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Becky Carruthers

Most kiwis believe that Wellington is the creative capital of New Zealand. We’ve been told this for decades and had it reinforced when Wellington was named the “Most Creative City in NZ” by Infometrics (2017). But there’s a key element being ignored in this claim.

  • That element is the people.

Infometrics awarded Wellington the “Most Creative City in NZ” based on the percentage of its workforce who are in creative and artistic occupations, which is 6.4%, versus Auckland’s 4.8%. Looking only at the density of creatives within the population, Wellington is a winner. But percentages can be misleading, and the actual numbers tell a different story.

  • What the numbers make clear is that whatever Wellington has, Auckland has more of.

The totals are rising annually, but in a 2016 report, 61,983 people were working in creative industries in New Zealand. A whopping 49.9% of these – 30,901 people – were based in Auckland. Compared to the total population of Auckland at the time, it was still only 3.7% of the total workforce, but when you consider that the remaining 50.1% of NZ’s creative population were spread out across the country, it’s the largest concentration by far.

  • Which city looks more creative now?

Within Auckland’s creative industries, design was the largest sub-sector, followed by screen production for film and TV. These sub-sectors have all seen consistent growth in the city for almost twenty years, and are set to continue as the market and industry thrives in our biggest city. Several Wellington studios have packed up in recent years to move north so they don’t miss out.

In the capital, driven by competition from other cities vying to take their cultural crown, the council has proposed a “Decade of Culture” program to support infrastructure improvements, artistic organisations, events, and festivals. They’ve admitted the need to re-promote their city, to attract talent to stay and to set up there, and to breathe life into an industry that’s quickly running away in pursuit of larger markets.

  • What does this mean for career creatives?

Wellington has charm and a dense population of creatives, but despite their protestations, it’s clear that New Zealand’s creative capital of the future is Auckland. Opportunities in the city of sails are high and ever-growing. Offerings are diverse and rapidly changing.

A couple of Seek searches for jobs in Auckland and Wellington last week provided evidence of this. A keyword search for “creative” found 815 jobs advertised in Auckland, almost four times the 214 in Wellington. A category search for marketing, design, advertising, and media roles found 512 jobs listed in Auckland, again close to four times the meagre 125 available in Wellington.

If you enjoy working in a smaller pond, but one that fiercely prides itself on creativity and culture, Wellington makes a good home base. You’ll be in a much smaller population, which means fighting harder to get the few jobs there, but can trust that your community cares as much for the arts as you do.

If you’re looking for the next step in your creative career, or to move into the creative industry, you’re better off looking to our biggest city for more openings, better opportunities, and a much bigger pool to swim in.
 

Auckland is transforming, growing year by year to dominate the creative market in New Zealand. What opportunities might you find in the new creative capital? Contact our Auckland consultants, Duncan Wylie and Jane Simich to find out.

If you're new and travelling to New Zealand for the first time, check out our top picks for arts, culture, and festivals in Auckland here.