OPINION: Venture Taranaki has for some time encouraged New Zealanders to "swap sides" and move to the province.
Now it has launched a campaign encouraging Kiwis to swap countries - and come back from Australia.
The campaign pokes the borax at Australia, but at the heart of the issue is an alarming statistic that shows to the year ended June 2012 Taranaki's population fell by 555.
More than 7 out of 10 who leave Taranaki cross the ditch, and in 2011, when more than 53,000 New Zealanders moved to Australia, 100 a month left from Taranaki.
A falling population spells trouble for any community, and it is no surprise to see Venture Taranaki increasing the volume on recruitment.
The Australians were only recently in Hawera beating the drum. In July, South Taranaki's 1160 meatworkers were targeted by JBS Australia, that country's largest protein producer. JBS spent five days touring the North Island to discuss positions available at their plants and feedlots.
The company was offering to pay relocation costs and told how New Zealanders were setting up their own communities across the Tasman.
Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said at the time the push was the result of a domino effect - the company was looking for labour because mineral and oil companies were soaking up Australia's skilled labour force.
There are indications Australia's overall demand for labour may be falling, but it has a major shortfall as it looks to find 35,000 staff for five major projects. At the same time in Taranaki the oil and gas industry is gearing up for a 56 per cent increase in activity over the next year and the region's top 10 companies are expected to look to fill 130 skilled worker vacancies.
So the ingredients are there for Taranaki to reverse the trend. Aside from the potential increase in jobs available in the energy industry, there have been some major projects for the engineering industry and as Saturday's Taranaki Daily News will illustrate, there is also something of a building boom in the region.
New Plymouth District also leads the country in terms of growth of business numbers, employment and GDP over the last five years.
Statistics New Zealand figures indicate only 30 per cent of New Zealanders who move to Australia come back to live, but the prospect of the labour market weakening there may encourage more to return.
A report this week said 64 per cent of the 14,000 people who migrated to New Zealand from Australia in the year to June were returning New Zealand citizens.
Massey University sociology professor Paul Spoonley says the demand for labour in Australia is falling, and that is already pushing New Zealanders home, and encourages others to think twice before moving to Australia.
The Venture Taranaki campaign, which has comedian Ben Hurley calling engineers, doctors, midwives, teachers, lawyers and accountants home, could be timed just right - and not just for expats.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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