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Urban/Rural Profile (experimental) Classification Categories

Chart - Urban/rural profile.

The experimental Urban/Rural Profile Classification follows the formal Statistics New Zealand urban and rural boundaries from Urban Area classification. The methodology behind this classification keeps main urban areas the same but classifies Statistics NZ meshblocks into categories based on a methodology using residence and workplace address from Census 2006. This allows for rural areas to be separately classified according to the varying influence of nearby urban areas, as opposed to being treated as the residual category of urban areas.

Urban areas

Urban areas are statistically defined areas with no administrative or legal basis. This classification is designed to identify concentrated urban settlements, without the distortion of administrative boundaries. Main urban areas represent the most urbanised areas in New Zealand and this part of the classification remains consistent with the standard urban areas classification. Main urban areas are very large and centred on a city or main urban centre. They have a minimum population of 30,000. Urban areas in the main conurbations have been divided into urban zones, with each urban zone defined as a separate urban area. Population size is also used to define secondary and minor urban areas in the standard urban area classification. Does population size alone adequately describe the characteristics of different urban areas? A minor urban area such as Rolleston, which is close to Christchurch, has different structures and needs to Westport, which is fairly remote from a large urban area. Yet both centres have similar-sized populations and are grouped together as minor urban areas. The experimental urban/rural classification takes this into account.

Urban areas previously defined as secondary and minor urban areas in the standard classification, were redefined on the basis of proximity to and dependence upon main urban areas. This dependence was determined using people’s address of usual residence and workplace address sourced from Census. Workplace address provides a simple but effective defining variable since it acts as a proxy for some of the six criteria used when defining existing urban boundaries.

The six criteria for including an area within an urban boundary are:

  1. strong economic ties
  2. cultural and recreational interaction
  3. serviced from the core for major business and professional activities
  4. an integrated public transport network
  5. significant workplace commuting to and from the central core
  6. planned development with the next twenty years, as a dormitory area to, or an extension of, the central core.

Having a workplace address in a main urban area certainly satisfies criteria 1 and 5 and implies at least some fulfilment of 2 and 3.

Main urban area

This is the same as the standard 2006 pattern for main urban centres and includes: Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, Napier-Hastings, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Kapiti, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.

Satellite urban area

This category identifies towns and settlements with strong links to main urban centres. This connection is through employment location. Satellite urban areas are defined as urban areas (other than main urban areas) where 20 percent or more of the usually resident employed population's workplace address is in a main urban area.

Independent urban area

This category identifies towns and settlements without significant dependence on main urban centres. Again, employment location is the defining variable. Independent urban areas are urban areas (other than main urban areas) where less than 20 percent of the usually resident employed population's workplace address is in a main urban area.

Rural areas

There is no internationally recognised definition of a ‘rural’ area. Rural areas have traditionally been residual areas not included in the urban definition.

The standard urban area classification has two categories of rural areas: rural centres and other rural. Rural centres are defined by population size, having a population of 300 to 999 in a reasonably compact area that services surrounding rural areas (district territory). They have a defined statistical boundary (an area unit) but no legal status. 'Other rural' is the urban area classification residual category and includes all area units not in urban areas or rural centres. This category includes inlets, islands, inland waters, and oceanic waters outside urban areas.

For the purpose of the experimental Urban/Rural Profile Classification, Statistics New Zealand has classed rural areas to allow distinct rural communities present in New Zealand to be recognised. This is done by defining rural areas by using workplace compared with address of usual residence as a proxy for both distance from, and the need to travel to, an urban area for employment.

Using workplace area, meshblocks in rural areas are allocated to one of four categories, based on their dependence on urban areas. Again, employment location is the defining variable. The allocation is based on a weighted percentage of resident employed adults of a rural meshblock who work in the three standard categories of urban area (for simplicity the methodology uses main, secondary and minor urban area). The percentages working in each urban area were weighted through the use of multipliers. The multipliers allowed for the increasing urbanisation of different sized urban areas. For example, the percentage of rural people working in a main urban area had double the impact of the same percentage working in a minor urban area. This weighting acknowledges the impact that a large urban centre has on its surrounding area. It ensures that, for example, rural areas surrounding the secondary urban area of Gore are acknowledged as being very different from rural areas outside the main urban area of Christchurch (the latter would be included in the category rural area with high urban influence).

This degree of dependency on urban areas was calculated and a 'rurality index' was created.

Rural area with high urban influence

This category identifies rural areas that form a transition between the main urban areas and rural areas, although meshblocks are not necessarily contiguous with main urban centres. The index allows for a meshblock to be included in this category only if a significant proportion of the resident employed population work in a main urban area.

Rural area with moderate urban influence

This category identifies rural areas with a significant, but not exclusively, main urban area influence. A meshblock can be included in this category:

  1. if a large percentage of the resident employed population works in a minor or secondary urban area, or
  2. if a significant percentage work in a main urban area.

However, if the percentage working in a main urban area is too substantial, the meshblock will be included in the high urban influence category.

Rural area with low urban influence

This category identifies rural areas with a strong rural focus. The majority of the population in these areas works in a rural area. Due to the impact of the weighting system, it is unlikely meshblocks in this category will have many people employed in a main urban area, although a number may work in a minor urban area.

Highly rural/remote area

These are rural areas where there is minimal dependence on urban areas in terms of employment, or where there is a very small employed population.

Area outside urban/rural profile

This residual category has been created consisting of meshblocks which are assumed not to share much commonality with the rest of meshblocks in New Zealand.

The following meshblocks are considered not to fit in any of the existing seven Urban/Rural Profile Classification categories described earlier and are therefore classified in the residual category.

  1. non-digitised meshblocks
  2. all water meshblocks* in 'rural' areas
  3. all water meshblocks* in 'urban' areas
  4. meshblocks that are not in a territorial authority or regional council area.

There are 683 meshblocks in this category, altogether comprising 1.7 percent of total meshblocks in New Zealand.

* Water meshblocks include 'Oceanic', 'Inlet', and 'Inland water' meshblocks.

Manual correction: A number of rural meshblocks had their category manually changed, where they appear inconsistent with adjacent meshblocks, and where they had a small number of total working population. The list of manually corrected meshblocks ia available from Statistics New Zealand on request.

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