Rotorua's leaders and locals have been quick to hit back at a new report suggesting the city is at risk of turning into a ghost town, saying they are seeing the complete opposite.

The report, published by the Maxim Institute, stated Rotorua and Taupo were among 44 of the country's 67 territorial authorities that will either stop growing or start declining in the next 30 years.

This is compared to the 11 areas, including Kawerau, Whakatane and Opotiki, currently facing stagnation and declining populations.

The report claimed, "If we do not attend to this divergence of economic and demographic outcomes, we risk opening the door to broader societal division between people and communities in growing areas and those in stagnation or decline.


But Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Maxim was only interested in the data, not what the centres were doing about the data.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick.

"We are confident we are not a district in decline. We've got challenges, like affordable housing, but with challenges come good opportunities.

"We know we're thriving with our GDP and people are coming here for the lifestyle. We're on a long journey with vision 2030 but we're bucking trends."

Mrs Chadwick said she had been aware of the data Maxim used for the past four years.

"We knew those statistics of the 2013 census and Natalie Jackson's demographic data from Waikato, which they've based the report on, when we were elected in 2013. I was elected in a time for change, a perfect storm really, leadership and having a set plan.

"We embarked on a very ambitious journey then called Vision 2030, and the key of that approach was to look at partnerships with the community, with the chamber, with the tribe, so that we could unlock all the potential that I could see in the community."

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Allison Lawton said it was important to take the report seriously.

"My first reaction of the report was 'this is ridiculous', but after reflecting on it I decided we should be using it to take stock of our situation.

"Let's make sure we are building our city together and not burying our heads in the sand. I think we're on a fantastic pathway with Rotorua buoyant and bubbling but we need to work to ensure that continues and we don't become this statistic."

Helium Gallery owner Sarah Ziessen said she felt like Rotorua was going well.

BOOMING: Helium Gallery owner Sarah Ziessen said she felt like Rotorua was growing, not declining. PHOTO/BEN FRASER
BOOMING: Helium Gallery owner Sarah Ziessen said she felt like Rotorua was growing, not declining. PHOTO/BEN FRASER

"Statistically we have more people moving here, the only hindrance I can see is offerings in employment that allow somebody to start from the bottom and work up, instead of having to leave town to get more opportunities.

"The gallery business is hard in any town but there is a definitely a sense of confidence in Rotorua. Over summer we had people coming into our store asking for real estate agencies."

Envy expanded its Tutanekai St shop in November and manager Jacqui Warbrick said the store was the flagship of the brand's six stores nationwide.

"We would not have expanded if we thought Rotorua was at risk of becoming a ghost town. This city is beautiful, it has a great environment and people love shopping here."

She said they had gone from have one staff member in store at a time, to two or three.

"There is confidence in the city and I certainly don't see the decline - I don't see it going that way at all."

Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne is confident in the success of the region, despite a Maxim Institute report projecting population decline in the next two decades. Made with funding from NZ On Air.

Apt Collections, supplier Longbeach's first retail store, was set up in Rotorua about two weeks ago.

Karen Edgar, the store's 2IC, said in her view the report was "a load of rubbish".

"Our city is humming. There is no fear here of it turning into a ghost town, I don't believe that for a minute.

"We've had hard times, like any city does, but we're on the up - things like house prices indicate things are going well."

Taupo's mayor David Trewavas was taken aback by the report's findings.

Taupo mayor David Trewavas. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Taupo mayor David Trewavas. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

"I need time to digest it properly but my initial reaction is that it is in no way what we're seeing on the ground. Our GDP is going up, our population is going up, house sales are going up - we're bustling."

In the report's final recommendations it said, "For all the current talk of 'zombie towns' and bank closures, we are really only experiencing the beginning of a 'death by a thousand cuts' for many regional towns. New Zealand needs to accept that this sweeping economic and demographic wave of change is coming, and in many ways, already acting upon us.

"Regional development goals that simply aim to maximise a region's economic growth potential are inadequate for this future. Spatial or place-based regional development
policy is increasingly going to be key to facing this new future."

Maxim Institute's report
- 44 of the country's 67 territorial authorities will stop growing or start declining in the next 30 years
- Rotorua and Taupo included in areas "at risk"
- This is compared to the 11 areas currently reported to have this issue
- Whakatane, Opotiki and Kawerau included in the 11 areas
- Places experiencing growth will go from 39 now to 12 in the next 30 years
- Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty included in those areas expected to grow