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Masterton’s growth estimate smashed

Masterton’s population has increased by 10 per cent over the past five years.

And one councillor has issued a warning that unplanned growth could be causing pressure points in the community with regard to existing infrastructure.

When Masterton District Council created its 2018-28 Long-Term Plan, it assumed the district’s population would reach 27,700 by 2028, in line with Statistics New Zealand’s “high” projection.

But according to Infometrics, Masterton’s population surpassed this assumption last year, reaching 28,200 – seven years ahead of schedule.

“Growth is good only if we know what the impact of the growth is,” councillor Tina Nixon said at a recent council meeting.

“I keep expressing this in as many forums as I can.

“We still don’t have a true picture of the impact of growth, and I don’t ever feel comfortable that we are planning for it.”

The council’s 2021-31 Long-Term Plan [LTP] population growth assumption is 1.01 per cent per year, based on “medium” growth projections from Infometrics.
However, annual population growth in Masterton had not been this low since 2013.

Last year, annual growth was 1.8 per cent. The year before, it was 3 per cent.

Asset management plans indicated the Masterton District Council could accommodate growth up to 1.8 per cent per year over the next 10 years without significant impacts.

The council’s LTP stated: “If there was a significant and sustained rise in population beyond 1.8 per cent per annum, that could have adverse effects on our ability to deliver some services to existing service levels… this could result in reduced levels of service or, worst-case scenario, asset failures and/or a need to rapidly and heavily invest in assets to accommodate the growth”.


According to the LTP, higher growth than planned for would most likely affect roading, water supply, and community facilities and services.

Nixon asked chief executive David Hopman if work could be done to understand the impacts of Masterton’s growth.

“We need to know what pressure points it is causing in the community,” Nixon said.

“A lot of the expressions of concern I see against the council are basically because of increased usage of roads and the such.

“I’m not a devotee of ‘growth is good’ unless it is managed, and we can realise the impacts and identify what the mitigations are to make sure the community grows in a way we want it to and that the values we hold dear to are maintained.”

Local Democracy Reporting asked Masterton District Council how it was planning to mitigate pressure points in the district now and in the future, given understated population projections in the council’s two most recent LTPs.

Hopman said at the time of the last LTP, the council noted a high level of uncertainty about the growth assumption, which was based on an Infometrics forecast.

“The council has asset management plans and infrastructure strategies which are reviewed in light of growth information,” Hopman said.

“The council is required to plan for growth as part of the government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development, and the LTP includes plans to increase the capacity of the Homebush wastewater treatment plant, the Kaituna water treatment plan, and associated water storage.

“The increased rate of growth may require some planning to be brought forward, and it is timely that a review of the Wairarapa Combined District Plan [WCDP] is underway.”

The WCDP was the key planning document for Masterton District Council and the two other Wairarapa councils, setting out how and where growth should take place.

A draft of the reviewed WCDP would be publicly available in about six months.

Nixon’s comments at the recent council meeting followed Hopman’s quarterly economic report, which shared data from Infometrics for the quarter ending December 2021.

Infometrics said the Masterton district had “rebounded” after September’s lockdown “to post an impressive growth in GDP for the December 2021 year” of 8 per cent.– NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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