Thursday, October 8, 2020

Mike Hosking: Will Covid-19 see more people move to the regions?


An analyst in the states yesterday was predicting the office real estate market will get back to normal in 2025.

Who would know if that’s true. Who knows if anything is true or open to realistic prediction any more. But 2025 is a long time to wait for something to get back to so called normal.

And here’s the question of the age: what is normal anyway?

One of this country’s more pressing issues going into Covid was the fact that too many people lived in Auckland for a country with our population.

Nothing wrong with a city of 1.5 million. It’s barely even a large city on a global scale. But 1.5m heading to 2m in a country of 5m was nuts and Auckland was and is showing signs of it all being out of kilter.

It was and perhaps still is a vicious cycle. People lead to work, work leads to people. Most immigrants landed here. It’s a well-known fact you stay where you land.

Various ideas were tossed about: visa points if you went to the regions, more points if you started a business there.

The odd story in the magazines would feature the couple or family who gave up the rat race to move to provincial New Zealand to start afresh.

You might hear about the concept of technology breaking down barriers and walls and distance. But mainly it was all theory, like bike and bus lanes, despite the fact we own more cars per head, despite the fact we buy more cars every year, they still think lots of lanes will make you take public transport.

But the downtown story - namely Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - is real. People aren’t back. And what’s more they’re not not back because they can’t. They are not back because they don’t have to, and what’s more that doesn’t seem to be something that’s changing.

So if Zoom, who seem to be perhaps globally one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new age, is a real thing, and if productivity hasn’t suffered, then why can’t we, maybe even by osmosis, solve one of the real issues – the issue of population distribution.

If it truly doesn’t matter where you are, then why not encourage it? Why not fill provincial New Zealand with new inhabitants who may or may not work in the place they live.

It’s not for everyone obviously, but provincial New Zealand has had real issues of population growth or lack of it.

Yes, Central Otago and Hawkes Bay boomed, but lots of places not automatically connected to tourism didn’t and haven’t.

It’s not a magic bullet but it’s a start. It’s the seed of an idea. Could we by default, or at least with the arrival of a virus, address something that, up till now, we didn’t have an answer for.

Mike Hosking is a New Zealand television and radio broadcaster. He currently hosts The Mike Hosking Breakfast show on NewstalkZB on weekday mornings.

1 comment:

Ray S said...

Fair comment Mike. Unfortunately just about everything we do today relies on technology to some degree. Technology will trip us up one day.
If one works from home, even while living the country lifestyle, while at the same time dependent on technology to access their office in Auckland or Paris, what could possibly go wrong?
A lengthy delay in restoration of service would be equivalent to the current Covid pandemic.