The latest Census figures show Northland is the fastest-growing region in NZ, with 27,000 more people living here than five years ago - 18.1 per cent growth - with the population now 179,076. Today Northern Advocate reporter Imran Ali introduces some of our new Northlanders.
Ross Milne decided he's had enough of city life after working in tertiary education for 18 years in Auckland and mulled over retirement plans.
So he moved into a relocatable 1960s bungalow at the Otamatea Eco Village in Kaiwaka in July and reckons he could not have asked for a better place to retire.
"It's the best move I've ever made. Just the feel of the whole place is amazing. I've even bought a hybrid," he said.
After selling his house in Bayswater a year ago, he bought a property in New Plymouth but the plan didn't work out and he then looked at places north of Auckland such as Matakana.
"I'd been boarding for six months while looking to buy when I was shown a picture of a house at Otamatea Eco Village on a Sunday. I saw the house for 15 minutes on a Wednesday and bought it at auction the next day.
"I was the only bidder. This place fits my values, ethics and my health. I found the community and the institutions in Auckland unhealthy and unethical," Milne said.
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While working in the City of Sails, he used to come up to surf at Mangawhai and the Far North as well as holiday in the Bay of Islands.
Another Aucklander who moved up north is Tom Payton, a teacher at Whangārei Intermediate School.
Family support and lifestyle were the main reasons he and his wife, who teaches at Whangārei Girls High School, quit Auckland five years ago.
"We like the outdoors, the slower pace of life, the ease of getting around. It takes me around 15 minutes to get to work from Ruatangata West," he said.
"It does feel like there's been more people around up here in the last five years and also more traffic, and the shops are getting busier at certain times of the day."
Of all areas in Northland, rural Mangawhai experienced the biggest population growth of 702— a 50.2 per cent increase— and Bob and Jill McLellan contributed to that number.
After spending 10 years working as a property developer in the Gold Coast, McLellan and his wife lived briefly in Auckland before moving to Mangawhai.
"We thought we'd look around, away from the far-enough crowd of Auckland. But Auckland people are following up here now. I am pretty keen on the weather.
"When we came up here five years ago, we were the only ones here. Now, there's 20-odd houses. They're building everywhere. This place is growing," he said.
Northland District Health Board chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said given the extreme pressure on public health services continued to experience, it was no surprise to learn the region was actually the fastest-growing in New Zealand.
"This unprecedented population growth has put huge pressure on our staff, facilities, and budget, and it feels like we are constantly playing catch-up to provide the services our population needs and deserves.
"It is a credit to our staff that we are able to provide such high quality care in the face of this increased demand," Chamberlain said.
Over the past three years, he said presentations to emergency departments have increased by 6 per cent - about 2000 more patients per year - and the Northland DHB has seen similar growth in demand in other acute services.
This, he said, has affected their ability to deliver planned or elective care and surgery.
Chamberlain said the regional Census count determined the allocation of resources to Northland and that useful quality information about the age, gender and ethnicity of local populations was essential because different groups have different health needs.
Coupled with an increase in population numbers, he said the ongoing shortage of GPs exacerbated the demand on healthcare services.
Chamberlain said the Northland DHB was hopeful that with the post enumeration figures being available in March next year, the 2018 Census figures would be used for next year's DHB funding allocation.
"All we can hope for or expect is to be treated fairly according to population-based funding. Hence, our desire to use the 2018 Census figures.
"We do not yet have a view whether this will result in any significant change in our funding as the 2018 figures are relatively close to the 2013 projections for 2018."
Census statistics on age breakdown
• Under 5 years - up 14.8 per cent to 37,620
• Between 15 and 29 - up 23.5 per cent to 28,836
• Between 30 and 64 - up 14.3 per cent to 77,595
• 65 and over - up 26.1 per cent to 35,025