The story of declining populations in small towns in outlying regional centres is not an especially new one, but is a sad and difficult one.
Recently, The News reported on the loss of a school at Invergordon, something set to make prospects of revival or for establishing any sort of business less viable for such a town, and offer up potentially one less reason for young families to relocate there.
Today, we learned of the decision to close Stanhope’s butcher shop after decades of catering to the residents of the town.
While this is unfortunate for Stanhope people, it marks the continuation of an even less fortunate trend of those living in small outlying towns needing more and more to travel to larger regional areas for shopping.
Not just for specialty items either. In this case, for residents’ weekly butcher run.
One imagines there is the potential for a disappointing flow-on effect of it becoming more difficult for residents to access essentials in their town.
In the case of Stanhope, the town’s population during the three most recent censuses have it declining at a rate of about two per cent each year.
While this in isolation may not be cause for optimism, there is a silver lining, and a significant one at that, in a major milk processor’s vision to expand.
While major milk processor Fonterra — which has a ‘‘proud’’ history in the town dating back 90 years — concedes a portion of its employment base commutes to work (hardly surprising), expansion is on its mind.
Since a new cheese plant opened last year, Fonterra says demand for its products has ‘‘grown steadily’’ and that it is expanding the plant to double its production capacity.
What this will look like appears yet to be determined, but surely it will offer the opportunity for a place such as Stanhope to leverage off the boost in workforce resulting from such an expansion.
Moving forward, one wonders whether opportunity or incentives can be offered up by stakeholders to create opportunities for enhanced business activity in the town.
Time will tell.