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Watch NZH Local Focus: Whanganui Mayor rejects Maxim report on decline

By Sieska Verdonk

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall has rejected a report - from the Maxim Institute - which paints a bleak future for the North Island region.

The Maxim Institute predicts populations in around 44 of the country's 67 authorities will stagnate or decline within 30 years, compared to 11 areas now. That could place them under severe financial strain as they try to pay for infrastructure.

But, Mr McDouall says Whanganui has a fighting chance - in fact it is growing at around 200 people a year - for the first time in 30 years.

"Whanganui's not moving. We're happy to be here and I think we're slowly growing, with house prices and the number of people who are moving here."

He says he feels like the city is on the tipping point, but he doesn't have data until we get the next census.

Mr McDouall does concede, however, that there are greater forces at play.

"We don't have a university here. We accept that people will be disappearing to educate themselves, disappearing for job opportunities that may not be offered in the town, or disappearing just because there are nightclubs in Auckland."

But what he's seeing is people who want to build a family returning because he says "there's not better place."

The Mayor says central Government could be doing more to support regional growth.

He wants to see some Government operations moved to the regions.

"There's no reason to have the Department of Statistics in Wellington," he says - pointing out that when there is a seismic event - some of Government's wheels can keep turning if they are not located in the quake zone.

He also wants more focus on regional development.

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