The higher than average proportions of the Maori population in the total population is a particularly significant feature of the region and one which underlines the necessity of developing industry in the district. The largest proportion of the Maori population is resident either in Wanganui City itself or in adjacent areas. A smaller group is located in the settlements of the upper Wanganui River – Pipiriki, Jerusalem, and Ranana – whilst the remainder of the Maori population is distributed throughout the area and is associated with small settlements, such as Kai Iwi and Waitotara and the boroughs of the region. The total Maori population has increased by a quarter (25·77 per cent) in the last 10 years, a figure which suggests some, but no great, out migration. The rural population increased by only 218 persons and was concentrated in the Rangitikei County. The urban areas, Wanganui especially, have garnered the increase. Though the numbers involved are small, it is nevertheless of interest to see that the Maori population of Taihape rose from 91 to 217, and of Marton from 138 to 293. In this region the young Maori appears to be going to the towns rather than leaving the district.
During the last decade the total population of the region has grown by 16·2 per cent, a rate below the national level of 24·5 per cent. Most of the growth has been concentrated in the urban areas, especially Wanganui and Marton, and the rural population has grown by only 7 per cent. Furthermore, in the period April 1953 to April 1961, the total civilian labour force has grown by only 8·16 per cent, whilst the labour force engaged in manufacturing has grown by 18·75 per cent, both rates being markedly below the equivalent national rates. With 21·50 per cent of the total civilian labour force engaged in manufacturing, the Wanganui Employment District has one of the lowest figures for the whole of the North Island. The pastoral industry contributes the major part of the region's economic wealth and, if past trends are to continue, it would seem that the lowland areas must carry the greatest burden of pastoral development.
by Samuel Harvey Franklin, B.COM.GEOG., M.A.(BIRMINGHAM), Senior Lecturer, Geography Department, Victoria University of Wellington.