Lack of jobs drive young out of town

By Ross Pringle


Statistically speaking, I am a little above average.

Now some out there will be thinking I've got designs on myself or that I'm being honest about my stature - but the simple truth is I am marginally over the median age for our district.

At 41.4 years (I turn 42 early next year), the general age of our population is rather a bit more than the national average, which stands at 37 years. By comparison, the average age in Palmerston North is 32.4 years.

It has long been known that young people tend to leave the area and make their way in the world, which goes some way to explaining the difference. Many of them do return later in life to start a family or retire, but the fact that there are more people from the older generation could be seen as an opportunity.

Many older people aren't saddled with the same debt levels as younger folk with families, they generally are law-abiding and have high rates of voluntary work. This could make up for the fact that they may be on fixed incomes, which is a factor that might make Wanganui's cheap living desirable.

What, perhaps, is more concerning about population statistics is that the area continues to leak people to other centres. We are not alone in that, as the district council's economic development manager, Allan MacGibbon, points out.

There are only a handful of places in the country where the population is increasing. That is a concern and a risk for the region as projects and funding are allocated. So what can we do to stall the decline, if not transform it to growth?

We all know of our great amenities, pace of life, community support, climate and low cost of living compared with other centres.

But before we get bent out of shape arguing if we are doing enough to sell this to the world, consider what really drives people to move to another part of the country.

Normally it is for opportunity, most likely employment-related. As much as we might think of issues like reputation as impacting on this region's ability to lure new migrants, in my opinion the single greatest factor is jobs.

I'm afraid one or two here and there is not enough and, despite the obvious benefits of ultrafast broadband, I don't see that as a complete solution, either.

We have but a few large-scale employers and, while they are largely offering low wages, it is that kind of volume we require.

Sadly, that level of investment is not easy to attract.

Another option might be to further push our median age higher by setting Wanganui up as a retirement mecca.

Retirement villages require support staff; older folks living independently may rely on service providers for things such as garden maintenance and, of course, there is specialised healthcare.

It's worth thinking about. After all, what have we got to lose?

Reader ideas

Saturday is officially the first day of summer and, while it may not always feel like it, the heady, long days of relaxing and enjoying a break are not too far off for most.

For us at the Chronicle, however, we still have a job to do and we make an extra effort to try to make the holiday editions a little different.

In recent years, we've focused on some of the events around town, the swimming hotspots, walking tracks, the Summer Programme, uncovered the stories around our street names and sought out readers' stories of their best summer.

But in the best interests of interactivity, today I'd like to ask you what you would like to see in the paper over the Christmas/January holiday period. Are there areas of our region you would like to know more about, or do you have a great idea for a series?

Maybe you have a great story to share and would let us do that. Don't be shy - I may even reward you with a small token of appreciation for making a suggestion.

Email ideas or tips to

- Wanganui Chronicle

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