April 24, 2003 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Statistics are great! According to Statistics New Zealand, the population of my small island-nation home reached 4 million today! At 5:35pm (NZST) in fact. Not a big number really but a nice milestone. I think I am number 3,184,236 but I am open to correction.
posted by sycophant (11 comments total)
Meanwhile Winston Peters uses the occasion to have a quick bash at overstayers.

This is good news but still I think the population is too small. New Zealand would do well to ignore the purple rinse set and let in a couple of million more immigrants in over the next thirty years. Better economy, better food, cuter chidren, and a better mix of ideas. And less bloody farms.
posted by dydecker at 6:57 AM on April 24, 2003

It is interesting to think about "optimal" population density. Think about it. If you have too few people per square mile, you don't have scale. You don't have enough people who are interested in blogging or biostats or buddhism or vegan food. Alternatively, clearly India and China's 1 billion plus is ridiculous. What is the "optimal" population density? When do you stop feeling lonely and start feeling crowded?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 7:58 AM on April 24, 2003

I got back 2 weeks ago from 4.5 weeks in NZ. Loved it. Been wanting to emigrate there for about 3 years now, after visiting I'm even more interested. Problem is, I never bothered to get a degree. Doesn't matter in the IT world, but the immigration folks care. They do offer a work-around, where if I get a job offer they'll let me in, but IT jobs are almost exclusively done through headhunters. Headhunters get paid when you start work, and are thus not keen on waiting a month while you cycle through NZIS. Bit of a catch-22, that. So, I'm either going to go back and get the degree, or just get a business loan and come in under the long term business visa and apply as an entrepreneur later on. Too bad NZIS is such a pain, we'd have moved there a year or two ago if it was easier.
posted by ehintz at 8:48 AM on April 24, 2003

So what is the deal exactly with NZ encouraging the higher-educated to immigrate? I hear that place is da shiz-nit, and I have a master's in ecology...
posted by gottabefunky at 9:08 AM on April 24, 2003

My fiance and I are planning a three-week honeymoon this fall in New Zealand. I'm half-afraid we'll both fall in love with it (we've been warned) and will want to emigrate, which won't really work given our strong family ties here in the U.S.

Sycophant, is there anyplace "off the tourist maps" that you'd recommend not missing? Both North and South Island are fair game and I'm particularly keen to learn if you'd recommend a farmstay.
posted by clever sheep at 11:13 AM on April 24, 2003

clever sheep: My fiance and I are planning a three-week honeymoon this fall in New Zealand. I'm half-afraid we'll both fall in love with it (we've been warned)

You will; we did (honeymoon, May 1998). Gorgeous place, lovely people. It's enough that you'll consider not telling anyone about NZ, in a selfish attempt to keep it your own secret.

Our thoughts when we saw Lord of the Rings: "Oh no, everyone's going to want to go there..."
posted by kurumi at 12:40 PM on April 24, 2003

clever sheep: There are heaps of place both on and off the tourist maps that shouldn't be missed. For the most parts, tourist have great taste when it comes to our country and do want to see all the best bits. However there are some things that are less touristy that are really worth doing. A little bit of hiking in the Milford Sound, or Abel Tasman national park in the South Island. Go out sailing on the Waitamata Harbour in Auckland. Head north and spend some time at the Kaiwi Lakes. They are a bit touristy I guess, but normally a step beyond your average bus tour. As for a farmstay - I guess it depends on your tastes really, it certainly can be eye-opening. Many New Zealand farms offer incredible scenery but I believe most farm stays expect you to do some work while you are there, and milking cows is not easy or clean work :)

gottabefunky: Check out The NZIS site. NZ has a points-based immigration system. Many things count toward your points including education. If you have the required points, you can apply for residency.

In the mean time, as far as I am concerned, you are all more than welcome to come on down here. I like diversity!
posted by sycophant at 3:25 PM on April 24, 2003

Jesus, I just want to move there, not take the SATs. ;)
posted by gottabefunky at 4:05 PM on April 24, 2003

Population increase is not necessarily a cause for celebration. In fact some might even cringe in agony.

Let's take a look:

New Zealand total land area: 286,670 sq. km. Population: 4 million. Still enough room to stretch your legs.

South Korea total land area: 98, 190 sq. km Population: 47 million. Less than half the size and more than ten times the population. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

There are more truly mind-boggling examples, but be thankful there is room to breathe and clean air down there.

Incidentally while searching for land area, I found this site, which may be of interest.
posted by hama7 at 9:03 PM on April 24, 2003

Less than half the size

Should read: "less than one third". (More or less).
posted by hama7 at 9:06 PM on April 24, 2003

Hello, dydecker. Live in Auckland, do you? Earn New Zealand currency? In the rental market? No? Look, there are serious problems with this high net-immigration policy, which I might add is being driven by bureaucrats and economists in Wellington, who are relatively insulated from the problems it's causing.

(i) Migrants are settling disproportionately in Auckland, where there's a near total lack of competent infrastructure planning to cope with them. There's a housing shortage, and the building industry -- radically de-skilled after the decline of the apprenticeship system and falling academic standards in engineering and elsewhere -- is too incompetent and local councils too complacent/corrupt to provide much relief. This is leading to (a) a general decline in the quality of new housing in Auckland, and (b) steadily rising rents and house prices. Price increases in the last two years have been far in excess of wages, disadvantaging locals who don't have the benefit of overseas capital.

(ii) The policy is intended to ensure that the current 'tight' labour market won't result in substantial wage increases, which neo-conservative economists fear will lead to inflation. This simply exacerbates the problems in 1(b): household debt already averages around 140% of household income, and, with low wages earned in an internationally weak currency, locals are finding that they're being easily out-competed by migrants (and even international students) in both the rental and retail housing markets. This is compounded by the fact that the immigration policy is aimed at bringing in 'high net worth individuals', who have enormous capital advantages over most New Zealanders.

(iii) Complacency and under-spending in Auckland ensure that the city simply cannot cope with a massive increase in population in the short term. Traffic congestion is chronic and worsening daily, because of increasing car numbers, a lack of spending on roads, and a moribund public transport system. The sewers are also overwhelmed. What's that charming smell in downtown Auckland? Well, that would be shit in the stormwater drains.

(iv) New Zealanders are also being priced out of education. High net worth immigration is driving up house prices most in good school zones. Houses here are now out of reach of all but a tiny majority of Aucklanders. With education being treated by the government as a commodity, naturally those with the most ability to pay are those with the most access. Already, for instance, perhaps 40% of full-time students at the University of Auckland are international students or the children of recent immigrants. At the same time, enrolments of Maori students, for instance, have declined. These issues are only likely to get worse when GATS is ratified, perhaps later on this year.

(v) Pollution. As Auckland expands, so does its car fleet. This results not only in declining air quality, but also (for instance) in serious and increasing run-off problems as car-derived toxins and heavy metals accumulate in Auckland's harbours via storm water outlets. The state of the environment is pretty bad as it is (despite Tourism New Zealand's carefully maintained 'clean, green' image); it's only going to get worse as the population expands.

Bottom line: I don't really have faith in the local bureaucratic elites to plan for a large increase in population without a proportionate decrease in standard of living for the rest of us. And Winston Peters is right, damn him (and believe me, I never though I would say that). Auckland is being sacrificed out of short sighted greed by bureaucrats, developers, and lobbyists who see in immigrants a new and lucrative source of capital. And the pathetic anti-Auckland provincialism (which is perhaps strongest in Wellington) is contributing to this. It makes me sick, but unless the rental market crashes, I will soon no longer be able to afford to live in my home city. I think I'll move to Wellington.

gottabefunky: Good for you, but unless you also have an MBA, the immigration department might not be interested in you, though God knows this country could do with more ecologists...

hama7: you're absolutely right. My fear is that people won't know what they have here until it's gone.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:57 AM on April 25, 2003

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