Population and Economic Trends
During the last decade the rural population increased by 4.65 per cent, but the bald census returns require further interpretation, especially for the back-country counties. In Tawera, Oxford, Amuri, Kawai, and Geraldine counties it would seem that the increases have been registered in the small townships rather than in the distinctly agricultural districts, whereas in Waipara and Cheviot counties the actual farming districts appear to have shown an increase in population. The decline in Mackenzie county is attributable to the completion of the hydro constructions on Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki and the abandonment of construction camps. Over the same period of time the urban population has increased by 26.16 per cent and the increase in the Christchurch region was slightly higher at 26.58 per cent.
The Christchurch Region hardly requires a separate treatment from Christchurch City, but one must note the expansion that has occurred and the main features of its economic structure. In 1961 the Christchurch Employment District, which includes the urban area and the counties of North Canterbury, had a total labour force of approximately 100,300, of which 33,300 were engaged in manufacturing. In the period April 1953 to April 1961 the labour force in manufacturing increased by 21.97 per cent, slightly below the national rate at 24.14 per cent, whereas the total labour force increased by 20.11 per cent, compared with the national figure of 18.24 per cent. The proportion of the labour force engaged in primary industries is inevitably lower in the Christchurch Employment Area, 9.07 per cent, than in the Ashburton Employment District (33.75 per cent) and the Timaru Employment District (23.49 per cent). The labour forces in these two districts have shown lower rates of growth than that of the Christchurch district. In Ashburton the labour force engaged in manufacturing grew by 15.38 per cent and the total labour force by 5.26 per cent. In Timaru the labour force in manufacturing grew by 12.12 per cent and the total labour force by 6.39 per cent.
It would be meaningless to present a figure for the combined employment districts, simply because within Canterbury there is a clear division between the development of its agricultural industries and regions and the industries of the Christchurch urban area. The productivity of the farming areas is reflected by the increases in the sheep (43.69 per cent) and breeding ewe (51.64 per cent) numbers during 1951–61, both rates being above national rates. The continued application of modern methods and techniques ought to sustain, especially in the plains, the growth of the rural economy. The Christchurch Region contains 66.29 per cent of the regional population; it is favoured as an industrial centre by the supply of power and water, by the flat and cheap land and its attractive surroundings. Furthermore, with its strong tradition, both in the arts and in the applied sciences, Christchurch ought to be capable of maintaining its position within an increasingly industrialised New Zealand.
by Samuel Harvey Franklin, B.COM.GEOG., M.A.(BIRMINGHAM), Senior Lecturer, Geography Department, Victoria University of Wellington.
- A History of Canterbury, Vol. I, Hight, J., and Straubel, C. R. eds, (1951), “The Land of Canterbury”, Jobberns, G.
- Land and Livelihood, McCaskill, M. ed. (1962), “The Fragmentation of Farm Land in Canterbury”, Johnston, W. B.
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- New Zealand Geographer, Vol. 13, April 1957, “The Vegetation of Castle Hill Basin”, Relph, D. H.