Hawke's Bay fights aging population

By Brendan Manning

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Local councils are trying to counter the rising average age of Hawke's Bay residents by luring young professionals to the region.

Latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show the median age in the Hastings district is 38.2, up from 37.8 last year and 36.5 in 2006.

Napier residents' average age has also risen to 40.5, compared with 40.1 last year and 38.6 in 2006.

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said that in the next 20 years she expected more than one in four Napier residents would be aged over 65.

This would have a "huge effect" on Napier.

"I don't think we talk about it as a positive or negative but it is definitely a significant change that needs to be factored into our planning," the mayor said.

While there was plenty for ageing people to do in terms of facilities and amenities, housing for those on fixed incomes was an issue, Ms Arnott said.

"Although the council doesn't intend at the moment to get involved in more housing, we've got 370 houses currently, we do have plans and provisions in our planning for the future for more retirement homes and more lifestyle villages," Ms Arnott said.

There was a push to attract professional young people to bring their skills to Napier, she said.

"It might not be a big city like Auckland or Wellington, but we've certainly got a lifestyle and they make the choice because of that.

"You can tell by the full planes going to Wellington and Auckland on Mondays and coming back on Fridays that there's a lot more people who live in Hawke's Bay but travel out for their work."

Statistics New Zealand data shows the nation's population is growing at its slowest rate in a decade and the population as a whole is getting older.

The country's population grew by 28,000 during the June year, compared with 37,400 the year before.

The annual growth of 0.6 per cent was the lowest since 2001. Statistics NZ said the reduced population growth was due to more international migrant departures (up 9 per cent), fewer births (down 3 per cent), and more deaths (up 2 per cent).

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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