacking in fashion sense, working-class or unemployed.” The same article, however, also notes that “Westie” has been gradually shifting from a “pejorative to a societal identifier,” based mostly on its prominence in television shows, song lyrics, and comedy routines. The movement of such a working-class redoubt as Te-Atatu from the Labour Party to the National Party in 2023 is therefore of some significance.


Another western electorate that switched from Labour to National in 2023 is New Lynn. Based on the stereotypes applied to it, such results are surprising. Such tags as “faint whiff of pot,” “hippies,” “potters,” and “artisany type people,” would suggest a decidedly left-leaning population. And that is its historical norm. As the non-updated Wikipedia article on the electorate notes, “It has always been held by members of the Labour Party.” But in 2023, the National Party triumphed in New Lynn both in the party-list vote and the electorate vote, albeit by relatively thin margins. The Green Party vote, however, was fairly large in New Lynn, as would be expected from the labels applied to it. Intriguingly, its new MP, Paulo Reyes Garcia, is an immigration lawyer originally from the Philippines.

The five northern electorates of Auckland (see the map below) all favored the National Party in 2023 in both the part-list vote and the electorate-based vote. In contrast, in 2020 all of them favored the Labour in the party-list vote, as did two in the electorate-based vote. The eastern part of this area is notably affluent, as is reflected by its stereotypes, and therefore would be expected to support the National Party. Two of these tags, “decile 10” and “more like decile 8-9,” need an explanation for non-New Zealanders; “decile” refers to a school-ranking system based on the socio-economic characteristics of their students, with “decile 10” denoting those in the top 10 percent. The term “Lorde” might also be mystifying for some people in other countries; it is the stage name of the well-known Kiwi musician Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, who was raised in the Northshore electorate in the area under her name label.

The southwestern part of northern Auckland, the Northcote and Upper Harbour electorates, is a mid-income area noted for its Asian immigrants. Such features are indicated by three prominent labels on the stereotype map: “very average,” “Koreans,” and “Chinatown” (although Northcote also includes an area that is evidently populated by “artists too cool for cityside”). Upper Harbour, with its “depressing suburbs,” “car yards,” and “Koreans” saw a particularly sharp drop in support for Labour from 2020 to 2023.

This cursory analysis suggests that New Zealand’s National Party currently now enjoys a fairly broad level of support, extending well beyond its upper-middle-class base. It will be interesting to see whether it will be able to retain working-class and immigrant support in the coming years.

As a final note, in doing research for this post I was also surprised to learn that people from Auckland are often disparaged by other New Zealanders. As the Wikipedia article on the term “Jafa” notes:

Jafa is a slang term (sometimes pejorative  for a resident of Auckland, New Zealand. It is an acronym, standing for Just Another Fucking Aucklander. [I]t is considered to be representative of the boorishness of Aucklanders, or the envy of the rest of New Zealand, depending on the perspective. The term has wider currency than the earlier derogatory term “Rangitoto Yank.” A variant is Jaffa, Just Another Fuckwit From Auckland.  … Auckland is alleged to be full of rude, greedy and arrogant people, having a similar reputation as Mumbai and Kolkata in India, Milan and Rome in Italy, Paris in France, London in the United Kingdom, New York City in the United States, or Moscow and Saint Petersburg in Russia.  …Auckland is alleged to be a culturally alien place due to the much higher proportion of non-Maori and nonwhite populations than the rest of the country. Percentage-wise, Auckland has the seventh largest ethnic Chinese population among all urban areas outside Greater China. In the 2006 census, Asians comprised 18.9% of Auckland’s population but only 7.9% in Christchurch, and 14.4% of Auckland’s but merely 2.8% of Christchurch’s population are Pacific Islanders. Most new immigrants to Auckland are from East Asia and South Asia, while people immigrating to other parts of the country show higher percentage rates of UK and South African origins. Auckland is finding itself increasingly marginalised on sports traditionally identified with New Zealand culture, such as rugby and netball, because of high immigrant numbers from countries with little tradition of such sports.