Marlborough posts largest five-year GDP improvement in New Zealand

A tractor sprays grape vines in a vineyard off Stump Creek Lane, outside Blenheim. (File photo)
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A tractor sprays grape vines in a vineyard off Stump Creek Lane, outside Blenheim. (File photo)

Marlborough is the little economy that could, outstripping major centres like Auckland and Canterbury to post the country's largest gains in gross domestic product over a five-year period.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed between 2011 and 2016, GDP in the region climbed 32.3 per cent, the largest growth in the country.

Political leaders and industry heads have welcomed the news, which they say reflects booming activity leading to growing business confidence in Marlborough.

In the year to March 2016, GDP - the total value of goods and services produced in the region - climbed to $2.6 billion, largely on the back of the growing wine sector.

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Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the industry had grown rapidly since 2011 following a post Global Financial Crisis slump in prices.

"When the wine industry is going well the whole economy is buoyant and thriving. You certainly feel that wave of confidence throughout the community at the moment," he said.

Figures from New Zealand Winegrowers showed the value of New Zealand wine exports in the year to February were $1.6b. About $1.2b was estimated to come from Marlborough. 

Pickens said there was still room for growth. Government investment into a wine research facility based in the region would help, and there was still extensive vineyard expansion, he said.

"I think most people in the industry are really confident looking at the short-term and medium-term outcomes. There's a lot of optimism."

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The Statistics New Zealand figures showed the national average GDP change over the period was 23.8 per cent. After Marlborough, the biggest mover was Canterbury with 31.9 per cent.

Marlborough also posted the third highest GDP per capita figure for the March 2016 year, $57,046 per person, behind Wellington, on $67,888, and Taranaki, with $71,297.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said while the wine industry was cleary important, the economy also had a number of other strings to its bow.

"The figures are outstanding, I think people from outside the district will realise how well things are going in Marlborough, and people are attracted to successful regions," he said.

"It's quite a remarkable growth pattern, but when you think back we've had a lot of activity over the past five years, so sooner or later that was going to show up in the figures."

Leggett also said primary industries in the region were becoming more resilient. Despite a smaller harvest in 2015, GDP still increased by 1.7 per cent in the year to March 2016.

Statistics New Zealand pointed to the size of the 2015 harvest as a key factor for GDP slowing. This pointed to a strong performance in the year to March 2017 results as the 2016 harvest was large.

All up 323,290 tonnes of grapes were picked in the region last year, which was more than 100,000 tonnes larger than the 2015 harvest.

The wine industry was grouped across two categories in the statistics; primary manufacturing and agriculture. These were the two strongest performing categories over the five-year period.

 - The Marlborough Express

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