OPINION: We have nothing against Porirua. Particularly.
However, the fact that the latest census figures show it has bumped Invercargill off the ranks of the nation's largest cities by just 21 people is the sort of provocation that may cause retaliatory stirrings in the bosom, or perhaps more usefully the loins, of the southern citizenry.
But we're not bitter. After all, what's 21 people? Half a busload. Not even a decent-sized school trip's worth. And it's not like we're lacking plans and schemes to attract and retain more people. Like the Invercargill inner-city upgrade.
Yes, about that. We cannot but notice that the Porirua City Council has similarly embarked on its own upgrade. And it's investing more than $18 million over 10 years "to get the project started".
Of course, most everybody would agree that this is hardly, in itself, motivation to up our own spending. Invigorating though a competitive component might be, top 10 status isn't terribly significant in itself. (Unless we do get our place back next time, in which case it will be a triumph.)
What matters more is that Southland's population has stabilised and grown a little since the previous census results, way back in 2006.
We reported it as "jumping" 2.7 per cent to 93,342. Not perhaps a jump that would impress on an Olympic scale, but it should be seen against the fact that after pretty much two decades of far-from-encouraging census results, official predictions were that Invercargill would, by 2018, be a service town with a population of 30,000 to 35,000 people.
This gave rise to twin fears that either the prediction was sound, or that even if it wasn't it would spook enough people to become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the event, when the news broke in 2006 that the census results represented a 0.8 per cent increase for Invercargill, it was greeted with great gushing joy by Mayor Tim Shadbolt. This time around he is again highlighting the confounding of that prediction.
There are good reasons why things have steadied in the south. It may seem tediously familiar to cite, yet again, the impact of the Southern Institute of Technology's expansion and that of the huge growth in dairying.
Even so, their significance is undeniable.
On top of which, there's the happy fact that we are now such a global community that many people find they don't have to live in the big cities to work.
So they are making lifestyle choices, knowing that they can continue to do their jobs from here.
That's a trend that's likely to improve as broadband services do.
It was regrettably necessary, but a good call, to skip a planned 2011 census because of the disruptions caused by the Canterbury earthquake, the disruptions from which not only afflicted the people but also census HQ.
Given the significance of the findings when it comes to the population-based planning and resource allocation, the new figures are particularly welcome.
Nowhere more so than in the rapidly developing Queenstown Lakes District.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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