Rural confidence soars after drought jitters

23:36, Jun 24 2013

The farming sector has shaken off its drought jitters, with economic confidence soaring in most rural regions, the latest Westpac McDermott Miller survey shows.

The national figures show confidence rose to 25 per cent by the end of the June quarter, up from 5 per cent at the end of March.

That was predominantly driven by a swing in rural sentiment.

Senior Westpac economist Felix Delbrucker said a generally improving global outlook and the Canterbury rebuild were certainly tailwinds, but the clincher was higher dairy prices offsetting the impact of the drought in the first part of the year.

Waikato led the charge, with a confidence reading of 49 per cent, up from -29 per cent three months ago. That put it just behind Canterbury, where the rebuild activity helped push overall economic confidence up 16 points to 51 per cent as of the June quarter.

"Economic confidence in the Waikato has surged from deep pessimism to the second-highest in the country as drought concerns have eased and high dairy payout forecasts have moved to centre stage," Delbrucker said.


"This gels with the upbeat vibe we got at Fieldays."

Taranaki/Manawatu/Whanganui recorded a confidence reading of 33 per cent (up 28 points); Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast 22 per cent (up 11 points), and Gisborne/Hawke's Bay 19 per cent (up 38 points).

Confidence levels in Auckland rose 8 points to 24 per cent.

Wellington reversed its negative sentiment, though on a modest scale, with a 6 per cent confidence rating for the quarter, up from -1 per cent.

In fact, only Northland recorded a negative reading, at -23 per cent, but that was up from -49 per cent in the first quarter.

Delbrucker said it was clear overall confidence was now more widely spread, although Christchurch and Auckland would continue to outpace most regions because of the scale of the building activity.