Why and where’s Waitaki grown?

October 8, 2013

Population projections for the Waitaki District have been gloomy for years.

The trend has been for fewer people and the average age of those left getting higher.

But yesterday’s announcement by Statistics New Zealand of electorate populations from this year’s census shows that the Waitaki Electorate’s population has increased from 60,135 to 64, 962.

The electorate includes not just the Waitaki District but most of Central Otago, all of Waimate and Mackenzie Districts, part of Queenstown Lakes and part of Timaru City.

QLDC was expected to increase in population because of Queenstown’s growth but that town is in neighbouring Clutha Southland electorate, not Waitaki.

Wanaka, which is in Waitaki, has grown but more than 3,000 extra people would almost have doubled its population which is unlikely.

There’s been a mini boom in grape growing in Central which will have brought more people into the area but again I’d be surprised if it’s thousands.

Both Waimate and Waitaki Districts have had a big increase in dairy farming which increases employment opportunities on and off farm.

Could it be that anecdotal evidence of a population increase, and a lowering of the average age, because of dairying is reflected in official statistics?

The answer to why Waitaki has grown and where will come when more census data is released.


Canterbury too big for one council

October 10, 2012

ECan commissioners have recommended that a unitary authority be considered for Canterbury for the 2016 elections.

I’m supportive of the idea of unitary authorities in general.

Separate city or district and regional councils add costs and layers of bureaucracy which could be reduced if their functions came under one local body.

But Canterbury is too big and diverse for a single council.

The size of the existing regional council, dominance of Christchurch and distance from it has always been problematic for people in that part of the Waitaki District which comes under ECan, it would be even worse under a single authority.

The Waitaki River has long been a physical and social boundary between Canterbury and Otago, but there could be a case for combining the Waitaki, Waimate and Mackenzie councils as a unitary authority.

It might need Timaru as well to give the numbers and rating base for a viable council and that would provide a reasonable urban/rural balance.

The districts north of the Rangitata River could unite to form another unitary authority with Christchurch.

Two unitary authorities might work, one over such a large area with so many disparate concerns and issues would not.


Beauty and blots

June 8, 2009

The ODT’s report on plans for irrigation in the Mackenzie basin illustrates two opposing views.

Forest and Bird South Island conservation manager Chris Todd said the proposed irrigation to allow intensive farming of the basin could turn its “spectacular dry, sunburnt vistas” into a replica of the highly developed Canterbury Plains.

“Industrial-scale farming in our most fragile and visually stunning high country landscapes is not sustainable.”

The second has a different view:

Mackenzie Irrigation Company director Murray Valentine, of Dunedin, said compared with the size of the Mackenzie Basin, the 27,000ha that farmers wanted to irrigate was very small.

The plan was not to irrigate the high country but the “flat land”, he said.

If farmers got approval, they could increase stock rates per hectare by up to 15 times.

“We’re talking about areas that are basically the nearest thing we have to desert and are completely modified with hieracium and wilding pines.”

In some countries bringing life to the desert, with the economic, environmental and social benefits which follow is seen as a wonderful achievement.

The scenery in this area is stunning to most people, but they drive through it at 100 kilometres an hour – or faster – on the journey between Canterbury and Central Otago.

It’s a different picture for many of those who live in the Mackenzie. They too see beauty but those “spectacular, dry sunburnt vistas”  are heartbreaking for people trying to earn a living who would regard the green pastures of Canterbury as paradise.

It’s possible to make objective decisions on such things as pollution of waterways, but beauty is subjective.

One person’s stunning scenery is another’s blot on the landscape.


Dean leads ST poll of Waitaki

November 5, 2008

National’s Otago MP and Waitaki candidate  Jacqui Dean is ahead in a Southland Times poll of the Waitaki Electorate.

In the same poll conducted by The Southland Times leading up to the 2005 election, Mrs Dean led sitting Otago MP David Parker by 8 percentage points and went on to win the then Otago seat by 5.5 per cent, a margin of almost 2000 votes – righting a “blip” from the 2002 election when Mr Parker won the traditionally National electorate.

The Otago electorate no longer exists, with Central Otago and Wanaka now included in the Waitaki electorate.

It now covers 34,888 sqaure kilometres taking in all of Central Otago, Waitaki, Waimate and Mackenzie Districts with bits of the Timaru and Queenstown Lakes Districts.

Activity and publicity so far indicate Jacqui is the only candidate actively seeking both the electorate and party vote and that is reflected in the poll.

In this year’s poll, Mrs Dean leads by 14 percentage points, with 42 per cent of support, compared with 28 per cent support for Mr Parker. Third highest poller was Green Party candidate Oliver Briggs on 2.3 per cent support.

But with a quarter of voters polled still undecided Mr Parker could still take the seat if they swung his way.

Results were closer in the party vote, with 37.7 per cent of voters supporting National, and 31.7 per cent Labour. Act was on 2 per cent and New Zealand First on 1.3 per cent support.

In the 2005 election, National won the party vote in the Otago electorate by 5 per cent over Labour.

A popular MP will always win more support than his or her party because some people will split their votes, giving one to the MP but not giving the second tick to her/his party.

So while I’d expect Jacqui’s popularity to transcend party loyalty I think both she and National will get more support on Satruday than this poll indicates.

It is not a deep blue electorate but 37.7% is about 10 points below the average  support for National in nationwide polls and it would be unusual if Waitaki was that different from the rest of the country.


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