Tiny towns should be supported, says mayor

Tararua's towns are not going anywhere, says the district's mayor.

Roly Ellis has rubbished the suggestion in a report by the Royal Society of New Zealand that parts of provinces may need to be abandoned because of declining populations.

While this is regarded as an extreme response, the report says unpopular decisions to cut funding for roads, schools or medical services in parts of provincial New Zealand could be necessary.

Ellis said such moves would not be necessary if the Government did more to support the provinces instead of pouring money into an ever-expanding and expensive Auckland.

He said the Government should encourage businesses to come to the rural provinces to set up shop.

Tararua, for example, had strong links to the nearby Port of Napier and land values that were well below the national average.

Auckland was becoming unwieldy, with its continued expansion only adding to the challenges and costs of providing infrastructure such as roads, drinking water and sewerage.

"I've seen this happen in London," the British expat said, "it grew larger and larger and larger and where has it got London? Nowhere. You end up with large house prices and transport woes."

The Royal Society report, Our Futures, said difficult decisions were looming in some districts, such as Kapiti Coast and Horowhenua, where the population was much older than the national average and deaths were outnumbering births.

Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy said his district was becoming a location for retirees and he rejected any suggestions parts of it should be abandoned.

Duffy said upgrades under way on State Highway 1 between Wellington and Levin would provide a boost to Horowhenua's economy and an incentive for more families to move into the area.

Our Futures is the second report in the past week to suggest some small towns be abandoned because their declining population did not justify the cost of maintaining or upgrading their infrastructure.

A report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, released on Saturday, examined and compared the economic performance of New Zealand's regions.

In a television interview one of its authors, NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub, said the best answer for some small towns with declining populations may be to abandon them.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said the Government had a strong focus on boosting regional economies. This was why it announced last week it had commissioned a report into how the Manawatu-Whanganui economy could be grown, with a goal of doubling the value of the region's exports by 2025.

"To do this, an important first step is building a clear picture of the local economy and our strengths. This will show us where opportunities lie, and what we can do to encourage further economic development."

Manawatu Standard