It is clear from the mere recounting of population figures that the region has experienced a remarkable growth in the past few decades and there is every reason to believe that the growth will continue. In figures the region's population in 1926 totalled 229,976; by 1951 it had reached 372,827, and in 1961, 502,483. It is estimated that the population will have reached by 1981 a figure of 890,000. Much of the growth will probably take place on the periphery, in the north around the East Coast Bays and Henderson, in the east around Howick, and in the south around Papakura and Manurewa. Some of the more central boroughs, such as Mount Wellington and Mount Roskill, are expected to reveal substantial increases as redevelopment occurs. The trend of population in the older and more central borough areas will depend upon the success obtained in promoting higher residential densities.
One obvious result of this urban expansion is the continuing loss of agricultural land. In the south of the region, particularly in Franklin County, dairy farming is important, as are the 1,700 acres of market gardening land in the Pukekohe-Bombay area, and the potential livestock carrying capacity of the area is reckoned to be considerable. Close by the built-up areas lie significant acreages of market garden land. From around Henderson comes as much as 12 per cent by value of the nation's fruit production, in addition to the products of the vineyards. The conservation of agricultural land is not the only problem faced by the regional planners. The question of the circulation and the congestion of traffic, the competition between central and peripheral shopping areas, the separation of work place and residence, the archaic pattern of local government, make up the familiar planning problems of a large urban centre. In addition there are a group of problems associated with the establishment of non-European residents in the region.
One of the most portentous developments of the last decade, and one that is arousing a lot of discussion, is the rapid increase in Maoris and, though numerically less important, of other Polynesian immigrants, Samoans, Cook Islanders, Niueans, and Tongans. In 1951, 7,621 Maoris were resident in the Auckland Urban Area; at the 1961 Census 19,847 were recorded, a 160·42 per cent increase which is overwhelmingly the product of immigration. Inevitably this population contrasts in a variety of respects with the European population; it is on average a much younger population with a particular concentration in the 15–30 age group; and as with most immigrant populations there is an excess of males per hundred females, 101·44; the European ratio is 95·51 males per 100 females. The Maori disproportion is not excessive and is to be considered as an indication of a satisfactory state of affairs, especially when the ratio of Niueans is known to be 155, the Samoans 119, and the Chinese, who are a small and long-settled group receiving very few additional migrants, is 161. A further indication of the permanent nature which Maori settlement is assuming arises out of their distribution within the region. Whereas, for instance, 90 per cent of the Cook Islanders are concentrated in the very central parts of Auckland, whose conditions are clearly indicated by their designation as redevelopment areas, the Maoris are more dispersed. A decline of numbers resident in the central parts is matched by a marked increase in the outer suburbs, a trend assisted by State provided finance for houses, stimulated by the location of industrial factories away from the central area, and not inhibited by such strong and inflexible kin and neighbourhood associations which keep the Cook Islanders within a more restricted area. Unfortunately the occupational structure of the Auckland Maoris is not readily obtainable. In 1956 Cook Island residents in Auckland numbered 1,088; Niueans, 1,703; Samoans, 2,288, admittedly rather small populations, but ones that have increased from a few hundred in 1945 and which present their own complex and individual problems associated with integration.