Leaders in one of the region's most bustling beach towns are welcoming rocketing growth statistics but say more needs to be done to make Whitianga's economy less dependent on holidaymakers.
The town's population grew by 16 per cent since the previous census to 4368 residents, compared with static growth across the rest of the Thames Coromandel district.
While Whitianga has long been a popular holiday spot and main service town on the eastern side of the Coromandel, the figures were a surprise to many in the town.
"I'm not sure what those people are doing for employment," Mercury Bay Business Association chairman Graham Caddy said.
"There are not a lot of jobs - it's the kind of place where you have to buy a job," he said.
But he pointed to the school roll, describing it as healthy
"It's an indicator young families are moving in."
He said the census figures provided an opportunity for the community to think about economic development and supporting local businesses.
Also interested in seeing the demographic breakdown of the Whitianga population was newly elected community board member Deli Connell.
"I'm hoping the growth is in the working-age group and young families," she said.
"And if that is the case then our planning needs to be done in consultation with this group to really establish the bay as a place to live and work, not just to retire to." She also pointed to a lack of employment as a major hindrance to keeping young people in the area.
"Many businesses endure pretty hard winter months and some families have had to move on when the dollars dry up - this then has an impact on the schools, staffing and funding."
Bill McLean, who is also on the Mercury Bay community board, said the population growth was welcome, though "the economic benefits of this growth seem slow to be apparent".
But he said there were signs of improved business activity in the real estate and building sectors.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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