Rotorua has come in the bottom half of the pile when it comes to wellbeing in eight of nine key areas outlined in a new report.
This month Infometrics released its Regional Wellbeing report comparing different regions' wellbeing and penned by senior economist Brad Olsen and chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan.
The report used 30 indicators across nine areas, or domains, to measure wellbeing.
They were civic engagement and governance, environment, health, housing, income and consumption, jobs and earnings, knowledge and skills, safety and social connections.
Overall they found wellbeing was significantly higher in metropolitan centres than in provincial areas.
"Rotorua has relatively low wellbeing outcomes - an outcome that is particularly concerning given the town is New Zealand's 10th largest urban area," the report said.
In a line up of 66 territorial authorities, Rotorua's highest rank was 30 in the knowledge and skills domain. It ranked between 35th and 54th in the others.
"Rotorua lags behind New Zealand on every wellbeing domain apart from housing," Olsen said.
He said affordable housing may not be enough to keep people in Rotorua, illustrated by both the knowledge and skills and jobs and earnings category.
Olsen said Rotorua had "great education outcomes" but those didn't necessarily translate into jobs and earnings.
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The knowledge and skills indicator was measured by participation in early childhood education, school leavers with NCEA Level 2, the workforce with NCEA Level 3 and secondary tertiary transitions.
Early childhood education participation in Rotorua is 97.7 per cent, above the national average of 97.3 per cent.
The rate of school leavers with NCEA Level 2 was 80 per cent but the rate of people between 15 and 24 not in education or employment was 20 per cent locally compared with 12 per cent nationally.
"One in five young people are not in education training or a job. They don't have the same opportunities when it comes to getting jobs or education. Similarly, unemployment was 5 per cent nationally but 6.6 per cent in Rotorua," Olsen said.
"We know there are skills and knowledge but possibly the jobs are not around."
Rotorua ranked 35th in the jobs and earnings category, measured by the unemployment, skilled worker, not in education or employment and workers in declining industries rates.
Rotorua Girls' High School principal Sarah Davis said she was concerned girls were leaving the school and not going into jobs or extra training, or going into jobs without the possibility for growth.
"There's a slight disconnect between employers wanting young people to go into a profession versus making sure there's a commitment to grow young people.
"I'd like to see more mentoring of school leavers so six months or 12 months out of school they are still talking about opportunities to grow.
"That's what I would want for any of the girls that leave, in time they are able to be business owners or running factories not on the factory floor."
Three Year 13 John Paul College students spoken to all planned to leave Rotorua after finishing school and knew only a handful of friends who were staying.
Two said they hoped to return in the future.
Martin Solon, 18, wants to study optometry, likely in Auckland. He said just one friend, who had already left school, was staying to work as a tradesman.
Martin said, once qualified, he would move back to Rotorua for better pay and to be close to family.
"I quite like Rotorua. I've grown accustomed to living here.
"I know some people want to leave Rotorua for the sake of it, not necessarily moving for better education, they are just tired of the city."
Oliver Smyth, 17, had applied to the police force and would study in Wellington if accepted. Oliver said after training he hoped to return to Rotorua to be close to family, or go to Auckland.
"It's a really close town. Everyone knows each other ... There are ups and downs but all in all it's one of the best places."
Maia Berryman-Kamp, 17, said it was unlikely she would return. She planned to study sociology in Wellington and go into teaching or politics.
She said opportunities in Rotorua were good in some sectors, like tourism and construction.
She only knew one person who was staying in town next year and that was to earn money on a gap year before studying elsewhere.
Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru Education Trust chairman Leith Comer said Rotorua had good outcomes for educators and learners but the issue was with making sure learners were engaged.
"Some people are occasionally disengaged, some permanently. It's out of that group that many of our other social ills start emanating."
Comer said he believed there were opportunities in Rotorua for further education and employment.
"The opportunities are there but again I do think maybe there's a role for more trade-based learning.
"I guess the point is what we're doing caters for many and most but I don't think it's sufficient for all. That's where the challenge is."
Tamarapa Lloyd, deputy chairman of He Mauri Ohooho, a Māori economic advisory committee said there needed to be a "radical rethink" in the way services were delivered to families in the region.
"We need a for whānau by whānau approach that puts support services around specific families in order to enable them with the right support to get into education and move from it into employment.
"By not changing the way services are delivered we'll continue to see the same results."
He said there was a growth in opportunities in tourism-related activities and tourism was a viable career option.
On housing, Lloyd said Rotorua provided a real opportunity for people to step onto the property ladder but local salaries and wages weren't matching the inflation seen elsewhere.
Of the other six wellbeing indicators Rotorua's third-best finish, behind knowledge and skills and jobs and earnings, was social connections measured by dependency ratio, internet access rate, truancy rate and work commuting times.
This was followed by 43rd in income and consumption, 47th in health and 49th in both safety and environment. Rotorua's worst result of 54th was in civic engagement and governance.
Olsen said the report aimed to start a conversation.
"We hope and expect that the local community will have a foundation of where they are where they want to be, what needs to change and how we can change it."