High growth in central presents challenges

The high level census data is out and it has reaffirmed what we already knew.

Residential growth for Central Otago and the Southern Lakes region has been supercharged in recent times.

I know just through my own personal interactions how many people have moved to the area in the past five years.

Many of those in the past three years moved after realising during lockdowns they could do their job from anywhere.

For others, the pandemic gave them time to pause, reflect on life and where they really wanted to be which, oddly enough, didn’t include being stuck in city traffic.

Looking at the trend there is no chance we will see this demand slow down anytime soon, though there are factors that restrict growth, such as the availability of housing and education.

For Central Otago low unemployment is a trend.

While there was a slight blip during 2020-21 it is business as usual now.

This is great but it does bring challenges for many small to medium businesses about how they scale up a business, or even just replace someone when they depart.

This, of course, has a flow-on impact on productivity and overall economic outcomes for the region.

New residents moving into the district does help, as they are a potential workforce.

New residents also bring new opportunities and different cultures.

I know through the Welcoming Communities programme there has been a surge in the schools of children for whom English is a second language.

How awesome is it that the children of Central Otago are getting this exposure through their peer group to other cultures, something a decade ago many people had concerns about.

Many new residents are bringing their businesses, which in turn brings new opportunities for the people already here, and new ways of looking at things.

You can probably now tell I’m excited about the early census results and the opportunities this growth brings.

I’m also not naive enough to think there aren’t challenges associated with such growth.

We are already seeing straining core sectors such as education and healthcare, while core infrastructure such as water and roading is coming under increased pressure.

With the trends we’re seeing in the data, we definitely have some challenging conversations ahead of us.

While we don’t claim to have all the solutions, what you can see through actions, such as the Central Otago and Queenstown Mayors teaming up to respond to healthcare challenges, is there is plenty of work going on in the background between Central Otago and Southern Lakes to work together.

That can only be a good thing for the entire inland Otago region, in my view.