Tauranga's wellbeing is a mixed bag, according to a new report released by Infometrics. Tauranga had ranked near both the top and the bottom of the pile in nine areas researchers examined to determine the area's overall wellbeing. Reporter Caroline Fleming delves deeper into Tauranga's wellbeing report card and finds out where the city is top of the class, and where it needs work.
House prices are up, environmental impact is down and our job future is looking secure, according to a new report on wellbeing in Tauranga.
The Regional Wellbeing report by Infometrics aimed to help people better understand how different parts of the country compared across a range of areas that illustrate wellbeing.
The report was penned by senior economist Brad Olsen and chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan and used 30 indicators across nine areas including civic engagement and governance, health, and safety and social connections to measure wellbeing.
Overall, they found wellbeing was significantly higher in metropolitan centres than in provincial areas in seven of the nine areas. The exceptions were housing, civic engagement and governance.
This rang true in Tauranga, which fell near the bottom of the rankings in the housing category.
The Bay of Plenty region was the second most expensive region for housing affordability.
The report stated that houses in Tauranga were estimated to cost 10.6 times the median household income. In the Western Bay of Plenty it was 9.5 times. The national average sat at 9.1.
House prices in both Tauranga and the Western Bay were growing at nearly double the rate of income growth in both areas.
Rental affordability was not much better, as Tauranga recorded the "highest rental cost burden" of the places they assessed, with 34.2 per cent of household income covering rents.
Tauranga has held second place for rental costs relative to incomes since 2006, with the ratio of rent to household income rising almost 5 per cent from 2006 to 2018.
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Tommy Kapai from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust said with the popularity of Tauranga, it was important for community leaders to start seriously planning to handle the growth.
Priority One's project manager Annie Hill said Tauranga was transitioning from a fairly low-income economy to a higher quality economy, and the growth and house price spike was a result of that trend.
She said increasing average wages was a key component in mitigating the impact of high house prices.
On the bright side, the city had its best national ranking in the jobs and earnings category, placing fourth in the country. The category highlighted a person's ability to secure a stable income.
Unemployment levels were at a "historic" low and there was a lower proportion of workers employed in declining industries, meaning local employees had a more secure job future, said Hill.
She said Tauranga had seen unprecedented levels of business growth over the past five years, meaning there was an extremely healthy job market.
Tauranga also scored highly for having more young people either in training, education or work compared with other areas, she said.
The city placed in the top 10 for its environment and the report highlighted carbon emissions and waste diversion rates among the best in the country.
Olsen said Infometrics estimates had shown Tauranga had a lower amount of estimated carbon emissions per person than the national average.
Tauranga lacking in civic engagement
Tauranga's local government election system is "archaic" and needs a change to spark youth engagement in the process, according to an eager young political mind.
Tauranga had the 15th lowest score in the country for civic engagement in the Infometrics Regional Wellbeing report.
The low score highlighted residents' lack of participation in local decision making, civic processes and public institutions.
Mount Maunganui College student Sam Taylor, 17, said he believed a lack of engagement from younger generations would have played a part in the low score.
Taylor - who is being mentored by Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller - said the city's "archaic" postal voting system was in part to blame.
He had a friend "who had never even sent a letter".
Taylor said Single Transferable Vote - the rank-based voting system Tauranga City Council has switched to for this year's elections - was "too confusing" for the new generation of voters.
"The whole system needs a reboot to spark youth engagement."
He was part of a group of Tauranga young people working on a youth voting campaign ahead of the local government elections later this year.
In December the council - as well as several others around New Zealand - dumped a plan to trial online voting in this year's election.
Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said the council was aware that engagement was an issue and was putting more resources into it.
"We are learning to do things with the community, not just to the community."
Brad Olsen from Infometrics said local election turnout in Tauranga was low, with only 38 per cent of eligible voters casting a vote in the 2016 elections.
Vice president of Local Government New Zealand and Bay of Plenty regional councillor Stuart Crosby said the Tauranga voter turnout had diminished from the 60 per cent range to the 30 per cent range and it was "worrying".
He said he backed Taylor and thought the younger generations had lost interest in voting.
The future of voting was electronic and needed to be simpler, he said.
Tauranga's scorecard (out of 66 territorial authorities)
Civic Engagement and Governance
Income and Consumption
Jobs and Earnings
Knowledge and Skills