How infrastructure links can shape urban development in New Zealand

Motu has published studies examining the interactions of infrastructure, urban form and productivity. Some show the importance of agglomeration for city development and for levels of firm productivity. Others show that certain infrastructure investments raise productivity and/or amenity values within cities.

Issues of agglomeration and appropriate infrastructure investments are relevant to the question that the Resilient Urban Futures programme seeks to answer: which potential urban futures will result in the most resilient, liveable, competitive cities? We look at three aspects:


1. Impact of transport links on urban development

We look at the role of physical transport links, and their quality, in shaping patterns of urban development. We use historical data relating to transport links and initial conditions (e.g. climate, existence of a harbour, etc.), coupled with spatial-econometrics modelling techniques, to determine the importance of key transport links, and potentially other physical and social infrastructure such as tertiary education infrastructure, in shaping the relative development of urban areas across New Zealand.

2. Role of broadband

We look at the role of broadband, especially ultra-fast broadband, in shaping the modern urban environment through the location choice and performance of firms. This research uses Statistics New Zealand unit record firm data on internet connectivity of firms, coupled with firm financial and productivity data from the Longitudinal Business Database, to test for the impacts of ultra-fast and standard broadband availability and adoption on firm location and performance. This extends prior published Motu work that showed productivity improvements for firms that were early adopters of broadband.

3. Nature of governance and planning in shaping future urban environments

This research draws on the transport and broadband work above, and other studies, to explore the nature of governance and planning in shaping future urban environments, with an emphasis on the upper half of the North Island. We examine how NZ Inc. can improve planning, investment in and use of major transport and ultra-fast broadband links. We are working with policy agency, local authority and private sector contributors.



Dr Arthur Grimes, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research

Dr Richard Fabling, Motu

PhD candidate: Eilya Torshizian – Effects of real estate characteristics on residential satisfaction


Apatov E, A Grimes, Higher education institutions and regional growth: The case of New Zealand, Motu, Wellington, 2016

Fabling R, A Grimes (2016) Picking up speed: Does ultrafast broadband increase firm productivity? Motu Working Paper 16-22, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, November

Greenaway-McGrevy R, A Grimes, M Holmes, Two countries, sixteen cities, five thousand kilometres: How many housing markets?, Motu Working Paper 16-04, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, Wellington, March 2016

Grimes A, E Apatov, L Lutchman, A Robinson (2014) Infrastructure’s long-lived impact on urban development: Theory and empirics (pdf), Motu Working Paper 14-08, Wellington: Motu

Grimes A, M Reinhardt (2015) Relative income and subjective wellbeing: Intra-national and inter-national comparisons by settlement and country type, (pdf) Motu Working Paper 15-10

Torshizian E, A Grimes (2014) Residential satisfaction, crowding and density:  Evidence over different geographic scales in Auckland (PDF), draft paper presented to the 55th Annual Conference of the New Zealand  Association of Economists, Auckland, 2-4 July

Reinhardt M (2014) Relative income and subjective well-being assessing the impact of intra-national and inter-national comparisons, Honours Dissertation, University of Auckland

Grimes A, N Tarrant (2013) A New Zealand urban population database, Motu Working Paper 13-07, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, Wellington

Apatov E (2013) Higher education institutions and economic growth within New Zealand, Master of Commerce dissertation, University of Auckland

Lutchman L (2013) Transport links and New Zealand regional growth: A long run analysis, Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) dissertation, University of Auckland