Whangarei population increase the highest in over two decades

Published 18th November, 2016

Whangarei’s population has increased for the second year in a row, gaining 1,800 new residents in the year to 30 June 2016.
Council uses population statistics to predict the community’s future need for services the organisation provides, and to develop strategies for planning the District.

Statistics for the year ending 30 June 2016 have recently been released and, according to WDC Environmental Trends Analyst Sonya Seutter, there is plenty to learn from them.

“We are matching the rate of growth in New Zealand over all, so that’s quite good news, given that some regions, including South Taranaki District, Chatham Islands Territory, Wairoa District, Grey District and Buller District, have experienced no population increases. Some populations have even fallen.

Mrs Seutter said the recent statistics estimate Whangarei District’s population to be 87,700 residents, a 2.1% increase on the previous year, and reveal that just over half of this growth is in the urban area.”

She said Kawerau District and the Western Bay of Plenty District also experienced similar population increases, while Queenstown Lakes District’s population had increased by 7.1%.

“We use information like this, gathered over generations, to predict the district’s future growth rate,” Mrs Seutter said.

“Our 2014 Growth Model predicted 0.9%, or around 880 new residents, a year and our Growth Strategy 30/50 Sustainable Futures estimated 1.3% or around 1,000 new residents per annum.  Statistics New Zealand projections for the District over the next 30 years are 0.6% or 540 new residents per annum, so by any measure this has been a bumper year for Whangarei District.”

She said it would be premature to alter long term projections based on just one year’s growth figures, and indications were that over the longer term, growth of 1.3% a year is likely.

“The next national census scheduled to be held in March 2018 will give a more accurate indication as to population trends.”

Who are our new residents?
“We have examined the data to get a clearer picture of who we are attracting, where they come from and what they are like and how this influx is changing our population,” Mrs Seutter said.

“When the last Census was completed in 2013, we had a distinct pattern of an increase in the average age of the population and a decrease in the working age group - those aged 20-49 years.  More than half our population was 45 years of age and older.”

Natural Increase
Four main factors affect our population estimate: births, deaths, international and domestic migration.

This year about 760 people died in our District, and 1,140 babies were born. That gave us a natural increase average of about 400 people, which has been pretty steady since the early 1990s.

“As our population’s average age rises, a decrease in births is likely, along with and an increase in the death rate. This is already happening gradually. Until 2002, there were less than 600 deaths a year. From 2003 to 2012, there were between 600 to 700 deaths a year. In the years since there have been more than 700 deaths a year. The statistics suggest that by 2043 the number of people dying and the number being born will be equal. If that happens, migration may be the only factor generating population increases in our District.

“While the birth rate remains high, the death rate is increasing. The increased ageing population is something that must be considered when planning for the future.”

Permanent and Long Term Overseas Migration
“Of course, people don’t just move to Whangarei, they also leave, so we have studied these figures too,” Mrs Seutter said.

“Sky-high international migration has been a key driver of economic growth in New Zealand over recent years.  Across New Zealand there were 125,000 international arrivals and 56,000 departures last year, resulting in a population increase of 70,000 people. That is roughly the population of the Rotorua District alone. Our District increase in population due to migration was in the top 25 of New Zealand’s 83 territorial authorities and regions. About 500 people come to our District, comparable to Selwyn District and Nelson City.

“Auckland had the greatest increase of overseas migrants – close to 32,000 - followed by approximately 7,000 people moving into the Canterbury Region and almost 6,000 migrants to Christchurch City.

More are arriving than departing
“Anyone who thinks Whangarei is a good place to live, work, play and invest, is in good company, according to a comparison of the number of people coming and going.”

This year, we had almost 1,200 arrivals and 700 departures, and reached our highest net gain in the last 24 years, 500 people.

“In the past 24 years, positive net migration has occurred on three occasions, from 1992-1995, 2002-2004 and most recently from 2014 to the present year. Between these times, we have seen losses of close to 1,500 people a year leaving the District for overseas. So this is a very positive result for those of us looking for economic growth and development.”

“Whangarei is also proving a popular destination for new families. More than half of our migrants were aged 24-39 years (253 people), and many in this age group migrated with families, bringing 132 children aged 0-14 years.

“About 280 of the newcomers were female, with 151 women aged between 25 and 39 arriving, compared to a total compared to 200 males.”

The number of young families migrating to Whangarei creates the potential for the District to be developing into a younger and livelier place. Family oriented activities and public places will need to be included in strategic planning for the District. Planning around transport, recreation, facilities, schools, and public spaces will also need to be well thought through.

“Historically, the bulk of our migration-driven population growth has been generated by people coming here from other parts of New Zealand.”

Mrs Seutter said 1,200 newcomers were New Zealand Citizens (55%), while 9% came from Australia and a variety of other nationalities made up the remaining (36%).

“Most of the people leaving the District were New Zealanders (76)%, while 6% of those leaving were from Australia and 18% from other parts of the world. About 700 people left New Zealand for overseas.

The population increase in the District in the year to 30 June 2016 is the highest recorded in recent times.

Our population is growing because more people are being born than are dying, and many people are migrating here from other places in New Zealand and overseas, and fewer people are leaving than in the past.

At 2.1% the year’s population growth is significantly higher than that estimated year-by-year in many of our planning documents, but one extraordinary year does not make a long-term-trend. We believe a growth rate of 1.3% is more likely to be the average in the years to come.

The 2018 census will provide a better indication as to future trends.