Research released by Brandon University's Rural Development Institute (RDI) is offering ideas to help Neepawa in adjusting to its ongoing population boom.
The RDI completed a study on two community areas – Neepawa and Winkler - with significant population increases recently.
The Neepawa area's population has risen as much as 20 per cent since 2006 while the Winkler area's population has increased nearly 63 per cent over 10 years. Both increases are largely influenced by newcomer populations.
In Neepawa, the RDI research team met with several stakeholders, held interviews and workshops as well as conversed with HyLife officials. As a result, the university department has released a report outlining a dozen suggestions to help the community deal with challenges surrounding its growth.
“Our aim for this was to see if there was a sense of how local communities were adjusting to continued, above average population growth,” RDI's director Bill Ahston told The Neepawa Press Friday. “What we've suggested at the end of the study is to establish a 24-month interdepartmental committee to help coordinate provincial services for these communities (Winkler and Neepawa)....to help begin to understand the programs, policies and expertise available provincially.”
The goal of the committee would be to address pressing challenges surrounding the pace of growth in communities now, rather than later. Researchers found there may be resources available – or that could be available – provincially to assist local communities in that regard.
Ashton added that the influx of immigrants is a testament to the success of the province's economic growth strategy.
It's also of significant importance to the Winkler and Neepawa area's future success – or, potentially, lackthereof.
The report notes the rural settlement pattern in Manitoba suggests upward of
80 per cent of immigrants are concentrated in certain rural areas – two such areas being Winkler and Neepawa.
In the report, the Neepawa area includes Minnedosa and Gladstone. The study found that “the area had a stable population for more than 70 years, then grew by 10 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Local stakeholders indicate this growth is more than 20 per cent.”
The study found that, by April 2012, about 19 per cent of Neepawa residents had become temporary foreign workers.
The 12 recommendations outlined by the study for Neepawa include:
-Changing business hours of operation to reflect shift schedules of HyLife and new residents.
-Increasing community diversity training to increase awareness, engagement and reduce tension between cultural groups.
-Increasing training and orientation for newcomers.
-Community collaboration with HyLife.
-Creating more local transportation options and intercommunity transportation options.
-Diversifying the local economy to create needed employment opportunities outside of HyLife.
-Improve the serviced delivery of health services in Neepawa and area through increase translation services and increasing the number of nurse practitioners available for routine tasks.
-Ask Manitoba Health to enter medical records of newcomers upon arrival.
-Offer flexible EAL classes for newcomers.
-Increase quantity and quality of housing.
-Increase community administrative capacity for housing development.
-Plan improvements to housing-related infrastructure
The full report is available online by following the links at www.brandonu.ca/rdi/publications.