Westpac is hosting the two forums this week with Massey University looking at how New Zealand’s population trends will affect our future.
Kicking off this morning in Auckland, with the second session in Wellington on Thursday, the ‘New New Zealand’ forum looks at insights garnered by Massey researchers finding that we urgently need strategy on population change if we’re to avoid problems ranging from regional decline to growing shortages in housing.
“It’s more than four decades since the last major national activity focused on how we want our population to grow,” Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley says, “and New Zealand’s population make up has changed vastly since then.
“It’s high time we considered our options to ensure that our changing demographics are beneficial to the future of our country.”
Professor Spoonley, who was joined by other leading academics, economists and business commentators for this morning’s forum, says declining birth rates and the effects of an ageing population signal the end of population growth for almost everywhere except Auckland – and if the regions are to survive they must consider new options such as increased immigration flows.”
Researchers for the Nga Tangata Oho Mairangi study, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, questioned communities in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, West Coast and Southland about issues relating to migration and mobility to determine how people understand the population changes within their local region.
“From our research, it seems many people in the provinces do not realise the serious nature of the problems ahead,” says Massey Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey. “Right now, for every 100 workers there are 52 dependents, but in about a decade, many regions may have 80 dependents for every 100 workers. Some are there already.”
Professor Spoonley says the consequence of not embracing immigrants in the regions could be dire in terms of service provision for the elderly.
“I hate to say it but the baby boomer population, who have been drivers of the growth generation in New Zealand over the last 50 years, could turn into a liability as they age.”
Public awareness of the issues is growing and the focus of events like this week’s new New Zealand Forums will help to elevate attention further, he says.