Business confidence buoyant
Northern business confidence is growing at its fastest rate in a decade.
Surveys show positive economic growth and increasing optimism in the region, marking a change from the recession hit years which began in 2008.
The latest Northern Chambers of Commerce business survey shows one of the most significant lifts in business confidence in the past 10 years.
Chambers of Commerce Northland chief executive Tony Collins says the confidence boost in the February survey exceeds expectation.
Forty-eight per cent of respondents expect the economy to improve over the next six months, up from 29 per cent in November 2012. Just 5 per cent expect it to worsen.
The personal businesses outlook is even more optimistic with 60 per cent expecting their situation to improve over the next six months, up from 47 per cent in November 2012. Just 8 per cent expect a decline.
Mr Collins says the survey covers businesses from Northland to Taupo, excluding Auckland, but past surveys have shown little difference in results from the Northland region alone.
"I think there has been quite a lot more positivity around compared to late last year. I'm not surprised that there was an improvement but I'm surprised it was as high."
The increase in confidence is backed by a real increase in sales and the economy.
The latest ANZ Regional Trends, which researches regional economic activity, shows Northland's economy grew 1.6 per cent in the December 2012 quarter and 2 per cent over the year.
Northland also recorded a 5 per cent lift in retail sales in the December quarter, more than twice as much as the national increase.
Mr Collins believes the sunny summer has made people feel more upbeat and led to an increase in tourism.
However he acknowledges the dry summer will have an impact on agriculture, despite that sector being strong at the moment.
The drought of 2009-10 cost Northland's economy $30 million but this summer has not been declared a drought yet, he says.
"We're probably lucky that our two economic drivers are tourism and farming. When the weather's not good for one it's good for the other," he says.
"There have also been more resource consents, people are building houses and there's more house sales. There are some positives that weren't there last year."
There has been a lift in the real estate market, Gary Younger from Ray White Allens Whangarei says.
He is selling sections in the new Totara Parklands Estate, a 443-lot subdivision now under construction in Tikipunga.
Mr Younger says there has been a lot of interest in the subdivision, which is Whangarei's first new subdivision in a long time.
Interest in Whangarei houses in general is high, he says.