New Zealand's population boom: Salvation Army says housing isn't keeping up

New Zealand's population is booming, census figures show, and the Salvation Army is concerned housing is not keeping up - but Winston Peters is suggesting there is hope. 

The first details from last year's troubled 2018 Census have revealed the population increased 457,707 to 4.69 million over the five years to 2018.

That's 2.1 percent a year since 2013 - the largest growth in a census period.

Much of the growth is driven by immigration. Net migration was 59,000 people over the last seven-year Census period, but in the five years up to Census 2018, it was 259,000 people.

But all this growth is raising questions about how we're coping with such a rapidly increasing population.

Papakura is the fastest-growing part of Auckland, where the population increased by 26 percent in the five years to 2018. New homes are going in, but infrastructure work is struggling to match such a population surge. 

The overall population of New Zealand grew 10.8 percent since the last Census. Most of the growth is in the north of the North Island and on the outskirts of Auckland. 

The Salvation Army says housing is just not keeping up. 

"A lot of people we're seeing are still struggling to get the kind of housing they need," the Salvation Army's Lieut-Colonel Ian Hutson told Newshub. 

"What we've seen is people going without food, insecure housing, and people having to move around because they can't find the right thing."

For years, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been offering a solution to struggling infrastructure: cutting migration. 

At a Takapuna rally in September 2017, Peters said: "Unlike responsible governments, National has simply used record immigration to hyperventilate the NZ economy, as Labour did."

Filling in for PM Jacinda Ardern on Monday, Newshub asked Peters at his post-Cabinet press conference if he still thinks migration is too high. 

"We have to slow down immigration and get supply-side housing done... We're now getting on top of that," he said. 

The population growth poses a major challenge for the Government, especially with the KiwiBuild flop. Peters said in spite of KiwiBuild's struggles, the housing market is looking promising. 

"Despite the putative, stumbling beginnings of KiwiBuild, the rest of the housing market's going gangbusters," he said. 

Population trends in the Census also mean there will be another North Island electorate created next year before the general election. 

But the Opposition says the Census was so flawed it may challenge that move, creating another Census headache for the Government.