Measuring the use and value of Auckland Council amenities

Myers Park Playground in Auckland, New Zealand, photo by Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/Adobe Stock

Myers Park Playground in Auckland, New Zealand

Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/Adobe Stock

An online survey and series of interviews of Auckland residents revealed the majority want better access to neighbourhood parks and libraries, among other amenities, in some cases even if they don't necessarily use them.

What is the issue?

RAND Europe, in collaboration with Nexus and Accent, was commissioned by Auckland Council to quantify how much the public use and value the provision of local amenities, including libraries, community centres, art centres, neighbourhood parks, leisure centres, swimming pools, indoor courts and sports fields.

In particular, Auckland Council wished to know the usage as well as the ‘use’ and ‘non-use’ values of these amenities to people in the population, to help inform their business case evaluations for the proposal of specific amenities. The ‘use’ value is the value for those who actively use the amenities, whereas the ‘non-use’ value is the value that can be attributed to the amenity even though not used, such as making an area more pleasant.

How did we help?

We conducted an online survey of the Auckland population using representative quotas by age, gender and area. The questionnaire included Stated Choice experiments (SCs) to measure the value of local amenities and collected data about the usage of each of the amenities and socio-economic characteristics of the respondent and their household.

A pilot of 150 interviews was undertaken in January 2020, followed by a main stage of 1,850 interviews undertaken in March 2020 (it is emphasised that the survey work was undertaken before the COVID-19 pandemic, which could impact findings). This forms a sufficient base for a robust data analysis using discrete choice modelling techniques.

What did we find?

In addition to measuring the use of amenities, reported in Figure 1 below, the survey revealed that 66% of respondents wanted better access to neighbourhood parks, 56% wanted better access to a library and 43% to a standard swimming pool/aquatic centre (as opposed to an ‘enhanced’ swimming pool/aquatic centre with extra services).

Figure 1: Usage of facilities in preceding seven days, four weeks and six months

From the stated choice observations, we estimated the use and non-use values that public placed on having the local amenities. The values are shown in Figure 2 below. Specifically, we found:

  • Use values are higher than non-use values, reflecting that those who use the amenities value them more highly.
  • Households that do not use some amenities still value these amenities, such as libraries, community centres, aquatic centres, sport parks and neighbourhood parks.
  • Frequent users are willing to pay more for these amenities than less frequent users. This is true for libraries, arts centres, leisure centres and indoor courts.
  • The value of individual amenities depends on the presence of other amenities, which may act as substitutes or complements.
  • The value of the amenity diminishes if people must travel over 20 minutes (driving) to the amenity.

Figure 2: Value of amenities to those who use and do not use them