Written By: - Date published: 12:33 pm, October 16th, 2013 - 30 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, david cunliffe, john key, slippery, sustainability - Tags: census, population change, regional development
Yesterday John Key, some MSM journos and a few Standard commentators were gloating that recently released Census 2013 data showed David Cunliffe was wrong with his statement that:
people were fleeing the regions in droves,
was incorrect. The NZ Herald reported, that in looking at the Census data on the regions,
Ms MacPherson said that these declines were not alarming and were part of normal population fluctuations.
Asked to respond to Labour leader David Cunliffe’s claim that people were fleeing the regions in droves, Ms MacPherson said that the new data showed steady population growth in most of the regions.
Yesterday in Question Time, John Key did his usual diversionary, attack performance, gleefully using a similar line disparaging Cunliffe’s claims about the regions:
Hon David Cunliffe : How does the Prime Minister explain the widening gap between Auckland and the rest of the country when most regions have seen a decrease in weekly incomes since 2008?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not believe that to be correct. If one looks at real after-tax median income and compares it between 2006 and 2013, it has gone up 11.8 percent in Auckland. I note that it has gone up 14.4 percent in Taranaki, where apparently everybody is leaving—well, that is what they told David, anyway. In Manawatū-Wanganui it has gone up 13.6 percent, in Northland it is 17.7 percent, and in Canterbury it is 14.1 percent. It would appear that the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition is one that he has just made up.
Hon David Cunliffe : Why has annual population growth in the regions halved under National from 0.9 percent under Labour to just 0.5 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I really am truly shocked that the Leader of the Opposition would ask that question, after yesterday saying people in the regions have been left “with no choice but to leave in droves.” In answering that question, let us go to the census data—
Hon Steven Joyce : Released today.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —released today. Lo and behold, 15 of the 16 regions have gone up in population.
But yet again, this is just John Key manipulating statistics and data to obscure, divert and attack.
Today in the NZ Herald, there is a more in depth analysis by Isaac Davidson and Simon Collins of what the Census 2013 data shows that Auckland has grown at the expense of rural regions:
New Zealand’s first Census for seven years has found that Auckland has swallowed up more than half of the country’s total population growth.
The number of Aucklanders has risen by 111,000 or 8.5 per cent since the last Census in 2006, reaching 1,415,550 on Census night in March – a number expected to swell to more than 1.5 million after counting people who were overseas on Census night or were missed by the Census.
But an analysis by Waikato University demographer Professor Natalie Jackson shows that the population declined in most rural parts of the North Island and in many regional centres including Rotorua, Whakatane, Gisborne and Wanganui.
The population increased in most of the South Island, partly because of an exodus from Christchurch, where the population dropped by 2 per cent because of the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
Prior to the 2013 Census, there was already evidence not only of the movement of people out of the regions, as reported in a 2011 study by the above mentioned Professor Natalie Jackson of Waikato University. It was reported in the NZ Herald in 2011 by Simon Collins. This article focused on the halt to growth in the regions, and especially the decline in rural areas of people in the “prime working” and child bearing age group:
The lack of people in the breeding age group is extreme in rural districts such as Matamata-Piako, Thames-Coromandel, Hastings and Gore.
“The picture for the regional areas is rather gloomy in that they are going to have fewer young people,” Professor Jackson said.
The gap will also have an economic impact because young adults are part of the prime working age group.
The study says 42 per cent of local body areas have fewer people in the 15-24 age group coming into the workforce than they have in the 55-64 group heading for retirement.
In her 2011 working paper, Natalie Jackson presents a lot of relevant detail on the drain of an economically significant age group from the regions. [h/t Colonial Viper) This is summarised on (numbered) page 2
The issues and their implications are compounded at sub-national level, as internal migration of the young to the main cities and beyond has left most non-urban areas with deeply waisted, hour-glass shaped age-structures. Such age structures not only face profound labour shortages, but are no longer conducive to growth.
The evidence for this is outlined in detail from page 19. The Stats NZ website also contains more evidence of the unbalanced growth of the Auckland area compared with other parts of New Zealand. This is not totally clear cut, as most areas had some population growth – the overall population of New Zealand grew after all. And there was a significant population shift from Christchurch to surrounding regions.
Nevertheless, the growth in the Auckland region has been far more intensive than most other places, with the Gisborne area being the biggest loser. The graphic makes this clear. The darker regions had the most intensive population growth, with the lighter regions the least growth and the white area representing population decline.
The general pattern is clear. There is a need to worry about the exodus of the most economically significant age groups, those in the youngest working age brackets, from the regions. In contrast there has been intensive (and unsustainable) growth around the narrow Auckland isthmus.
The Prime Minister can jeer, divert and mis-represent the data all he likes. This is the stark reality any responsible government needs to address. There needs to be concerted efforts to support the development of the regions.