Lakes District outpacing Auckland

The Queenstown-Lakes District is expected to grow faster than Auckland over the period 2006-31.

Statistics New Zealand projections released yesterday showed the district, which includes Queenstown and Wanaka, shares the highest growth rate in New Zealand of 2.2% a year with the Selwyn District.

The increase would add more than 17,400 people to the Queenstown area by 2031.

New Zealand is expected to have 5.2 million people by 2031, almost two million of them living in Auckland, which is expected to grow 1.5% per year.

The South Island would increase from 1 million in 2011 to 1.2 million in 2031.

Dunedin City will increase 0.4% per year, culminating in a population of 134,700 in 2031.

The Gore District was the only one in the South Island to drop in population, -0.3% over the period, but Statistics New Zealand senior demographer Kim Dunston said growth would decline in other districts towards 2031 as the population aged.

Despite estimated population losses following the earthquakes, Christchurch City is projected to increase by 0.5% per year.

The news Queenstown would lead the country in population growth did not come as a surprise to the QLDC and community initiatives, though how prepared Queenstown is for the growth is disputed.

In an area renowned for high housing costs, providing affordable housing was already a "continued and ongoing challenge", Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chairman David Cole said.

"Although it's not news to us, the trust already has a large database of households in our district that are facing housing challenges," Mr Cole said.

He said many residents were employed in the hospitality industry and essential to the continued success of the resort.

Most were in the "low to medium" income bracket and spent a large amount of their income on housing.

"Unless we want to build a ghetto for them to live in we have to integrate them into the community and provide long-term housing. Our challenge for the trust is to not only help those that are on the list ... [but] to expand the association to meet what is now expected to be a continued and ongoing challenge."

QLDC communications manager Meaghan Miller said the council had known of the growth status for some time and had undertaken research.

Queenstown businessman Alastair Porter, speaking as the managing director of the Porter Group, said the projections emphasised the need to have a development strategy which best accommodated and encouraged future growth.

The statistics were a reason why the council "should be actively supporting current growth initiatives such as Pak'n Save and Mega Mitre 10 at Shotover Park on the Frankton Flats".

With the high number of children, the Ministry of Education "made the right decision" in announcing Wakatipu High School would be relocating to Remarkables Park, an area which would allow it to expand without competing with the growing tourist centre, he said.

Because the last census was delayed due to the Christchurch earthquake, the projections were calculated using varied information such as electoral rolls, health data, arrivals and departures, school rolls and birth and death registrations.