While there are key issues facing many regional settlements, such as aging populations, the research shows that there are also many positive influences afoot in some areas.
Building Better Thriving Regions: Supporting Success in 2nd Tier Settlements researcher Malcolm Campbell has recently completed an analyse of three regional settlements, Ashburton, Timaru, and Waitaki Territorial Authority areas, using data from the 2013 New Zealand Census to give an indication of the similarities and differences between these places on a number of key measures.
His report assesses key issues facing each case study area. He says overall, the three settlements have much in common, “the issue of ageing is a New Zealand-wide problem, and particularly a concern for the regions of New Zealand. This does appear to be a potential issue that will most noticeably affect Waitaki and Timaru, with ageing and the loss in the proportion of the population who are younger.
“However, we also conclude that there are important distinctions to be made. Ashburton is growing quickly and therefore not ageing as rapidly as the rest of New Zealand, an important counterpoint to popular arguments about the decline of regional New Zealand.”
He writes that it is also important to recognise the economic success of the study areas. Ashburton, Timaru, and Waitaki have had further reductions in unemployment from already low levels, as well as increases in the level of employment, most notably Timaru, which is a positive story to tell. “It is reasonable to say that these areas are doing well. They are ‘healthy’ economically at present.”
The issue of housing affordability, with respect to house prices, but not necessarily in terms of rentals, has affected each of these study areas, but not to the same extent as larger urban areas, giving a comparative advantage in the costs of housing.
“As some of our study areas may need to, or wish to, attract younger cohorts to their existing populations, a key strength is the affordability of these areas.
Dr Campbell says there have been important improvements in several key areas, though these are not the same for all three settlements.
“There are key headwinds; notably the changing composition of the population and the structure of the regional economy. These issues need a carefully considered response in order to ensure continued regional success. Specifically, the growth of Ashburton may lead to greater efforts to integrate and retain migrants to ensure a balanced population and a more balanced economic base. In the other areas, Timaru and Waitaki, ageing is, or will become, an issue perhaps balanced with a strong local economy and an affordability advantage.”
Read the report:
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