Gisborne DistrictPopulation forecast
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Gisborne District

Drivers of population change

Development history

The Gisborne District is located in an isolated area on the east coast of the North Island in New Zealand. The region has a single city - Gisborne, with just three state highways linking it to the rest of the country. The District encompasses the sparsely populated East Cape and Poverty Bay, including the townships of Tokomaru Bay, Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria. As of 2013, the urban area of Gisborne encompasses 79% of the Districts population and is the main service centre for retailing, business services, health and education.

Māori first named the Gisborne area Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. Kiwa was the captain aboard the Tākitimu canoe, one of the first Māori boats to make landfall at the Tūranganui River (which runs through the city of Gisborne today). The north of the Gisborne Region is home to the related tribes of Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngāi Tāmanuhiri (previously known as Ngāi Tahupō). The more southern areas of the District are home to Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

James Cook visited the region in 1769, and from the late 18th century European whalers and traders began to arrive in the region, establishing the first township of Turanga. In the late 1860s, 300 hectares of land was purchased by the government for the construction of a town site, and in 1871 Turanga was re-named Gisborne. The early economy of the district was based primarily around sheep and beef farming.

The population of the town was recorded at 2,737 in 1901 and rose to more than 15,000 in 1926 spurred by the construction of the rail line in 1915. Gisborne obtained city status (population greater than 20,000) in 1955 and by 1976 the population had reached 30,000.

The modern-day Gisborne District Council area was formed in 1989, and since that time the population of the District has fluctuated between 46,000 in 1986, 44,000 in 1991, 46,000 from 1996-2006 and 47,000 in 2013.

In 2013, around 17% of the Region's workforce is employed in Agriculture, forestry and fishing, 12% employed in Health care and social assistance, with a further 10% employed in Education and training. While the number of those employed in Agriculture, forestry and fishing experience a decline of 7% between 2006 and 2013, in the same time period jobs in Health care and social assistance increased by 17%.

Migration patterns

The population of the Gisborne District has remained quite stagnant over the last twenty-seven years, albeit with varying rates of growth and decline from period to period. The dominant drivers for population growth during these periods were:

  • Gain of persons from overseas as well as a number of neighbouring Territorial Authorities
  • Attraction of families to the area, based on the amenity and beauty
  • Little migration movement from those aged 55 years +, resulting in a large proportion of the population aging in place within the district
  • Employment growth in services, especially Health care, Transport, Professional, scientific and technical services and education

The dominant drivers for population loss during these periods have been:

  • Large loss of young adults as home leavers move out of the area to seek further educational and employment opportunities in larger centres around the country, such as Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton
  • Loss of employment in Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • Loss of employment in other key industries such as Retail trade and Construction

It is assumed that a number of these patterns will continue into the future, most notably flows into the City from overseas, losses of young people to larger centres and the ability of the district to retain its retirees.

Historical migration flows, Gisborne District, 2006-2011
Historical migration flows, Gisborne District, 2006-2011
'Overseas' refers to arrivals only.

Population and household forecasts, 2013 to 2043, prepared by .id the population experts, March 2017.

Note: The migration flows depicted above are historical and do not represent future or forecast migration flows or subsequent council boundary changes. The arrows represent migration flows to the area as a whole and do not indicate an origin or destination for any specific localities within the area. Overseas flow shows overseas arrivals only, based on answers to the census question “where did the person usually live 5-years ago.

Housing role and function

Within the Gisborne Region, as a result of the progressive residential development of the City over a century, the diverse demand for housing, the range of land uses and varying planning policies, areas have developed different roles within the housing market.

Gisborne Central attracts a large number of persons in their late teens and twenties, which is a reflection on the more 'inner urban' nature of the area with significant rental stock and access to education and entertainment.

The ‘Greenfield’ areas in Riverdale, tend to attract families drawn to the large areas of new dwelling stock while recent lifestyle villages and nursing home developments appeal to retirees and the elderly.

The more rural residential areas of Makaraka – Matokitoki and Wainui - Okitu tend to attract a greater share of established and mature families, looking to upgrade to their second and third home.

Established urban areas with minimal recent development such as Gisborne Airport – Awapuni, Kaiti North, Kaiti South, Mangapapa, Tamarau, Te Hapara and Whataupoko have lost population in most age groups over the last 5 years. Across the forecast period, many of these suburbs will gain population as many of the long-standing residents vacate properties, opening up additional dwelling supply to family households.

The more rural areas of the region like Tarndale - Rakauroa - Te Karaka, Tiniroto - Patutahi – Manutuke Tokomaru Bay - Ruatoria - East Cape & Wharekaka - Tolaga Bay tend to lose a larger proportion of young adults than other areas within the TA, but generally still have small amounts of growth in family households.

This variety of function and role of the small areas in the Gisborne Region means that population outcomes differ significantly across the municipality.

Housing supply

There are also significant differences in the supply of residential property within the Region which will also have a major influence in structuring different population and household futures over the next five to twenty years.

Large new 'greenfield' opportunities have been identified in Riverdale, Kaiti South and Wainui - Okitu. Makaraka - Matokitoki and other areas within Wainui - Okitu have large areas of ‘Rural Lifestyle’ and ‘Rural Residential’ zoned land that cater larger sections/homes on the fringe of the established urban area.

Established residential areas like Gisborne Central, Mangapapa and Whataupoko are expected to have an increasing role in providing ‘infill’ development around the urban centre of the city.

There are likely to be other greenfield, infill and rural residential development opportunities throughout the City, albeit at lower levels than the major growth areas identified above.

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