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What's happening in our small towns?

Decreasing populations and lack of jobs has resulted in the loss of key people in our small towns, say researchers from Taylor Baines in Christchurch.

Research leader Nick Taylor said, "There has been substantial change over the last 20 years. In many places employment and populations have fallen and this has meant the loss of key community people such as teachers and medical professionals."

"We have also identified substantial change in industries, technology, and work. While subcontracting and part-time work have increased productivity, they have at the same time reduced employment.

"Low-cost housing attracts newcomers who are often of low social-economic status. In many places the focus of the local mill, school or council office has gone," said Mr Taylor.

The study, which is an investment of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, has analysed the social and economic characteristics of over 170 communities in rural New Zealand.

It also examined the relationship between communities and their natural resource bases, such as farming, forestry, mining, fishing, energy and tourism.

One New Zealand town involved in the study is Twizel.

"Twizel's residents see a potentially bright future and are setting out to change perceptions of the town, raise its profile, and promote what the district has to offer," said Dr Taylor.

"It seems that Twizel's future now depends on its ability to attract entrepreneurs and investors to replace the aging population and their way of life. Such change is not easy or painless, but it can succeed, given informed local and regional strategies, coordinated effort and diverse leadership.

"The results of this research will enable communities to enhance their economic development and community services, and will also provide a basis for social impact assessment," said Dr Taylor.

For Further Information:

Dr Nick Taylor, Taylor Baines & Associates, 03 3138458, n.taylor@tba.co.nz, www.tba.co.nz Madeleine Setchell, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 4987 806, Mobile 025 40 60 40, madelein@frst.govt.

Madeleine Setchell Communications Adviser Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 9177806 Mobile 025 40 60 40 www.frst.govt.nz


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