Wairarapa RegionPopulation forecast
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Drivers of population change

Development history

The Wairarapa councils area is situated in the lower North Island. The area covers three territorial authorities – Carterton District Council, Masterton District Council and South Wairarapa District Council. In Te Reo Maori, name “Wairarapa” means “glistening waters”. This combined forecast resource has been created for collective use but also for individual councils to explore their own small area forecasts.

Carterton District is in the southern part of New Zealand’s North Island, about 80 kilometres north-east of the Wellington CBD. Carterton District is named after Charles Rooking Carter, a Wairarapa Parliamentarian and philanthropist. Originally known as Three Mile Bush, the village was established to house and support workers building the road between Greytown and Masterton. In 1857, in recognition of Mr. Carter, settlers chose the name of Carterville for the new village, later changed to Carterton in 1859. In the district, rural land is used largely for sheep grazing, lamb production and dairy farming. The township of Carterton provided a base for the men working on the road between nearby Greytown and Masterton. Land use revolved around farming and timber. Like the rest of the Wairarapa region, growth was experienced during the late 1800s and early 1900s because of the opening of the railway line to Wellington in 1880.

Carterton’s most significant development occurred from the post-war years through to the 1970s when a change of government policy rocked agriculture and stalled the rural economy. The population of the District only registered a small increase during the 1980s, rising from about 6,400 in 1981 to 6,800 in 1991. The population was relatively stable till 2001, increased slightly to about 7,100 in 2006. However, the last census period revealed a much larger population increase as the population count rose to 8,200 in 2013, a result which showed Carterton District had the highest growth of any local authority in the North Island.

Masterton District is located to the north of the Carterton District and is the largest district and town (Masterton) in the Wairarapa Valley. Masterton was founded in 1854 and is named after Joseph Masters, the central figure in the Small Farms Association which was tasked with placing early working settlers into the area. Masterton’s land area is dominated by rural areas used largely for farming, particularly sheep and cattle grazing.

European settlers arrived in Masterton from 1854 when the Masterton township was established. The economy at that time was based around agriculture and growth was slow. The opening of the railway line in 1880 heralded a period of growth through into the early 1900s. Masterton took on a role as the Wairarapa region’s main market and distribution centre.

Strong residential development occurred during the 1950s and 1960s but government deregulations policies had a detrimental effect on agriculture and the 1970s witnessed little growth. The population of the District increased slightly during the 1980s, rising from about 22,000 in 1981 to about 22,600 in 1991, was relatively stable to 2006, and then increased slightly again to about 23,300 in 2013.

The South Wairarapa District Council area is located at the southern end of the Wairarapa Valley and is the nearest territorial authority to Wellington City. The District’s name originates from Haunui-a-nanaia, the grandson of the famous Māori voyager Kupe, who named the wider Wairarapa region.

As with nearby Masterton, South Wairarapa’s European settlement dates from the 1840s. New Zealand’s first sheep station was established in Wharekaka, near present day Martinborough, in 1844. Land was used mainly for sheep and cattle farming. The township of Greytown was established in 1854, Featherston in 1857, and Martinborough in 1881. The railway line was constructed in the 1880s, prompting growth through the next two decades.

From the early 1900s Greytown became a prominent fruit growing area, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s. The fertile lands also nurtured Martinborough’s reputation as a grape growing and wine making area from the 1970s.

Population growth was steady in the post-war years, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s. The population of South Wairarapa was relatively stable from the 1980s, with the population remaining less than 9,000 people between 1996 and 2006. More recently the 2013 census registered a population increase to about 9,800.

Migration patterns

The Wairarapa region has in the last 30-40 years increased its connectivity to the larger, more populated southern cities of the Wellington Region, namely Upper Hutt, Hutt City and Wellington City. Many residents in the three municipalities making up the region live here but commute to those larger settlements closer to Wellington for work. The Wairarapa Connection, an interurban commuter rail service runs along the Wairarapa line through all main centres in the area (Featherston, Greytown, Carterton, Masterton) and have offered a connection to the nation’s capital since 1964.

Migration moves differ within the area, southern settlements in the Wairarapa tend to gravitate towards Wellington whereas northern settlements slightly more towards Palmerston North and further afield. In terms of net migration, the South Wairarapa and Carterton District experienced net gains of residents from Wellington City between 2008 and 2013 with Carterton District gaining 150 residents and South Wairarapa, gaining 237 residents in this period. Migration moves tend to have a dominant age specific component, so while the two southern districts experienced net gains of residents from Wellington City, they also lost most residents to Wellington City. Arrivals from Wellington tend to be young or established families, mainly aged 30-44 years with children aged 0-14 years moving different parts of the Wairarapa for affordable housing, lifestyle and sometimes employment opportunities. The residents which are lost to large cities like Wellington tend to be 17-24 year olds, representing school leavers departing home for education and employment opportunities in Wellington City. There is also an element of older residents aged 50-69 years representing downsizing empty nesters who may leave larger homes closer to the Wellington/Hutt/Upper Hutt/Porirua area and purchase more affordable and at times larger blocks with the purpose of a lifestyle change.

In the 2008-2013 period, almost 46% of all Carterton District residents did not move (remained at same address), 13.7% moved within the District, 6% moved here from other parts of New Zealand and 3% from another country. From a location perspective, in the 2008-2013 period, Carterton District gained most residents from Wellington City, as mentioned, but also from Hutt City, Upper Hutt City and Porirua City. Locally, there was a net gain of 114 residents from South Wairarapa. There was also a net gain of 50 residents from overseas - not all of these people would have come directly to Carterton District but, in the five years since they first came to New Zealand, they will have moved to the Carterton District from another port of arrival, such as Wellington City. Largest net migration losses from Carterton interestingly are to none of the other TAs in the region. There is a loss of residents to Dunedin City, possibly representing younger adults leaving for education and employment purposes. There is also a small loss of residents to Christchurch City and other small losses to the Tasman District and Whangarei District. In the future, the Carterton District will have a net gain of young and established families aged 30-44 years with children aged 0-9 years old. There will also be a slightly lower gain of mature adults and empty nesters aged 45-49 years and early retirees aged 60-74 years. As persons in older age groups tend to be less mobile, there is very little movement in terms of net migration of those aged over 75 years.

In the 2008-2013 period, 45% of all Masterton District residents did not move. 23% moved within the District, 7% moved here from other parts of New Zealand and 3% from another country. From a location perspective, in the 2008-2013 period, Masterton District gained most residents from South Wairarapa, followed by net gains from overseas. There was a net gain of 70 residents from Auckland City and 50 from Hutt City. Largest net migration losses are to Wellington City and Palmerston North City with a few further destinations also being desired locations for Masterton District residents – Christchurch and Tauranga. In the future, the Masterton District will continue to gain young and established families aged 30-44 years with children aged 0-14 years. It will also continue to gain mature adult and empty nester residents aged 45-64 years who may move here for a lifestyle choice or are downsizing from a more urban environment elsewhere (e.g. Wellington City) There is little change expected in the net gain of older adults, 70 years and over. The loss of young adults aged 17-24 years is representative of school leavers departing in search of education and employment opportunities elsewhere regionally (Wellington, Palmerston North) of further away.

In the 2008-2013 period, almost 48% of all South Wairarapa District residents did not move, whereas almost 15% moved within the District. 6% of all residents moved here from other parts of New Zealand and just over 3% from another country. As the South Wairarapa District is closest of all three to the main centres in the Wellington Region, net migration by location confirms that relationship. Largest migration gains to South Wairarapa are from Wellington City. Upper Hutt and Hutt City also contribute in terms of net migration gain as does Popirua City. There was also a net gain of 45 residents to the District from Auckland City in the 2008-2013 period. The total net overseas migration was 65 persons over that five year period. Largest net losses from the South Wairarapa District were to the Masterton District, followed by Carterton and a smaller loss to Palmerston North City. In the future, the South Wairarapa District will have a relatively stable and consistent net migration by age profile. The District will continue to gain young and established families with children aged 30-44 years (with children aged 0-9 years). It will also, to a lesser extent, gain mature adults, empty nesters and early retirees aged 45-64 years. There will be a slight loss of the retired elderly, aged over 70 years who may be moving closer to larger centres which have aged care and medical facilities. The District will continue to lose young adults aged 17-24 years who leave the District in search of education and employment opportunities elsewhere, perhaps nearby Wellington City or further away.

The abovementioned migration information relates to long term/permanent migration moves. However, on a daily basis (i.e. journey to work), it is visible that the three TAs in the region have connections to each other and the wider Wellington Region, with differences visible the further away from the main regional centres you go.

46% of all employed Carterton District residents also work in the district whereas 44% live within the district but work outside (namely Masterton). In the Masterton District, the workflow characteristics are different and more self-contained. 74% of Masterton District’s employed residents also work within the district and 16% live within the district but work elsewhere (namely nearby Carterton). Finally, in South Wairarapa, 57% of all employed residents also work within the district and 33% live here but work outside, namely Wellington City (650 residents) and Masterton (370 residents).

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

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 based on answers to the census question "where did the person usually live 5-years ago" and .id estimates of international out-migration.

Housing role and function

Over time, different parts of the Wairarapa Councils Area and the three TAs which make it up will establish different housing roles and functions. As a whole, the Wairarapa councils area contains several housing markets, each with distinct roles and functions. In the Carterton District, Carterton North will gain young and established families aged 30-39 years with children aged 0-9 years. It will also gain empty nesters, early retirees and retirees while losing young adults aged 17-24 years. Carterton South has less of a gain of empty nesters and retirees than Carterton North but this is still evident. As with many other areas, it will gain young and established families and lose young school leavers. The Mount Holdsworth-Waingawa area sees gains of families with children and a gain of mature adults aged 45-49 years old with a minor gain of early retirees as well. There will be little change in net migration of older residents and as with other areas of the district, there will be a loss of young adults aged 17-24 years.

In the Masterton District, some areas will experience similar net migration patterns in the future. Opaki-Fernridge will experience a gain of mature families with children, a gain of empty nesters and early retirees and a loss of young adults. This is similar to the migration patterns that Masterton East, Masterton West and Solway North will experience. Solway South, as an area with a lot of dwelling supply will see an increase in net gains of almost all age groups. There will be a gain of young families with children, empty nesters, some retirees and the elderly aged over 85 years. The overall pattern of net migration in Solway South will also be experienced by Kopuaranga, Lansdowne and Upper Plain. Finally, Homebush-Te Ore Ore-Whareama has several housing markets present in its net migration profile. There will be a slight gain of young adults without children as well as mature families aged 35-44 years with children. There is a gain of empty nesters and early retirees and a loss of young school leaving age adults. The area will also experience slight losses of the elderly aged 60-84 years who may be vacating the area to live closer to aged care and medical institutions.

Lastly, the South Wairarapa District will experience gains of predominantly young and established families while also gaining residents in older age groups and losing younger adults. Featherston will see a gain of 30-39 year olds with children aged 0-9 years along with a smaller gain of 45-54 year olds, perhaps living as empty nesters and moving here for lifestyle, affordability and downsizing. The loss of school leavers aged 17-24 years looking for education and employment opportunities elsewhere will continue into the future. Greytown sees a net gain of young couples aged 25-29 years as well as the young and established families. There is a slight gain of mature adults, early retirees and retirees aged 45-69 years and again a loss of young adults aged 17-24 years. The geographically large Rural area has a similar profile to other areas in the district where there is a gain of young and established families aged 30-39 years with children aged 0-9 years, a net gain of older adults, a slight loss in retirees aged 65-84 years and a loss of young adults aged 17-24 years.

Housing supply

The three territorial authorities that make up the Wairarapa councils area have over time experienced several periods of low and high growth rates. This is at times driven by economic prosperity of the area in question or sometimes the economic prosperity of a nearby area which could be growing at the cost of another.

In recent years, Carterton District has experienced high levels of residential building activity. On average, the District added 32 dwellings per annum to total private dwelling stock in the TA between 2001 and 2006 while doubling that rate to 76 dwellings per annum in the 2006-2013 period. At the start of the forecast period, several developments such as Villa Estate Retirement Living, Hartley Development Stage 1 and Armstrong Avenue will contribute to the dwelling supply of the TA. After that, after that developments in Ashmore Park and Stage 2 of the Hartley Development will drive most of the supply. Infill development can be expected to increase in Carterton North and South and also for there to be a spill over of development into Te Wharau and Mount Holdsworth-Waingawa (the parts immediately adjacent to the Carterton township) from the mid 2020s (as per the Carterton Township Growth Strategy).

The Masterton District, as the largest TA in this area will also experience the most growth from a residential development perspective. In recent history average annual rates of development increased from 67 dwellings per annum between 2001 and 2006 to 80 between 2006 and 2013. As with South Wairarapa, 2017 saw the highest total residential building consent totals in some time (in Masterton, highest since 2008). Development and additions of new dwellings in the forecast period will consist of Solway Estate, John McDonald Mews and the commencement of the Gimson Street development in the short term, followed by the Cashmere Oaks Estate in Opaki-Fernridge increasing in rates of development from 2020. In this period the Lemonwood and Westwood developments will also occur before The Plains and The Barracks (Judd Road) developments, in Upper Plain and Masterton West respectively, commence and complete by mid/late 2020s. Long term development in the Masterton District will be driven by a few future development sites in Castlepoint from 2029 but more so by the Upper Plains Future Development Area and the Rewa Place Small Farm development. Rates of infill development in the established parts of the Masterton township are also expected to increase over time as demand for housing and ability to develop on existing blocks near existing and established service and amenity is made possible.

The South Wairarapa District has also seen an increase in residential development levels in the past 10-15 years. In the 2001-2006 period, the annual growth rate was around 37 dwellings per annum whereas from 2006-2013, it increased to 43 dw/pa. 2017 saw the highest total of residential building consents (for new dwellings) in the District in over 20 years. Developments such as Westwood Avenue, Garrity Lane, Fairway Drive and Governors Green Drive provide dwelling supply in the short term. From the late 2010s, development in Tuscan Lane increases as does the commencement of the Greytown Future Development Area which will contribute to the TA’s housing supply until mid/late 2030s. This period will also see the development of Tararua Views and the commencement of the Martinborough Future Residential Area (from 2022) and more future Martinborough Residential Land development can be expected from 2032 and to continue developing beyond 2043.

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