A couple of stories in yesterday's Herald, which weren't related, nevertheless pointed to some opposing forces at work in Timaru.
On page one, in our lead story, was news of the rollout of ultra-fast broadband in the city. By the end of November, 1800 homes here will have access to UFB. More significantly, the residents to benefit will be among the first domestic customers in the country to enjoy such access, according to construction firm Downer.
Other suburban areas won't be far behind, we're told, and teams will also begin the work next week of providing UFB to Timaru's central business district.
Good news, all in all. Timaru is being future-proofed. At a time when slow broadband speeds are a bone of contention for many businesspeople around the country, many of ours will shortly have access to a service that should contribute significantly to speeding up business.
Brilliant news, in fact. Doing business from Timaru, despite its size and distance from some of our major centres, should not disadvantage those who choose to do so. Even those whose business responsibilities extend South Island- or nation-wide shouldn't be hampered by basing themselves here. In fact, given the lifestyle benefits of living in South Canterbury, the argument that many will actually be coming out ahead has decided merit.
Yesterday's Wednesday Profile subject, Judy Dolman, is a case in point.
Turn to yesterday's page 3, though, and next to our mystery picture from the archives is a little story headed "Deaths projected to exceed births". It sets out forecasts released this week by Statistics New Zealand that in 19 years, deaths will outnumber births by 400 in the Timaru district, and also, on a smaller scale, in the Waimate district.
The forecasts reflect that populations are ageing and by 2031, the over-65 age group will represent the largest chunk of the population throughout South Canterbury. But they also, by extension, reflect that not enough younger people are settling in South Canterbury, doing business and bringing up families.
Plainly, there's a disconnect here. Timaru offers great lifestyle opportunities and no significant disadvantage in terms of business opportunities. So why aren't more people choosing to come here? If you're reading this, you're here. I'm preaching to the choir, I know.
The only way to change the situation is for the region to be marketed well beyond South Canterbury. It's happening already, but do we need to step it up? Because there's no doubt it is, as the old cliche goes, a great place to live, work and play.
- The Timaru Herald