Mayor doubts forecast drop in population

CAROLINE BROWN
Last updated 12:00 18/08/2014
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Rangitikei District mayor Andy Watson has labelled a report projecting a declining population in the district as more dire than reality. 

Despite the most optimistic numbers from Statistics New Zealand population projections showing there will be less than two-thirds of the current population living in non-urban areas of Rangitikei and about three-quarters living in the towns by 2031, councillors believe the district will be more resilient.

The Rangitikei District Council has been quick off the block to request regional population projection figures released by Statistics NZ from the 2013 census data to help the council form its Long Term Plan.

While the policy and planning committee last week endorsed the council taking the mid-point in the low and medium projections as the basis for planning facilities and services in the 2015/25 Long Term Plan, it requested more information.

Watson questioned accepting the figures as the basis for planning future services, as they did not take into account other factors.

"It's more dire in the report than we think it is, so why would we accept it?"

The figures did not include the new housing development at Ratana, he said.

Watson said the Government had also targeted Rangitikei as a major site for agricultural growth. "The Government thinks there's a realistic opportunity to double our GDP in agriculture, and that means jobs and people."

The region was also seeing a steady intake of new residents from Samoa. Marton was about to welcome more than 30 new families from Samoa, he said.

Watson said that while the overall population of the district may not change as much, the council had to be prepared for a changing district.

The reality was that some small towns would only get smaller.

"In a relatively small population, any loss or gain in a certain industry really alters the figures."

Cr Soraya Peke-Mason said Ratana was not declining and the population there was set to rise.

Cr Angus Gordon said he believed Taihape was shrinking. He said he had noticed that while in the past people would have been able to visit their local dealership for farming supplies they were now having to travel to Palmerston North.

Cr Dean McManaway said he had seen a turnaround in Hunterville. "A few years ago our football club was folding, and now we have two teams."

Council policy analyst Michael Hodder recommended the council accept the projected figures as a good indication. "We won't all become dairy or asparagus farmers, but there will be pockets of that."

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- Manawatu Standard

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