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Watch NZH Local Focus: Whakatane Mayor says decline prediction doesn't mirror reality

By Jaden McLeod

Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne says a Maxim Institute report on long-term forecast population decline in the region doesn't mirror reality.

Mr Bonne says he has seen a younger group of people being drawn to the area.

"We are looking at a 20 year strategy, and we are calling it a vision for our community. We are talking to younger people, those who don't normally communicate with council, so we are trying to find out what the community wants so that we can put a vision in place that in 20 years time, those young people will be the seniors in our community, and I will be well retired."

He says the local economy is booming and the promotion of natural attractions in the area is seeing them reap the rewards.

"Not only are we strong in dairy, we are strong in kiwifruit, we've got forestry, we've got a strong boat-building industry, in the aluminium boat-building industry now we'd be the strongest in New Zealand because we've got two big manufacturers both going flat-out and both expanding.

We've got the manuka honey industry, and of course tourism, tourism is blowing apart throughout New Zealand, so we have seen a huge increase in that, with White Island as our main attraction."

He says it's not just Whakatane that is seeing house prices rise.

"Even in our outlying districts such as Murupara, prices are now going up as well."

"We've got a number of opportunities that are around the corner. ToiEDA is our economic development agency for the Eastern Bay Of Plenty, and there are some very exciting things under the surface."

Mr Bonne believes local iwi investment has also been positive in the region, and says working with the community will always prove beneficial for council.

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- NZ Herald

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