Whangārei is one of the fastest-growing districts in New Zealand. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Whangārei has one of the fastest-growing populations in New Zealand and while growth is generally agreed to be a good thing, it also brings plenty of challenges.
Managing many of those challenges on behalf of different communities, businesses, industries, visitors, and residents falls to councils – like ours.
Housing has never been a core function for councils but as the nation’s housing crisis has grown there has been a stronger call from the community for council to play a role in improvements.
The Whangārei District produced a growth strategy in 2021, which replaced the earlier 2010 document, and is available online at the council website. It has a very clear explanation of what is going to happen population-wise (among other things) in our district over the next 30 years.
One of the downsides of planning for growth is population explosion, which generally means people like what we are doing in our district and are moving here so we need to move fast to keep ahead. I encourage anyone with an interest to read this strategy.
The population grew from 70,000 in 2000 to 98,300 in 2020. The highest rates of population growth have occurred in the last five of those years, with an increase of 11,100 people, averaging 2.5 per cent per year.
As of today, Whangārei has a population of 105,000. The 2021 strategy shows we are expected to grow to about 115,000 people by 2031, yet going by current growth statistics this could be more like 129,000.
To meet this demand, over the next 30 years, we will need to produce as a district, 20,000-50,000 new homes and 520-1000 hectares of business land. With your help, we can provide enough land and infrastructure to meet this need across our urban areas and key growth nodes.
Our council also needs to ensure our infrastructure, facilities and services can cater to our fast-growing district and meet the needs of a growing population of older residents. The strategic issues and opportunities that the Growth Strategy identifies are of real importance to our local hapū and when we work together we must ensure that our response to the strategic issues is appropriate.
As in the rest of New Zealand, Whangārei has seen a dramatic increase in house prices and rents as well as a boom in the number of houses being built, and we do have enough land and infrastructure to meet future demand for new houses.
Our council recognises it has an important role to play by working in partnerships with other agencies and advocating for housing investment in Whangārei.
As our district’s population increases, we want to maintain the current levels of service across all our key infrastructure. We are already on record that we want to boost funding for transportation, especially after this past storm-filled year.
Whangārei is investing in new and better ways to get around our district, including cycleways, shared paths, and bus lanes, all with a view to creating better connectivity.
We are working with our local communities to better understand the needs of our growing local areas, and how growth will affect them and future generations.
Soon, we’ll be starting our 2024-2034 Long Term Plan process and we’ll need your help. We need to understand what the short-, mid-and long-term needs are for our district, taking into account the ever-increasing financial pressures we are all facing.