News and opinions on disability
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Facing the future

In this week’s blog David Matthews, Chief Executive of CCS Disability Action, takes a look the future. There are some major challenges ahead, but if we all work together, we can still have a stronger and more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.

People often struggle to think long-term. Current issues tend to capture our thinking.  This sometimes makes it difficult to see the forest from the trees. For example, currently we have a housing affordability crisis in some parts of the country, but that is not our only housing crisis.

With an aging population, the number of people who need accessible private homes and social housing is rapidly growing. Research from way back in 2007 already found strong evidence of a significant under-supply of accessible housing. This is an issue that is only going to get worse. The aging population will also affect provincial and rural New Zealand more, where there is typically less investment in buildings and housing than in cities.

Japan is currently facing these issues on a much more acute scale. Japan has an aging and declining population. The areas most affected have had to switch from a focus on growth to smart ways of managing decline and stagnation. This has involved local government looking for ways to maintain and improve the quality of life of individual citizens and communities with decreasing resources.

While New Zealand as a whole is unlikely to see population declines until the second half of the 21st Century, some regions will feel the effects before then and all regions have an aging population. A declining population and resources does not have to be negative, especially if councils and communities start planning early. Already some councils are taking the initiative to prepare for the future by, for example, carrying out audits on the accessibility of their towns.

Good quality accessible infrastructure, buildings, housing and public transport will be part of the solution. The number of people with access needs will grow with the aging population. The ability of rural and provincial areas to afford access improvements may decrease over time so the time to start improving access is now.

Beyond access, we will all need to think about how to bring communities together in ways where everyone feels included, especially in areas with declining populations. As an organisation with twenty-two local and regional offices, we are connected to a lot of communities.  We will need to think about how we maintain and strengthen those connections as the community changes.  The future will challenge us all, but I am hopefully we can create a stronger and more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand



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