Booming population places stress on infrastructure

PLANS: An extension to the Selwyn Aquatic Centre is proposed as part of the district council's draft long term plan to address its younger demographic profile.

Addressing Selwyn’s booming population remains the district council’s greatest challenge as it launches into its Long Term Plan 2018-2028.

The draft plan will be discussed at the district council meeting today and is expected to be approved for public consultation.

It outlines Selwyn’s rapid growth and demographic changes, showing the district has had a population increase of 190 per cent in the past 30 years.

The district has grown from 20,520 in 1986 to about 56,200 in 2016 – and now sits at about 60,000.

Mayor Sam Broughton said the key is having a realistic view about where the district is today and where it wants to go in the future.

“We need to make sure our infrastructure and service provision matches what those 60,000 people desire,” he said.

While the level of growth has created opportunities, it has also placed stress on systems and infrastructure that support the community’s well-being.

The district council has adopted a growth model for strategic and activity management planning.

The draft plan said the growth model indicates it will continue at a relatively consistent pace over the next few years.

It is expected Selwyn’s population will grow to 86,440 by 2040.

The draft plan also shows Selwyn’s population has a younger demographic profile compared to much of rural and provincial New Zealand.

Between 2013-2017, the part of Selwyn’s population aged 0-39 years grew from 24,500 to 31,700.

But ageing is expected to follow a similar pattern to the majority of New Zealand.

Mayor Broughton said a lot of young families have decided to move to Selwyn.

He said it is important the district council will continue to provide community facilities which match the age demographic of the Selwyn community.

“I think indoor sports spaces are a big part of that with more and more young people looking at a wide range of activities,” he said.

An extension to the Selwyn Aquatic Centre, an indoor courts sport facility at Foster Park and new community centres in Hororata, Prebbleton and Leeston are some of the key proposals in the draft plan.

The district council is also seeking feedback on introducing chlorination to some community water supplies, introducing a new rating structure for the water race network, and a new community grants scheme.

Meanwhile, Selwyn’s economy continued to strengthen at the end of last year.

The latest quarterly economic monitor from analysts, Infometrics, showed gross domestic product growth in the district of 3.9 per cent in December.

This is up from 2.2 per cent six months earlier and well above the national average of 2.8 per cent.

Consumers are adding their weight to the growth of the economy.

Marketview data on electronic card transactions shows retail spending in Selwyn grew by 13 per cent in December compared to the national average of 4.3 per cent growth.

Tourism is also supporting the consumer-driven growth.

Visitor expenditure grew by 14 per cent in December, more than double the national average increase of 6.4 per cent.

Total tourism expenditure was about $102 million in Selwyn during the year to December 2017, up from $89 million a year ago.

In the labour market, sectors such as accommodation and food services had 90 new filled jobs in the year to March 2017.

Wholesale trade grew by 49 filled jobs, and dairy product manufacturing by 42.

Unemployment remained relatively static at 2.3 percent.

Selwyn’s unemployment rate remains well below the regional average and is less than half the national average.

For the December 2017 year as a whole, the number of residential building consents in Selwyn was very similar to 2016.

However, in the final three months of last year, there were 217 consents granted, compared to 290 in the same quarter last year.

Infometrics’ data indicates that on an annual basis, the number of consents in Selwyn decreased by 0.3 per cent compared with the same 12-month period a year ago.

The district council’s statistics show that consent application numbers dropped slightly in September 2017 (by about 20 applications per month) which is not uncommon in an election year.

While the volume has dipped slightly, the district council currently has a number of significant commercial applications being processed.

March and May are historically the biggest months of the year for applications being received, which is expected to contribute to continued strong levels.

Mayor Broughton said it’s encouraging to see the district’s economy maturing and growing at a steady rate across different sectors and markets.