Region's deaths outnumber births

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014

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Deaths exceeded births in the Timaru district in the last three years, which could have major implications on the future, according to a Royal Society of New Zealand report.

The Our Futures review looked at the country's changing population and "the implications of this for the economy, social cohesion, education, and health".

Report topics included diversity, population change, tangata whenua, migration, households and families, regional variation and work.

It found a likely pattern of greater relative growth for Auckland, a few centres with slower growth, and population decline in much of rural New Zealand.

The problem will be maintaining service levels.

"Some territorial local authorities will have increasing difficulty in maintaining service levels for an ageing and possibly dwindling population, not to mention burgeoning numbers of visitors and tourists.

"Reluctance to accept withdrawal of local infrastructure, whether post offices, schools, medical services or other amenities, will be more intense rather than less."

The wider South Canterbury area has a large proportion of older people with 22 per cent over the age of 65.

That figure is expected to increase by 6 per cent over the next 10 years.

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Nigel Trainor said that was why it had the "Centre of Excellence for the Health of Older Person" project underway.

"This project is working to ensure that the services are well co-ordinated with an emphasis on community services to enable people to remain healthy, active and independent.

"This means that focus is on managing long-term health conditions in the community and therefore avoiding hospital admissions.

"Where possible, people manage better in their own homes, and if someone has had a hospital stay SCDHB is continuing to develop supported discharge services to enhance the person's recovery at home."

A residential growth survey in Geraldine in 2013 showed 34 per cent of the town's population will be over the age of 65 by 2026.

Events Geraldine co-ordinator Jill Roberts said despite the royal society's dire predictions she expected small places like Geraldine to continue to flourish.

She thinks there is more resilience and collaboration in the Geraldine community, compared to Timaru.

People worked together to organise social events and then attended them.

There was also more likelihood of community gardens and other projects to support people, she said.

"Geraldine Cinema has some big acts, and we have public and private art galleries. . . We have one of everything so there are no competing factions."

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- The Timaru Herald

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