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Whanganui's population has topped 48,000 and is trending towards 50,000 in the next few years, according to new population figures released by Statistics New Zealand this week.
The figures show that in the year ending June 30, the population of the Whanganui District increased from 47,300 residents to 48,100, a jump of 800, or 1.6 per cent over the past year.
The increase in population has come faster than the growth the district experienced in the 2018-2019 year, growing 600 residents within that period.
According to Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall, the increase is a positive thing for the district.
"It's a significant jump, and I think that's reflected in house prices and even how busy the traffic is as well," he said.
"I think overall, a modest increase in population is great, but we've got to make sure we don't get too big too fast."
McDouall said the council had focused on freeing up land for housing developments, in an effort to increase the supply of property in the housing market to prevent further inflation of house prices.
"The council has opened up sections for development out the back of Springvale and Otamatea and there are other developments mooted in Aramoho.
"The population increase is certainly reflected in the figures around new builds and the decline in vacant properties around the district as well."
Asked what was driving the growth, McDouall said he felt it came down to the beauty of the region, as well as its financial attraction.
"Aside from being topographically beautiful, I think Whanganui is a very welcoming place with a diverse range of people, as well as our accommodation, where you can get a very good bang for your buck."
Pahia Turia, chairman of Whanganui and Partners economic development agency, agrees, saying the increase in population is driven by a district that is becoming increasingly more attractive.
"Cost of living, proximity, and location of Whanganui are a few of the key drivers. I think also lockdown has validated the idea that you don't have to be in the office to work."
Turia believed the increase in population was a good sign for Whanganui, on the condition it grows in line with our key infrastructure.
"I think it's a positive sign. Prior to the recent years of population increase, I think it had been around 40 years we'd been in decline. Having a bigger ratepayer base and those types of things has got to be a positive thing for the district.
"Like everything that grows we need to make sure we've got the infrastructure and housing to ensure that we grow as our population grows."
Another priority for Turia was ensuring the Whanganui economy attracts the right minds to the district, as well as encouraging economic activity.
"We want to be seen to be a business-friendly city. We want people to see us as enabling of opportunity.
"Whether that means more housing or opening up industrial land, from our perspective we want to be seen rolling out the red carpet rather than putting up red tape."
Also experiencing population growth was Rangitīkei, which saw a 1.2 per cent rise on the previous year, growing from 15,550 residents to 15,750.
Rangitīkei District Mayor Andy Watson had an incredibly positive outlook on the growth, saying the council's work to actively increase the population was working.
"It's not just a good thing, it's fantastic. We have actively encouraged it through our number of economic incentive policies to support growth in terms of subdivisions and developments and that sort of thing.
"In a way, I think the figures may be understated. We have a huge number of developments going into the district and a number of businesses interested in coming to Rangitīkei."
In other neighbouring districts, both South Taranaki and Ruapehu also grew, but not at the same rate as Whanganui or Rangitīkei.
The South Taranaki District now has 28,700 residents, a rise of 200, or 0.7 per cent. The Ruapehu District was one of the most stable districts in the country, only growing 50 residents, or 0.5 per cent.