New Zealand is experiencing significant population changes as mobility (immigration, emigration, internal migration) combines with an ageing population to impact on labour supply, community development and a sense of belonging or attachment. These demographic and economic changes vary considerably by region and have markedly different outcomes for rural and urban communities. This research provides a detailed model of the nature of these changes at the regional level over the period 1986 to 2013 and will provide projections out to 2036.

Household members, employers and secondary school pupils will provide their understandings of demographic and economic change in their communities, and their perceptions of, and responses toward, the implications. These responses are important given recent demographic developments such as increased cultural diversity, the interconnected effects of demographic ageing and mobility/migration on communities, and regional issues of labour supply (including critical skill shortages) and demand as industries/firms grow or decline.

In this context, immigration will continue to be an important component of New Zealand’s future as a way of providing the required skills and to compensate for ageing or emigration. The research seeks to answer questions such as what keeps individuals or households in a particular community or region? What investments do people make in education/training or employment, and how do these relate to current and future employment opportunities, especially locally? What impact does diversity have on social and economic notions of belonging and attachment, and how do employers respond?

Answering these questions via complex models and statistical projections as well as interviews to reveal the subjective understandings and strategies of individuals and households will generate a multifaceted and nuanced understanding of demographic and economic change and the implications for New Zealand/New Zealanders.