Follow us on Twitter

The outgoing tide – Population loss from rural areas

I spent the first two decades of my life in rural New Zealand.

Imagine if you will a small country town (population ~10,000) straddling the southern end of the mighty Manukau Harbour. The Waikato river is sufficiently close that in the past the local Maori apparently used to drag their waka between the river and the harbour. Let’s call this imaginary town “Waiuku”.

While I personally never really “fitted in” I guess Waiuku was, and possibly still is, relatively pleasant. On the other hand painstaking decades of research have led me to conclude that it’s number one selling point was the fact that it’s not too far from Auckland. However that’s not exactly the kind of selling point that grabs you by the gonads and screams “wunderbar” now does it?

More specifically, being “not too far” is not the same as being “close”. In fact, driving from Waiuku to Auckland in the peak used to take ~1.5 hours each way. Driving to Papakura and taking the train was more reliable, but did not save any time (especially when the trains caught on fire).

So in 2004, having car-pooled and park-and-rided my way through half of an under-graduate degree I upped sticks and moved from the sticks into the city. And over the ensuing few years my younger brother and sister did the same.Then finally, in 2010, my parents sold their 6 acre “lifestyle block” and bought a 3 bedroom unit in a small block flats on St Andrews Rd in Epsom.

Given this background, you can probably understand my interest in this recent article in the NZHerald. It seems that New Zealand’s rural areas are experiencing an exodus of people, so much so that it seems to be affecting property prices:

Isolated and non-metropolitan areas of New Zealand suffered big falls in property values last year as people continued to flock to the main centres. Latest data from QV showed the biggest falls in Westland (6 per cent), Wairoa and Gisborne (5.3 per cent), Kaipara (4.3 per cent) and Waitomo (2.5 per cent), while values in Auckland and Christchurch surged, in some cases above 13 per cent.

The article goes onto discuss some of the underlying economic factors, especially employment opportunities, which may be causing migration from isolated rural parts of the NZ to metropolitan centres.

To me a lack of employment is a “push” factor – similar to the potato famines in Ireland and Scandinavia that spawned mass emigration to the United States and other colonies back in the day (ah bless seventh form history). I suspect that employment opportunities are important, but nonetheless I’d have thought there were also some “pull” factors about Auckland?

While people migrate for all sorts of reasons, and these will change over time, my hunch – obviously biased by my own experience – is that NZ may be in the midst of a new form of “chain migration”. The chain begins with younger people migrating to larger urban areas for study/employment opportunities. Nothing new here. But whereas previously these same people may have migrated back away from the cities to have families, this no longer seems to be happening, or at least not as much, or as soon.

Meanwhile, our ageing parents begin to feel lonely out in the bush. Some of the less fortunate may even need the more specialised health services available only in urban areas. At some point it seems that the parents tire of the distance involved in living in rural areas so they make the move into the city too. Hence, an initial economic “push” factor (i.e. lack of employment opportunities) ultimately creates a social “pull” (i.e. proximity to family). I’m sure there are other factors at play too, but this is quite an interesting one.

But all this is skirting another important question – do we expect the population tide to continue to go out on New Zealand’s rural areas? If it does persist this will create an effective vacuum outside of New Zealand’s main metropolitan centres. Or will something I have not foreseen bring the trend to an end? By most accounts, rural/urban migration has been underway for almost a century now.

The only thing now is that the population of rural areas is getting so sparse that it’s hard to support existing infrastructure, let alone invest in new stuff. While I’m not sure of the answer I’m pretty sure it’s a question we should be trying to understand, because it has some significant implications for public policies. I’d be interested to know whether others peoples’ perceptions are the same as my own …

P.s. I was lying when I said that Waiuku’s only good point was it’s proximity to Auckland. Another good thing it has is fantastic top-soil, especially around Glenbrook, which is the by-product of thousands of years of volcanic activity. As a young lad this allowed me to cultivate native trees which were subsequently used to convert one of our paddocks back into native bush.

Glenbrook 040 Glenbrook 047 Glenbrook 075

43 comments to The outgoing tide – Population loss from rural areas

  • Ah! Nice to get a personal post from our resident economist… but of course the cool and impersonal numbers support Stu’s experience too: NZ residential property is now valued at 2% above the previous 2007 peak [average figures I think?] which of course is less than inflation over nearly 5 five years. But when you only look at Auckland [Christchurch being a very special case right now] of course the figures are way higher. So we have to ask is there a property boom in NZ [as Bernard Hickey seems to be always trying to panic us into believing there is] or is it more accurate to describe it as a demographic shift of the kind described by Stu’s examples above? We are urbanising more than we are uniformly bidding up property.

    A rather fatuous piece in the Herald this morning focussing on million dollar sales contains this observation http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10858929 :

    REINZ chief executive Helen O’Sullivan said the country’s biggest cities faced lack of supply, which had driven up prices.

    “I think what the data illustrates is … the two-step market we’re seeing in the New Zealand housing market.

    Another way of describing ‘lack of supply’ is increase in demand. Like the rest of the world New Zealanders, for various reasons, are urbanising. And let’s be accurate in NZ urbanisation primarily means moving to Auckland:

    Figures supplied to the Herald from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand reveal that 2846 homes sold for $1 million or more, compared with 2093 the year before – an increase of 36 per cent.

    Of those, 2310 were in Auckland, a 43 per cent jump on 2011. Most sales were within the old Auckland City Council boundaries which take in Herne Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Remuera, Epsom and Newmarket.

    Wellington had just 143 million-dollar sales last year. Like several other New Zealand cities or towns, the capital had a decrease – 3 per cent – in the number of million-dollar sales. However, Christchurch’s 87 sales were a 27 per cent jump on the 58 in 2011.

    Note that CHCH number while it has grown it is tiny compared to AK.

    And yes it is long overdue that policy especially national policy, reflected this phenomena. Areas that need urgent attention include monetary policy, housing, and transport. And frankly it is time the government had an honest ‘Auckland policy’- there are many issues here that should be debated. It seems clear they do have an unexamined and soto voce one already: somewhere between ignoring and suppressing Auckland seems to be the clearest description of the current attitude….?

    • Stu Donovan

      Economists are people too ;). Based on my experience they are highly rational yet flamboyant people with narcissistic tendencies but also a genuine duty of care to the world and its people/s.

      But that’s just a personal anecdote, so hardly relevant :).

  • JeffT

    I come from that ‘imaginary’ town called Waiuku as well Stu! That must’ve been tough driving up and down to Auckland for Uni. Slightly off topic, but not a typical example of a country town seeing population outfow as it is an Auckland satellite town which has seen growth from city dwellers who are able to gain more property for their buck out there and are more than happy to trundle their suv’s up and down the countryside to work and back.

    And then of course there is the steel mill, of which I was an employee for twelve years, production and later, finance.
    Whilst living in Auckland city, I was a trundler for a time although the mill run buses to as far as Manurewa for employees, which I always used.

    Would love to see rail reinstated out their one day. The tracks being used for the Glenbrook railway these days.

    • Stu Donovan

      I suspected as much JeffT; one of your comments the other day actually prompted me to think about these issues, and then the article appeared in the paper.

      You make a valid point with respect to Waiuku’s population growing, and I’m confident it will continue to do so. But what I tried to point out (not very clearly) is that this growth is not really about Waiuku itself and more its proximity to Auckland and the opportunities it offers. Towns like Waiuku, and similar places such as Pukekohe, Clevedon, Warkworth, and Helensville, are definitely satellite towns – they are the new “rural” areas.

      But while their existence is nominally rural, it’s a somewhat artificial separation. When I was living there many people would work and shop in the city, returning to Waiuku only for sleep, sport, and lawn-mowing. The Steel Mill is a notable and relatively unique exception.

      So perhaps my question would be better posed this way: If somewhere like Waiuku, which enjoys the natural advantage of having an enormous local manufacturer providing relatively highly paid jobs AND being relatively close to Auckland, is sensitive to so-called “chain migration”, then what is the fate of other similarly sized towns in more remote locations?

  • Bryce P

    This is why I think places like Waiuku and Kumeu need to have a real, low rise, intensification push along with some council led redevelopment to create walkable, compact towns out of these places. A reliable, quick PT link is the other requirement. These kind of things can bring employment and social opportunities to rejuvinate these towns. I have just realised that the beach town I’m staying in reinforces this point. When cycling around the baches there is no one to be seen and no obvious activity. There are people there but they keep to themselves. In the camp, where we are, there is a real social scene with kids running around free and neighbours, who met yesterday for the first time probably, just dropping in for drinks or taking others kids fishing or what have you. I think this translates to the difference between a real walkable urban environment and sprawl as well.

    • MFD

      Suggest you go to Waiuku and tell them of your plans to rejuvenate their town. Wear PPE and good running shoes (It’s a runnable town)..

      • Bryce P

        I’m not worried as I’m not going to tell people how to live but I genuinely believe there are a lot of younger people out there who would stay in these towns if this thinking was applied. When I was young I would have loved cheap living in my small town, in the town centre, and with quick PT to work which was a 25 or so minute drive away. I would have stayed there but driving 40 km every day (each way) was a pain so I moved to the city (so to speak – Whangarei). This was in the 80′s so I bet the 17 year olds of today would be even more keen.

    • Stu Donovan

      I agree with you Bryce P. Or at least the council’s planners need to remove restrictions on more intensive development, such as minimum parking requirements and height limits.

      I think the former FDC had started to invest more in the public realm, especially by the estuary, and from my initial impressions they had done a fairly good job too.

  • It seems that New Zealand’s rural areas are experiencing an exodus of people from rural areas, so much so that it seems to be affecting property prices:

    I think it is probably safer to wait until the census results, before concluding there is a huge fleeing from the rural areas,
    In fact according to Stats NZ the population of your mythical “waiuku” actually rose between 2001 and 2006, and it is projected to continue rising,

    Property prices show one thing, the balance of sellers and buyers, (and not much else)
    I am not sure that you can directly equate falling prices automatically to a flow of people outwards

    posit this, in the last few years of the last great property boom, residential property investors were becoming increasingly priced out of many main centres, but with banks essentially throwing money at people to buy “investment property” the attention turned to rural NZ and spruikers were out flogging Taumarunui, Levin,Hawera etc as the place to invest and it started to send prices into orbit, then came 2008 the GFC and well the rest is history.

    I get the feeling that a lot of these regions really took a bath and really burnt those inexperienced investors, who have held for 5 more years hoping that prices would bounce back, but after they have not, they are now finally biting the bullet and getting out…

    I am not saying that this the exploitation, but I think that falling prices directly correspond to a big out flow of people from rural NZ, (we already have a fairly high urbanisation rate).
    On the whole the agricultural (rural) sector has held up better than many parts of the urban economy, but all will be revealed with the 2013 census in March, ( although I don’t expect most of the jucy detailed figures until the end of the year)

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, I was not very clear that my experience was not meant to be indicative of Waiuku’s fortunes in particular, but more of the potential forces at play in determining future population trends.

      Waiuku has and most likely will continue to grow – at least until the point where it loses its rural amenity :). But I’m in doubt that this growth is primarily driven by its proximity to Auckland. Which in turn is not an advantage avalable to most other small rural towns. There’s certainly exceptions to the trend, Kerikeri and Whakatane being notable examples discussed in other comments.

      But I suspect (can’t be sure!) they are the exception to the rule.

  • Gian

    Stu, do you think it would have been different if you had a modern rail system (say a typical european intercity 160km/h train)?

    • Filde

      No no, that wouldn’t change a thing…

    • Stu Donovan

      Hard to say.

      If the rail network only connected Waiuku then it would be a distinct competitive advantage, but if it also connected a number of other peripheral rural towns, e,g, Clevedon, Warkworth, Helensville, then it’s main impact would not be on the distribution of population between towns, but the density of development within them – i.e. if Waiuku has a high-speed rail link then Waiuku itself would be a much denser place, but not necessarily larger.

  • obi

    I’m just back from a three-ish week spin around the North Island and have been thinking about the same issues. Some places I’ve seen (Tokomaru Bay) look abandoned. Others (Gisborne) are doing okay and are basically pleasant places to visit, but don’t look as if anyone has built anything commercially for fifty years. Others (Whakatane, Rotorua, and Hastings to an extent) are booming with new city-edge large-scale retail while the centers are full of cafes and neat shops.

    My observations aren’t strictly “rural”… more “provincial and rural”. I think provincial NZ grew up around horse-based transport. Farmers needed a small center nearby where they could conduct whatever commerce that farmers engage in. Food processing (such as the meatworks that apparently made Tokomaru Bay viable until the 50s) was distributed. Socialising was limited to the old fashioned NZ boozer, and whatever the locals got up to in the war memorial halls that scatter the countryside.

    Now however, most rural places have a town of some size within an hours drive or so. These are natural markets for fertiliser and combine harvesters, and farmers are also likely to enjoy visiting the same cafes and restaurants as the rest of us. School buses can bring children in from rural areas to town-based schools. Food processing is more centralised now and there are large processing plants on the edge of provincial towns that have ports (or are close to ports). These factors mean there isn’t much use for tiny rural communities anymore. Modern transport and the efficiency benefits of large-scale food processing (and forest product processing) mean that they just don’t have any purpose, and the people still living in them are there for reasons of inertia. Like owning a home that is worthless, or being old and unwilling to move.

    On the whole, I was surprised just how well provincial NZ is doing. I was surprised to find a vast modern supermarket in Kaitaia last year. I had my first visit to Whakatane last week and was expecting somewhere quaint and backward. Instead, there were giant new DIY stores, a funky new wananga, and multi-story apartments including one that had a swimming pool on the roof.

    • Stu Donovan

      Good observations and this is something I have pondered as well. I think there is definitely a consolidation of population around traditional provincial centres, such as Tauranga, This in turn is being reflected in population growth spilling over into places such as Whakatane.

      But as someone above mentioned towns like Whakatane (and Waiuku) are effectively satellite centres of larger cities, especially as transport links improve between the two.

      I also should have been clearer about Waiuku’s recent fortunes: It’s population has definitely grown, it’s variety of shops has improved, and this is something that I think will continue.

      My post is more about pondering the fate of rural towns and localities that do not have the intrinsic advantage of being close to a major urban centre – what shall become of them in the future New Zealand?

  • MFD

    Why do you choose Waiuku to illustrate a blog on population loss from rural areas? The most recent census data indicate that Waiuku’s population is increasing. It is adjacent to an area of particularly high labour productivity according
    to the 2008 Motu report “Labour productivity in Auckland firms”, David C Maré (ref Figure 3 p19: Geographic Variation in Productivity within Auckland). It’s readily available on the Internet, take minutes rather than decades of research
    and is frequently referred to whan making a case for intensification of Auckland’s CBD. The area of high labour productivity adjacent to Waiuku also exhibits low employment density thus demonstrating that high employment density is not a
    prerequisite for high labour productivity.

    Poor example notwithstanding, it’s clear that availability of exployment is a major driver of where the populace chooses to live. With around two thirds of NZ’s exports deriving from the primary sector the sustained period of a high NZ
    dollar is having a severe effect on rural export-based industries as is weak global demand for some commodities (such as metallurgical-grade coal).

    • Two thirds of exports presumably by value may well be from rural based industries but doesn’t follow that there is much employment at the source of the material as a result. Your example, coal, is a case in point. Despite Australia’s mining boom the sector provides a very small proportion of the employment especially in proportion to its earnings.

      There is increasing automation at every step of the primary industry workflow and this is one of the causes of rural migration. Services is the employment growth sector and this is primarily has an urban locus. Even for those very industries.

      • MFD

        >Two thirds of exports presumably by value may well be from rural based industries but doesn’t follow that there is much employment at the source of the material as a result.
        True…output from many such industries is a function of land area or similar and increasing productivity reduces the need for labour but service industries exist in rural areas as well.

        >Australia’s mining boom the sector provides a very small proportion of the employment especially in proportion to its earnings.
        Evidence of exceptionally high labour productivity. That is why labour productivity should not be the sole metric in determining where infrastructure investment should go.

        • Filde

          I think it was more to show how, in his experience, how push factors turn to pull factors and the whole system can enter a self-reinforcing cycle otherwise known as a positive feedback.

    • The “area of high labour productivity” with low employment density you speak of is, in fact, the Glenbrook Steel Mill. New Zealand can look forward to a low-density and sprawl-intensive yet prosperous future as soon as we all work in steel mills. Oh, wait…

      • MFD

        What an extraordinarily silly posting, nzeconomy (surely an oxymoron). If we all were to work in steel mills other economic activities would exhibit much greater productivity figures as they would be so scarce and steelmaking would drop in productivity as the value added decreased. It’s an area of economics known as supply and demand; you should familiarise yourself with it.

        Also silly is the mantra that prevails these blogs that agglomeration is universally beneficial (the idea of steel mills having greater productivity by relocating them to the CBD, for example).

        David Levinson has some interesting ideas on the subject:
        http://blog.lib.umn.edu/levin031/transportationist/2011/03/the-limits-to-agglomeration-or.html

        • JeffT

          Interesting topic. While our steel mill may exhibit high labour productivity (although I’m not certain from my experience out there) it’s capital productivity may be much lower, as it is a capital intensive industry. And this then made me think of our cbd. It is also likely to exhibit high labour productivity or increasing output per worker (such as Stu!) but similarly will be very capital intensive to set up and therefore have much lower increases in output per fixed capital unit (capital productivity).
          And so I wonder if we may get better returns on capital from other activities away from cities that are not as expensive to set up. There may be need for balance here.

          And then again this may be twaddle as I write it while watching top gear!

        • nzeconomy

          Apparently you’re unfamiliar with sarcasm. I was using it.

          I’ve read all of Mare’s papers on agglomeration elasticities, and a fair chunk of the related international literature. Consequently, I am well-aware that agglomeration benefits vary significantly across industries. They’re highest in professional services – i.e. the sort of activity that CBDs are designed to support – and comparatively low in manufacturing due to the space requirements of the modern factory. However, industrial clustering – in which similar manufacturing firms tend to be co-located in the same cities or regions – is also a well-established finding in the industrial organisation literature. However, these firms don’t necessarily need to be densely clustered together – merely close.

          Nobody is arguing that we should develop the city centre as a factory district (although it was prior to the 80s, when proximity to the port was more important than cheap land). Not on this blog, not elsewhere.

          • MFD

            Yes, I am aware that you were using sarcasm. You’re just not good at it….but back to the steel mill; a high labour productivity industry that also employs a substantial proportion of “working class” people. Perhaps more of such industries employing a wide range of occupational groups would be better for the country than concentrating on boosting the numbers of professionals in the CBD and hoping for some economic trickle-down to the hoi-polloi.

    • Stu Donovan

      It’s a personal anecdote. And it’s relevant for explaining how push/pull factors might contribute to chain migration, which as PhilD notes tends to exhibit positive feedback. This in turn may be a challenge confronting smaller rural towns in NZ.

      Yes Waiuku’s population has certainly grown and I should have made that clear in my post. But if my personal experience of somewhere like Waiuku is anything to go by then the chain migraton forces at work in more remote towns may be even stronger, and hence contribute to an net population outflow.

      In terms of labour productivity and agglomeration etc, yes I agree: Waiuku is leveraging off it’s proximity to Auckland which in turn is explaining its growth. But such an advantage is afforded to relatively few rural towns, methinks.

      Or at least there’s enough towns that are sufficiently remote from provincial centres to make me doubt their future viability, unfortunately.

  • Matt Lee

    Isn’t it partly because of increased productivity on farms, you don’t need the same number of workers you did fifty years ago. (As well as economies of scale in freezing works etc., as obi says).

    I don’t think it’s everywhere tho’, somewhere like Kerikeri is doing alright. Or have I missed the point?

    • obi

      I think farm productivity must be a factor. We don’t need 80% of our population working on farms to feed us like our pre-industrial revolution ancestors did. This is due to mechanisation, fertiliser, scientific research, and university education for farmers. The population movement in to towns started with the industrial revolution in the UK, and is currently underway big-time in China.

      My recent on-the-spot research suggests that most provincial towns are doing okay. The places that aren’t tend to be really isolated (such as the East Cape), and I don’t see any easy way of fixing that problem. A bigger issue is that some of the provincial towns are ugly dull places, often blighted by a main shopping street that doubles as a state highway. Levin being a good example. I think Taupo is a lot better now that the traffic bypasses the town center.

    • Stu Donovan

      Excellent point.

  • Matt Lee

    From Stats N.Z.,
    = 66 “Minor Urban areas” in the North Is. (pop. 1,000–10,000).

    Most would be shrinking…..

    Sorry it is kind of long.

    Taipa Bay-Mangonui
    Kaitaia
    Kerikeri
    Russell
    Paihia
    Kawakawa
    Moerewa
    Kaikohe
    Dargaville
    Wellsford
    Warkworth
    Snells Beach
    Helensville
    Waiheke Island
    Waiuku
    Raglan
    Huntly
    Otorohanga
    Te Kuiti
    Taumarunui
    Whitianga
    Coromandel
    Whangamata
    Tairua
    Thames
    Waihi Beach
    Paeroa
    Waihi
    Te Aroha
    Morrinsville
    Matamata
    Putaruru
    Katikati Community
    Te Puke Community
    Mangakino
    Turangi
    Edgecumbe Community
    Kawerau
    Murupara
    Opotiki
    Wairoa
    Waipawa
    Waipukurau
    Dannevirke
    Woodville
    Waitara
    Inglewood
    Stratford
    Opunake
    Eltham
    Manaia
    Patea
    Ohakune
    Raetihi
    Waiouru
    Bulls
    Taihape
    Marton
    Foxton Community
    Shannon
    Otaki
    Pahiatua
    Carterton
    Greytown
    Featherston
    Martinborough

  • Luke E

    The Far North District’s towns, in particular Kerikeri, are growling like there’s no tomorrow. Kerikeri doubled its population over the last few censuses. Growth there has only been constrained recently by the fact that waste water infrastructure hadn’t been expanded in a long time. A project to upgrade that is nearing completion, and once it’s done the town will keep growing at high speed.

    I agree with the need for rural towns to have residential intensification; they more than anywhere will suffer from higher oil prices, as many lack any form of public transport at all.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, Kerikeri is the exception that sprang to my mind too, especially as I lived there for a bit too and recently returned to visit. That new bridge is something to behold – not many towns in NZ of Kerikeri’s size could have justified that level of infrastructure investment.

      But I do think it’s the exception, rather than the rule, and generally benefiting from:
      1. Relatively well established domestic migratory trends, namely south-north and west-east-drift; and
      2. Exceptional natural amenity – not only the climate, but also the river. I went running through the Rainbow Falls walk a few weeks ago and it just reminded me of how much I love Kerikeri.

      Natural amenity of that level is found in relatively few rural towns, Whakatane being perhaps the only town I know of that may rival Kerikeri (especially the coastal walk around to Ohope).

  • Great conversation Stu. There are two huge issues you raise: 1. the rush-back to urban living and 2. the problems with living patterns likely created from an unsustainable growth paradigm. I’ll stick with #1 for now. One of the things that intrigues me is that the overwhelming evidence of the “Great Inversion” – http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/12/19/the-great-inversion/ also coincides with radical communication technology innovations. But just like the phone, the fax, the internet, voip, etc- the city remains a vital, irreplaceable vehicle for interaction. I have a working thesis that social media in particular is, counterintuitively, encouraging people to become more connected physically.

    • Stu Donovan

      Well put Kent – those are the two relevant issues I am referring to. I think the two are related: The rush back to the city is combining with an ageing population to remind people of just how damned inconvenient the recent growth patterns have been, at least when you’re not willing/able to spend all your time driving.

      I should add that I really do not intend this post to be a critique of rural areas: In general I love New Zealand’s rural areas, especially places like Nelson/Marlborough, the Far North, and the Bay of Plenty. And while rural, these places are still growing. Nonetheless and as mentioned above I think they are the exception not the rule. And while I like visiting them, I don’t think I would ever live there.

  • Luke C

    Of course with fibre to every home in the urban area with 5 years or so, urban areas will gain a large advantage over those in city fringe rural areas, and small towns in general. There seems to be some sort of wireless solution being sorted out, but the speed/quality will be a far bit lower that that available in urban areas.
    Will be interesting to see if this pushes small home consultancy businesses out of these areas, and maybe to small offices in town centers?

    • Bryce P

      Apparently others see the same opportunities. New Zealand is a small country. What is there to say we cannot have some kind of overall town planning guidance for the long term benefit of the country? Maybe Mr Joyce and Key should be talking to recently returned kiwis who have been living in Europe etc to find out what they like or don’t like about living in NZ or seek out those who have left and question them – why? I understand that a lot of people go overseas, mainly Australia, to earn money but I think there is more to it than that. Maybe they like Urban Auckland but don’t quite want the big city? It’s worth asking questions.

      • Matthew

        I think Bryce is onto something here. Finding out about what makes for pleasant communities should be an area of academic study, for overall town planning guidance and other things too (including my areas of interest, such as cycleways and air quality). And see that list of those North Island towns above, has there been any study, academic, or treasury, about expanding the local economies in such places in the last dozen years?

        It’s easy to read on the net about Seattle or Portland working out what young professionals want so that they can attract them (and the companies they work for, and the companies they create) which leads to more vibrant local economies. So why not have an attitude like that in NZ?

        If places like Dannevirke, Dargaville and Stratford (and Auckland) are really competing with Australian suburbia to even keep New Zealanders (and I dunno maybe even attract some Australians) then shouldn’t the government actually do something about investing a bit of mental energy into those towns to make them more attractive?

        If you just lived through two weeks of 40+ temps and in your water-restricted garden you were giving your rhubarb plants mouth to stomata resuscitation wouldn’t a clean and green town in cool New Zealand actually be a major drawcard?

        NZ should play to its strengths. The crap TV (compared to Australia’s line up of government channels NZ TV is horrible), the expensive cheese, and a stagnant economy aren’t its strengths. The mild climate, the fact the grass is green in summer, the accessibility of the conservation estate, and the coastline are. Add to those strengths, pleasant little towns with house prices a half or a third of those in Western Sydney and I can’t see why the immigration to Oz trends wouldn’t reverse.

        Not under this government of course.

        • Luke C

          There just isn’t the critical mass in towns the size of Stratford to ever provide enough interest for most young people. If the economy did boom there most people would live in New Plymouth and commute, I’m sure this happens at the moment for workers in Oil and Gas.
          Many people leave small town NZ, bypass Auckland and go straight to Melbourne, Brisbane etc. If Auckland was a stronger and more vibrant place, people would head there instead.

          • Bryce P

            Many do leave NZ but many also just to Auckland. I was one of them and in fact, 8 of the friends I had in my early 20′s in Whangarei, now live in Auckland. 2 live overseas. Very few are still in Whangarei.

        • Bryce P

          I agree Matt. After all, doing the same thing and at the same time expecting a different result will not alter the trend at all. Why doesn’t the govt, in conjunction with the local council and some proven urban designers (pay Jeff Speck?) pick a town that has potential (I feel certain the Mr Speck could help there) and create a ‘demonstration town’?

Leave a Reply