Taranaki leaders are hailing new population figures that show the region is booming.
The province has 5484 more people than it did seven years ago, making it the third fastest-growing region in the North Island.
Most of the growth was in the New Plymouth district.
Census figures released by Statistics New Zealand yesterday showed the population of New Plymouth district was 74,187 - an increase of 7.7 per cent (5286 people) since the last census in 2006.
Stratford and South Taranaki each gained about 100 people.
The census was to be taken in 2011, but was postponed due to the Christchurch earthquake.
Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said New Plymouth district is a standout performer and one of the country's strongest-growing areas.
New mayor Andrew Judd agreed and said the increase was largely due to the province's booming oil and gas industry.
However, he also said New Plymouth must ready itself to be in a strong position to capitalise on the growth.
"With growth comes more pressure. We need to make sure we have enough houses for these people and our healthcare can handle the increase.
"We also need to examine these figures and find out where the gaps are and work on those," he said.
Mr Trundle said New Plymouth's 7.7 per cent growth was monumental, especially by comparison with the Manawatu/Whanganui, which grew by 1 per cent.
"There are areas of our region that haven't kept pace with population growth, but from a broader community perspective, where there are new and sustainable jobs there has been growth."
Overall, Taranaki has grown 5 per cent since 2006 to 109,608 and is the 10th-largest region by population. Between the two previous national surveys in 2001 and 2006 there was only a slight growth of 1 per cent.
Mr Trundle said Taranaki's growth had been reflected in other surveys.
In regional rankings last year Taranaki led the nation in both employment and GDP growth.
Roading funding is indirectly based on population and the census figures would allow Taranaki leadership teams to have a more informed debate, he said.
"Inevitably there were views in some Wellington offices that the population trend was either static or decreasing.
"I think it [census figures] reinforces Taranaki's economic and strategic importance to the New Zealand economy."
In 2009 Taranaki's Regional Economic Development Strategy set a population target of 135,000 residents by 2035.
"Very strong primary production and energy sectors, and their supply chains, have steadily delivered annual economic growth rates ahead of the national average. This in turn has enabled great businesses to create great opportunities, further driving population growth.
In New Plymouth, Bell Block was the biggest mover with an increase of 1200 residents, Whaler's Gate went up 630, Highlands Park 519 and Kaitake 462.
Auckland was the fastest-growing region, increasing by 8.5 per cent to 1,415,550 at the 2013 census. Auckland accounted for more than half of New Zealand's population growth between 2006 and 2013.
Nelson was the second fastest-growing region followed by Waikato. The only regional council area that didn't show population growth or maintain a steady population between 2006 and 2013 was Gisborne, which had a decline of 843 people. Christchurch city experienced a 2 per cent decline in population, totalling 341,469 on March 5, 2013.
NATS RUBBISH CUNLIFFE'S FIGURES
National came out firing yesterday with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young both accusing Labour leader David Cunliffe of making up stuff.
Mr Cunliffe said the latest Census would show a widespread exodus from the regions as provincial New Zealanders flee forgotten small towns. He also said real median weekly incomes for Taranaki have dropped $24.
But Census figures showed the new Labour boss was wrong.
Statistics released yesterday show the region's population had actually increased.
Mr Young said the figures contradicted Mr Cunliffe's claims.
"Since the 2006 income survey, real after-tax weekly incomes in Taranaki have increased by $85."
Both parties said they got their figures from the Statistics New Zealand Income Survey and adjusted them for inflation.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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