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Youngsters follow the Piped Piper out of folksy

Julian Wood – Despite rising income- Julian Wood Web

We all know the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. A tune is played that is so powerful it solves a rat problem and saves a city.

A second tune is played that is so powerful it draws all but three children to leave their families and hometown.

Unbeknown to most of us the Pied Piper is playing again.

Globalisation and trade enable New Zealand to grow in new ways, diversify economic risk, and allow us to experience flavours and use amazing products designed for a far greater market than New Zealand.

Valuable export

Unfortunately, a second tune has also been playing, causing young people to leave rural areas in droves.

The most valuable export that most regions have is not logs, milk, or animal meat. It is their young people. The New Zealand population is ageing; our age dependency ratio (percentage of the population who are children or over retirement age) is 53% and climbing. At the moment, we are ten percentage points behind Japan, the developed nation at the forefront of the aging population curve.

Unfortunately, looking at averages masks what many areas are facing.

Urbanisation hits

Northland for example has an age dependency ratio of 68%.

The Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Tasman and Marlborough are all the same or higher than Japan.

In stark contrast, Auckland, Wellington, Otago and Canterbury are all below the national average. Auckland is the best off at 47%.

Urbanisation and ageing are present realities.

However, when one looks deeper in Northland, for example, we see how this works within a region. Major urban areas inside Northland are also benefiting from this movement of people. Of the 97 areas in Northland, nine are actually below the New Zealand average of 53%.

Almost all of these are urban centres. It is possible that these areas could latch onto these flows in, and create an environment of growth for the region.

Technology influences

There are also now technologies and solutions that mean young people might not have to move to the traditional centres of learning to participate in higher education.

Certainly a lecture or tutorial can be delivered and participated in simultaneously around the globe, so why not inside New Zealand?

Northland will soon be the landing point for a new data cable.

One way to lower student loans might be for education institutions to think outside the box and let communities provide hubs of learning in cheaper areas to live.

Why should students move to the big cities to study when a lecturer can appear anywhere by video, and libraries can be accessed at the touch of a button?

Negative relationship

While age and risk taking are often negatively related, they do not have to be.

After all, rural New Zealand was built using a ‘Number 8 wire’ mentality, along with a commitment to one’s community.

Facing up to the challenge of urbanisation with this sense of urgency and creativity could be a spur for innovation and job growth that causes the piper to change his tune.

Julian Wood is a Researcher at Maxim Institute based in Auckland.

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