This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on September 23, 2019
Whanganui has recorded a growth in population for the first time in decades, and it's predicted that growth will continue. So what will that mean for those of us who live in this flourishing city? Abe Leach reports.
Whanganui's official population has grown rapidly for the first time in a generation confirming a long suspected turn-around in the district's population trend.
Data released today shows Whanganui's population, according to the Census, has grown for the first time this century.
And now Whanganui's leaders say planning is needed to prepare for being a larger district.
Whanganui district's resident population from the Census taken in March was 45,309, an increase of 3156 people on the 2013 Census.
Mayor Hamish McDouall said the increase was a success for Whanganui.
"I think we're back to levels we were at in 1997 or even before that when we were a bigger city," he said.
"To reverse that trend of decline is fantastic but of course there are pressures that are generated, particularly around housing, because of that rise.
"The next question is actually how big do we want to be? Do we want to go to 50,000 and if so, that requires some planning."
McDouall said the next piece of work council should focus on was a sustainable growth plan.
"We're getting a lot busier on the roads but equally that reflects activity along our main street and that's why shops are opening and remaining viable," McDouall said.
"If you have to wait a couple extra minutes at the Dublin St Bridge, that's actually part of the growth and part of the success."
The Whanganui district is ranked as the 28th largest by territorial authority in New Zealand, which is the same ranking as 2013.
Nearest by population is Upper Hutt (29th - 43,980) and Timaru (27th - 46,296).
Meanwhile, the Rangitikei district was recorded as having 15,027 residents, up 1008 on 2013, while the Ruapehu district was 12,309, up 465.
Whanganui and Partners chief executive Mark Ward viewed the Census as a very good result but said work is needed to ensure there are enough houses for residents.
"It is very encouraging and backs up that the economy is growing and underlines Whanganui's attractiveness to do business in and to live.
"We're certainly one of the fastest-growing in population percentage-wise, but one of the slowest in terms of residential building consents per capita, we're the second-lowest in the Horizons region after Tararua.
"We have quite a good idea how Whanganui is tracking, that's why we're particularly focused on housing stock and land being zoned for residential, and of course we are actively trying to attract building companies to get involved in creating housing that's affordable."
With Whanganui showing a growing number of residents for the first time in a generation, Ward expects that growth to continue into the next Census.
"My expectation is that we will see another increase because of the constraints that exist in the larger cities in New Zealand that won't be able to be overcome within the next Census period," he said.
"Their economies are slowing a lot faster than ours. We're definitely in the top three or four for our size in New Zealand, we are going to attract capital and we are going to attract people."