ORC opts for high-growth scenario for next decade

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
An unexpectedly firm recovery in migration levels halted a population dip for Dunedin through Covid-19 and led to an adjustment in the estimated housing demand needed for the decade to 2034.

The Otago Regional Council this week approved usage of a high-growth scenario for the first 10 years of a future development strategy and then medium growth for the following 20 years.

It had been expected allowing for medium growth might be sufficient for the first decade, but the latest Statistics New Zealand population projections did not support this.

Council policy and science general manager Anita Dawe said a predicted net migration deficit did not occur.

"The assumption was that Covid would have a bigger impact than what it did on Otago."

Ms Dawe said the high-growth scenario was the same as what the medium-growth scenario had been pre-Covid.

Population projections are used to work out housing and business capacity, which is an assessment prepared jointly by the regional council and the Dunedin City Council.

The city council had already switched to an assumption a high-growth scenario would be needed for the first decade.

Population for the area covered by the city council is forecast to shift from 130,400 last year to 132,029 next year and then 142,165 in 2034.

Growth would then slow and the population is forecast to be 145,537 in 2054.

The number of households in Dunedin is expected to grow from 50,552 last year to 51,236 next year and up to 55,619 in 2034, before growth slows.

A report for the city council last year noted Dunedin’s estimated population growth peaked in the year to June 2016 and had then been sliding, reinforced by altered migration patterns resulting from the pandemic.

The city lost an estimated 2400 residents between July 2020 and June last year.

The population drop was mainly a consequence of migration within New Zealand, the city council was told at the time.

This prompted city councillor Lee Vandervis to say the city needed to figure out what it had done to "scare off quite a significant number of people to other parts of the country".

Andrew Whiley and Christine Garey were two councillors who were more optimistic.

"I have great faith in this city and I believe we’ll hit that high-growth target again," Cr Garey had said.

A housing capacity assessment update is to be considered by the city council next month.