Time for rethink
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?