Nelson more diverse - and getting older

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 13:00 04/12/2013

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Nelson is establishing itself as one of New Zealand's leading multicultural cities, while Tasman district has the highest percentage of homeowners in the country.

Data from the 2013 census, held in March, has been released, providing insights into how the region has changed since 2006. The information will affect local councils' future planning.

"We are just starting to go into a review of our long-term plan, so knowing the breakdown of the people in our community helps us going forward in setting policies and what we should be funding and what we shouldn't be funding," said Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said it was useful information and would "certainly help us with planning".

An increasing number of people in the Nelson region are from other countries, with most of the 17.8 per cent born offshore being European, but growth has surged across all ethnic groups. Nelson followed Auckland and Wellington in having the third-most diverse population.

"More than one in five, or 21.2 per cent, of the Nelson region's population were born overseas, up from 18.6 per cent in 2006," said Government Statistician Liz MacPherson.

The Asian population has jumped 83 per cent since 2006. Ms Reese was not surprised by this, saying it benefited the city and reflected what a desirable place Nelson was to live.

"One of the things people like about Nelson is that we are a multicultural community, and I think that adds a lot of value as a society and community and makes us, in my view, a culturally rich and more interesting place to live."

Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater said it was "exciting for the region" to have more Asian people, and those arriving were coming for the right reasons, because "it's a great and exciting place to be".

Tasman had the highest percentage of Europeans in the country, the second-lowest percentage of Maori, and the lowest percentage of Asians.

Mr Kempthorne was not surprised by the European numbers. "When we have our citizenship ceremonies, often about two-thirds of the people becoming new citizens are particularly English, but also a little bit Irish and then European."

He said similarities between rural and urban living in Britain and Tasman made it easier for British people to settle there. However, he didn't think Tasman needed to focus on attracting other ethnic groups.

"I think we've got to be the district we are and just let the people come who want to be here. We certainly need to be friendly to other cultures."

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While the district had a low Maori population, relations with iwi were good, he said, and Tasman needed to "be culturally aware and supportive of our Maori community as the original land owners and residents".

After English, German is the most common spoken language in Tasman, at 1.9 per cent, ahead of 1.5 per cent who speak te reo.

Mr Kempthorne said he was glad to hear that Tasman was leading the country in home ownership. Nelson and Tasman, respectively, had the smallest declines in homeowner numbers in the country.

People in both areas also had more educational qualifications, with increases at every level since 2006. Mr Kempthorne said this was encouraging.

Mr Findlater said the region's research and development sector attracted highly qualified people. "We've actually got more people in the research and development sector than any part of New Zealand per capita."

Both areas had higher average incomes than in 2006, but Nelson's average was $1500 higher than Tasman's at $25,700. Both were still lower than the national average of $28,500, but Mr Findlater said this should not be a concern, because compared with other regions, Nelson fared well, and "the metropolitan regions skew the figures a little".

In keeping with a national trend, there is a growing aged population, with both aress having the biggest population growth among those aged 65 and older.

Mr Findlater said an ageing population was not a threat, as it would provide economic opportunities.

Mr Kempthorne said the Tasman District Council would keep rates down for older people on fixed incomes, but this would come at a cost to infrastructure development and upgrades.

- Nelson

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