TODAY |

What's New Zealand's ideal population?

With a doubling time of roughly 35 years, New Zealand’s on track to steadily increase its population in the years to come.

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There is a range of answers under 10 million, with a population number in the range of seven to eight million the most popular. Source: Q+A

But what’s the ideal number for the country’s infrastructure to keep up with?

New Zealand has the physical capacity to take on a larger population; countries like Japan and UK are comparable in land mass and have populations in their tens of millions.  

Celebrated filmmaker Oscar Kightley thinks significant growth can be a good thing for the country, providing there’s an attitudinal change in how society treats migration.

“Greater Sydney is 12,000 square kilometres and that’s 5.3 [million]. We’re 268,000 square kilometres. My number is more,” he told Q+A.

Kightley highlights that migrant communities shouldn’t be treated “like they just got off the plane”.

“I think there’s room as long as we remember that once people move here, they become New Zealanders.”

Economist Arthur Grimes agreed, stating that New Zealand had been “deadly dull and boring” at 2.3 million.

He says that along with the rising population comes the benefit of a more colourful and diverse New Zealand.

Former National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett says by providing a clear outline of projected growth, it allows for the economy to prepare itself.

“If I said that in a year’s time you were going to have another thousand customers, well then you’re going to start building the infrastructure for them.”

Bennett’s thrown her support behind a booming population, calling out the cynics who fear it could cause strain on the country.

“Aucklanders want the infrastructure of Melbourne, yet they’re happy to be at what; 25 percent of the population? Get real.”

Academic Arama Rata says people need to acknowledge that the influx of migrants moving to New Zealand aren’t to blame for the dwindling health of its landscape.

“We need to remember that it’s extractive industries and other industries that are ruining our environment. It’s not the people coming here to live.”

Filtering in migrants could help Covid-struck regions like the West Coast, says sociologist Paul Spoonley.

He’s calling on Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi to consider how the pandemic affects immigration policies with the economy still reeling from the effects of border closures.

Certain regions are going through a “major period of economic transformation” which have been accelerated by the pandemic, he says.

“Are we getting the right sort of people here and then what happens when they’re here? There’s a complete package from initial recruitment all the way through to settlement we need to think about.”