Time for re­think

South Waikato News - - Your Local News - RIC STEVENS

New Zealand is be­com­ing a lop­sided coun­try. The over­all pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing, and faster than we re­alise, and the cities are boom­ing. But re­searchers say that the many of the re­gions and small towns that make up the New Zealand heart­land are fac­ing a fu­ture of de­cline.

This is a prob­lem that is not fully un­der­stood, and has not been ad­e­quately ad­dressed by govern­ment pol­icy. It is to be hoped that the new Govern­ment will come up with ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions.

Most head­lines are gen­er­ally fo­cused on the other side of the prob­lem – the ris­ing costs of hous­ing in the cities.

How­ever, fore­cast­ing by de­mo­graph­ics pro­fes­sor Natalie Jack­son pre­dicts that the pop­u­la­tions of 44 out of 67 ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties will ei­ther stop grow­ing or start to de­cline over the next 30 years – all of them out­side the ma­jor ur­ban conur­ba­tions.

Jack­son’s anal­y­sis was con­tained in a re­port from the Right-wing ori­ented Maxim In­sti­tute. It echoes, how­ever, Sta­tis­tics NZ’S fore­casts which sug­gest 15 ru­ral ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties, mainly in the lower North Is­land, will lose pop­u­la­tion.

It has got to the point where even the Maxim In­sti­tute is say­ing that New Zealand needs to re­think the fo­cus on eco­nomic growth as the sole fo­cus of progress, and start con­sid­er­ing both the eco­nomic and so­cial needs of com­mu­ni­ties which are stag­nat­ing or in de­cline.

Per­haps sal­va­tion is at hand in the form of the $1 bil­lion-a-year re­gional de­vel­op­ment fund ne­go­ti­ated as part of the coali­tion agree­ment be­tween Labour and New Zealand First. But that raises the ques­tion – is $1b enough?

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