Tai Timu Tangata project

‘The subnational mechanisms of the ending of population growth - towards a theory of depopulation’

Our project also has a Māori title: Tai Timu Tangata. Tahoa e? Translated, it means approximately ‘The ebbing of the human tide. What will it mean for the people?’

This project is funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund.

Work on the project began in March 2014 and will end in March 2017.

What is the project about?

Although New Zealand’s population continues to grow at around the annual global growth rate, most of it due to growth in Auckland, many of its rural and smaller urban towns are already showing evidence of the permanent ending of growth/onset of depopulation which is accompanied by, and in some cases driven by, population ageing. This is similar to what has occurred in all countries that are now declining at national level, like Japan and several European countries, and is occurring at sub-national level in these and many other countries. See more information on growing and shrinking regions in Europe.

Given the world’s preoccupation with population growth over the past few centuries, and the many policies and practices that are based on an assumed continuation of that growth, the ending of growth will surely usher in many challenges. Yet, when we look at the literature, we don’t find any theories or sound premises for policy change that would provide councils and governments with the support they need to make the required changes. In observing this overall situation the Tai Timu Tangata team felt that New Zealand would make a useful case study - and the Royal Society agreed.

Our research team

The research team of six consists of demographers, economists and geographers and is led by Professor Natalie Jackson, demographer, of Massey University. Natalie is supported by five associate investigators, four of whom are from the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis at the University of Waikato: Dr Lars Brabyn, geographer; Associate Professor Michael Cameron, population economist; Dr Bill Cochrane, regional labour market economist; and Emeritus Professor Ian Pool, demographer. In addition, Dr Dave Maré from Motu, provides support as an applied economist.

The project is also supported by a Project Manager, Dr Jane Richardson, of Massey; and an International Advisor, Dr Peter Matanle, of the University of Sheffield’s (England) Shrinking Regions Research Group.


Professor Natalie Jackson: N.O.Jackson@massey.ac.nz

Dr Jane Richardson: J.M.Richardson@massey.ac.nz