Ageing population challenge for Teviot

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Uncertainty about the Teviot Valley’s future population makeup, what changes might be in store for school rolls, the pool of employees and aged care has been exercising the minds of Teviot Prospects’ members, says forum chairman Pat Garden.

Mr Garden said Teviot Prospects was seeking community suggestions about the valley’s future and how to address the potential challenges it faced.

The group held a Futures Forum in September last year, which included three key presentations.

Central Otago District Council’s Economic Development manager Nick Lanham talked about the economic status of the Teviot Valley, Massey University’s Distinguished Prof Paul Spoonley discussed demographic trends and Southern District Health Board’s Primary Care and Population Health general manager Mary Cleary-Lyons covered the future provision of healthcare services to an ageing rural community.

Mr Garden said some challenging conclusions came from the discussions, including a long-term population trend showing possible stagnation or decline, and while a significant proportion of the population were senior citizens, the education levels across our residents are significantly lower than the New Zealand mean.

Prof Spoonley said one disturbing trend was the ratio of under 15-year-olds to the over-65s.

He said 19.6% of the New Zealand population was under 15 and 14% were over 65.

That contrasted with the Teviot Valley’s demographic where only 14% of the population was under 15 while 25.4% was over 65.

Once demographic trends reach a certain tipping point, it is difficult to turn it around and that has significant implications for school rolls and how the provision of medical services will need to adapt.

A diminishing pool of young labour means workers will have to be increasingly sourced from outside the district.

‘‘Solutions are not simple,’’ Mr Garden said.

‘‘Young families will only be attracted to the district by secure jobs available throughout the year and while the valley’s horticulture industry has a huge appetite for labour, it is currently focused around a transient labour force.

‘‘This does provide a welcome ethnic diversity to the social fabric of the community but they don’t bring any kids to the schools.

‘‘There may be potential for more permanent employees in managerial roles but automation around harvesting islikely to be where future investment is directed.’’

Mr Garden said the recent commitment of Ngai Tahu to explore opportunities in the valley offered partnership possibilities.

Anyone wishing to comment can contact Mr Garden on pat.marcelle@farmside.co.nz