The Population Conference this week tackles issues of critical importance to New Zealand communities in order to prepare for the difficult choices of the future, Immigration Minister Max Bradford says.
The two-day Population Conference officially opens on Thursday November 13 and covers a wide range of population issues; education and employment, the problems facing growing cities and diminishing rural centres, migration, cultural diversity and the challenges facing an ageing population.
More than 270 representatives of New Zealand's diverse population are gathering in at the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa - in Wellington for the conference. More than 40 panelists, speakers and population experts are contributing to the conference.
"This is an unprecedented conference in New Zealand's history which sees people from all walks of life get alongside each other to look at one thing we all have in common - the future of New Zealand," Mr Bradford said.
The Government has spent $200,000 on research and information which will play an important role in the conference and in future decision making. A Statistics New Zealand book People and Places, based on the most comprehensive census research New Zealand has ever had, was released this week to support the conference. The research and content of the conference will be made publicly available.
"Stereotype, anecdote and myth are not enough to prepare for the difficult issues facing New Zealand's ever complex and fast changing population," Mr Bradford said.
"We need the facts to support our future decisions if our public policies are to remain relevant to a more diverse, long-living population of New Zealanders."
Some policy decisions would result from the conference, but the main focus was to inform people and start wider debate in preparation for future decisions.
"The Population Conference allows us to ask what sort of society we wish to be, whether we have the right structures to achieve this, and what might be the implications of these changes," Mr Bradford said.
Population experts say the conference comes at a critical time for New Zealand.
New Zealand's population trends have gone through a massive shift and our society is changing faster than we can measure. Long held traditions, social structures and customs are being challenged by an exponential rate of change.
"We need to be sure we are ready to meet the demand for social capital resources; health, education and employment, housing and basic community services. We need to look at the economic implications and figure out how we can achieve the sort of future we want," Mr Bradford said.
"Population is about everybody's lives - ours, our children's and our grandchildren's."