Queenstown swells by 1000 families

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Queenstown’s misspent youth is over – it’s time to focus on family.

The area’s had a whopping increase in families, drilled-down Census figures show, dispelling the myth it’s just a wild party town.

Nearly 1000 additional families were recorded as living in the Queenstown Lakes District in the latest Census done in March – a 42 per cent surge in seven years.

The population has grown almost a quarter since the last Census in 2006 – up 23 per cent – one of the fastest growth rates in the country.

Queenstown enters 2014 as a more family-focused enclave where wages outstrip the national median and a third of the population are foreigners, according to the stats.

It’s the kind of place where locals Justin Bird, who grew up in Dunedin, and Norwegian partner Birthe Svendheim want to raise a family. 

“It’s definitely a fun life for the kids – there’s so much to do,” Bird, the 35-year-old co-owner of Joe’s Garage café, says.

Bird moved back to Queenstown with Svendheim, 34, after six years in Sydney and five in Norway. They are now at Lake Hayes Estate with their two boys – Isaac, nine, and Jaden, two.

“Lake Hayes Estate is just full of families – that’s half the reason we chose to live there. 

“Isaac’s friends just live over the back fence, so he can just jump over and go to play. It’s all really safe.

“And there’s a real sense of community with everyone and the little events, like the Halloween BBQ, very family-orientated.

“Queenstown’s growing dramatically, the family lifestyle. It’s becoming more and more affordable, with more grocery shops on the way at Five Mile.”

Bird chose Queenstown – where he’d previously lived in the 1990s – over Manly, Sydney, to be closer to his parents in Alexandra.

“I reckon there’s more to do than in a city anyway,” he says.

“Isaac goes skiing with the school in winter time, and I go along as a parent helper. We go skiing as a family, BBQs at Lake Hayes in the summer or Frisbee golf in the gardens and cycling.

“It’s still an expensive place to live but there are job opportunities, especially in hospitality.”

Tourism and hospitality jobs are notoriously poor payers – but residents of the Queenstown Lakes District, which includes Wanaka, earn more than the national average.

Our median income is $35,200 – 23 per cent more than the national $28,500.

A quarter of earners in the district have annual pay packets exceeding $50,000 and almost six per cent can splash the cash with wages of more than $100,000.

About 22 per cent of adults in the district have a bachelor degree or better, while 9.5 per cent have no qualifications at all.

Unemployment is just 2.4 per cent, compared with 7.1 per cent of people out of work across New Zealand.

But that wealth does not translate into home ownership – a third of households are renters. That perhaps reflects the number of inhabitants who have migrated from overseas.

About 30 per cent of the population was not born in New Zealand, compared with 24 per cent seven years ago.

Brits and Europeans are the dominant group – 15 per cent of the population – but Asians have the highest growth rate, up 72 per cent.

About 10 per cent of the population cannot speak English.

Language Schools New Zealand director Guy Hughes says: “Send them to me.

“Your main groups from Asia are the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans – they’re attracted by the usual stuff, lifestyle, jobs etc.

“Someone who’s been living the life in Tokyo or Seoul and gets down here and has a look is normally interested,” Hughes says.

“A lot aren’t of course; they’re big city people who see this as a holiday destination.

“But others who are beyond that stage, looking for more a family-orientated lifestyle, or a retirement option, that’s who it appeals to,” he says.