Mayor disputes predicted Gisborne population decline

Statistics NZ show Gisborne region in steady population decline over past 20 years.

Statistics NZ show Gisborne region in steady population decline over past 20 years.

File picture

GISBORNE is one of the regions expected to stagnate or decline over the next three decades, according to the Maxim Institute’s report.

The report, Growing Beyond Growth: Rethinking the Goals of Regional Development in New Zealand, by researcher Julian Wood, says Gisborne is one of about 44 of the country’s 67 authorities that would stagnate or decline within 30 years, compared to 11 now.

That could place them under severe financial strain as they try to pay for infrastructure.

While centres such as Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Queenstown are predicted to grow, the report painted a bleak picture for most other regions.

They included Rotorua, Taupo, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Kaipara, Southland and the West Coast.

Maxim Institute chief executive Alex Penk said the Government’s regional development programmes focused solely on economic growth, but the population trends posed a big challenge on that front. They mean that some regions will not grow.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon told Radio New Zealand he disagreed with the paper’s findings for his region.

Given Gisborne’s high population of youth, and the work under way to create jobs to keep them here, the region would grow, he said.

Whatever had come out of the report to predict the future and decline was a myth.

“In my term, we started off with a population of 42,000 and we’re now at 47,900. We will definitely grow sustainably,” he said.

• Local researcher Manu Caddie pointed out Statistics NZ showed the Gisborne region had been in steady population decline for the past 20 years.

Every census area unit in the district except Riverdale/Lytton West had a decline since 1996. Outside the city, Makaraka, Matokitoki and Wainui had had small increases.

Statistics NZ figures showed that in 2001, when Mr Foon was first elected as Mayor, there were 43,971. In 2006 the population was 48,681 and in 2013 it was 43,938.

“Meng says the population has increased under his watch," Mr Caddie said.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case according to Census data. While Statistics NZ might have their estimates, they are inconsistent with the general trend over the last 20 years.

“As Maxim says, politicians don’t want to address the issues. The global trend of urbanisation is unlikely to be bucked by Gisborne city-dwellers relocating to rural areas — forestry and what remains of farming don’t require large populations to make money for the owners.

“As a survey of 500 families with deep connections to the region showed last year, lack of employment options, lack of confidence and capital necessary to start new businesses or work remotely, and the state of local infrastructure in rural areas, are still seen as major disincentives for most families to move home again.”

GISBORNE is one of the regions expected to stagnate or decline over the next three decades, according to the Maxim Institute’s report.

The report, Growing Beyond Growth: Rethinking the Goals of Regional Development in New Zealand, by researcher Julian Wood, says Gisborne is one of about 44 of the country’s 67 authorities that would stagnate or decline within 30 years, compared to 11 now.

That could place them under severe financial strain as they try to pay for infrastructure.

While centres such as Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Queenstown are predicted to grow, the report painted a bleak picture for most other regions.

They included Rotorua, Taupo, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Kaipara, Southland and the West Coast.

Maxim Institute chief executive Alex Penk said the Government’s regional development programmes focused solely on economic growth, but the population trends posed a big challenge on that front. They mean that some regions will not grow.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon told Radio New Zealand he disagreed with the paper’s findings for his region.

Given Gisborne’s high population of youth, and the work under way to create jobs to keep them here, the region would grow, he said.

Whatever had come out of the report to predict the future and decline was a myth.

“In my term, we started off with a population of 42,000 and we’re now at 47,900. We will definitely grow sustainably,” he said.

• Local researcher Manu Caddie pointed out Statistics NZ showed the Gisborne region had been in steady population decline for the past 20 years.

Every census area unit in the district except Riverdale/Lytton West had a decline since 1996. Outside the city, Makaraka, Matokitoki and Wainui had had small increases.

Statistics NZ figures showed that in 2001, when Mr Foon was first elected as Mayor, there were 43,971. In 2006 the population was 48,681 and in 2013 it was 43,938.

“Meng says the population has increased under his watch," Mr Caddie said.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case according to Census data. While Statistics NZ might have their estimates, they are inconsistent with the general trend over the last 20 years.

“As Maxim says, politicians don’t want to address the issues. The global trend of urbanisation is unlikely to be bucked by Gisborne city-dwellers relocating to rural areas — forestry and what remains of farming don’t require large populations to make money for the owners.

“As a survey of 500 families with deep connections to the region showed last year, lack of employment options, lack of confidence and capital necessary to start new businesses or work remotely, and the state of local infrastructure in rural areas, are still seen as major disincentives for most families to move home again.”

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