Six-figure earners have doubled

Top wage-earners in South Canterbury have nearly doubled in number compared to seven years ago.

Results from the 2013 census show 1400 people now have a personal income of $100,000 or more - up from 730 in 2006 - while two-thirds of people have a personal income of less than $40,000.

A closer look at the statistics shows a significant increase in the number of people earning between $50,000 and $70,000 - 3186 in 2006 compared to 5289 in 2013.

The majority of people aged 60 to 85 had a personal income of between $10,000 to $15,000 seven years ago. Now, the majority of senior citizens have a personal income of between $15,000 and $20,000.

The median income overall is $26,900 in Timaru, $29,300 in Mackenzie and $24,800 in Waimate. Seven years ago Timaru's median income was $21,200, Mackenzie's $22,800 and Waimate's $18,900.

Nationally, statistics show the median income increased from $24,400 to $28,500 over the seven-year period.

Timaru financial planner Stephen McFarlane said general inflation was 18 per cent between 2006 and 2013.

Food and housing rates had climbed higher than that figure.

"Someone on $45,000 in 2006 would now want to earn $53,100 to have the same general purchasing power. Assuming that wages are keeping up with inflation the result is a movement up through the income bands over time.

"Whether any of the additional increase reflects higher-income jobs being created in this district or greater prosperity is not clear from the data," Mr McFarlane said.

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce president Tony Howey said the most significant point was that figures showed a compounding increase of 3.5 per cent annually over the period.

"That's quite a good increase for our district. It's above inflation. Our incomes are still not where they should be but we are moving in the right direction.

"You have to remember we had a global economic crisis in those seven years and I suspect that most of the increase has happened in the past two or three years."

Timaru Grey Power president Denise Fitzgerald said more people were staying at work longer.

"I think a lot of people are doing a lot of part-time work. To survive on superannuation if you're a single superannuitant would be very difficult," he said.

"Everything has gone up in price, particularly for those on a fixed income."

Major Murray Sanson, of Timaru's Salvation Army, said personal income was only a part of the big picture.

"We are still seeing a lot of people who are hurting and going through trauma and breakdown of family environments. It's a whole range of families.

"A little success can be dangerous in terms of long-term planning. Income is only one factor of how you get through life. It's always about relationships."

The Timaru Herald