Region beautiful, but health a worry

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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 Southland is one of the most beautiful places in the country to live but quality healthcare was harder to access and housing was perceived as less affordable than other years.

Those were among the findings from the 2013 Southland perception study funded by Venture Southland.

During August and September, 1154 people from Invercargill, Southland, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch regions were surveyed by phone and asked their perceptions of Southland and Invercargill in the survey, which cost about $14,000.

Respondents were asked if they agreed with a statement about each of the five locations.

The 2013 survey was compared with similar research conducted in 2010, 2008, 2004, 2002 and 2000.

Venture Southland enterprise projects co-ordinator Karyn Owen presented the findings in a report to a joint committee meeting this week.

The report showed Southland was perceived as the most beautiful place out of those surveyed.

In comparison with 2010 findings, there was an increase in the number of respondents who agreed "there is a wide range of leisure activities available" in Southland and Invercargill, "lots of arts and cultural activities available" and "it has a pleasant climate".

Owen's report says the increase in perceptions of a pleasant climate and being the most beautiful place was a good position for tourism promotions, and may be a reflection of increased domestic promotional activity.

In relation to Southland and Invercargill, there was a significant decline in the number of respondents who agreed "I would like to live there" and "I can afford to buy a house".

The Invercargill percentage fell from 78 per cent in 2010 to 76 per cent this year. This year 74 per cent said they could afford to buy a house in Southland compared to 81 per cent previously.

The survey showed a significant increase in the number of respondents who agreed with the statement "quality healthcare is easy to access" for all locations - except for Southland.

The perception of availability of quality healthcare in Southland needed further research to identify if that was a reflection of reality, and what could be done to address it - otherwise it could become a barrier to attracting and retaining people to live here, Owen said.

The survey shows the perception of "plenty of jobs" significantly increased for all locations - except for Invercargill and Wellington.

Two-thirds of respondents associated employment in agriculture with Southland, followed by the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter, fishing, education and forestry.

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Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny told the meeting the results would be used to identify changes and trends, which would be used by the organisation in its promotional and business programmes.

However, some members of the committee were not convinced the funds should be spent on a similar questionnaire to other Southland organisations.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said surveys could be expensive and recommended Venture Southland combine resources with another organisation.

- The Southland Times

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