By Emily Norman
Wairarapa will soon reach a “tipping point” where there will be more over 65s than there are 0-14 year-olds.
This insight has driven a Massey University professor to ask critical questions about regional growth, questions that even he doesn’t have the answers to.
Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor and editor of Rebooting the Regions, passed through Wairarapa this week and spoke to the Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce about regional growth forecasts.
“Over 65s are going to be an important part of the economy, as well as the community,” he said.
“Wairarapa will be one of the first parts of the country to see more over 65s than 0-14s.
“But it’s not like they reach 65 and suddenly stop consuming or spending or working.
“The question is where do you get your young people and labour from?”
Dr Spoonley said one of the biggest challenges for regional New Zealand was that “kids leave”.
“They go for education, they go for excitement and travel, they go for jobs.
“The question is, can you attract them back?
“It’s a tricky question.”
Dr Spoonley said job creation was a “critical factor” that needed to be worked on.
“Wairarapa has one very unusual characteristic which is that a significant part of its workforce does not work here – it migrates out every day.
“I’m sure many of these people who travel over the Rimutaka Hill would welcome a job locally.
“But how do you migrate some of the jobs, and stop the migration of workers?”
“A lot of the jobs that we see in the modern economy are not dependent on where you live so you would think that, if they’re IT-related, they could just as easily be in Masterton as they could in Wellington.
“The problem is not having the employers here.”