Canterbury overtakes Auckland in economic survey

MICHAEL FOREMAN
Last updated 12:04 21/02/2014

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Construction activity has helped to push Canterbury into pole position in a regional economic survey, relegating Auckland to second place.

Canterbury gained a five stars out of five rating in the latest ASB/Main Report Regional Economic Scoreboard.

Christchurch reconstruction work continued to accelerate over the last quarter of 2013, boosting the wider regional economy.

The survey takes the latest quarterly regional statistics and ranks the economic performance of New Zealand's 16 regional economic areas.

Auckland slipped to second place in the survey but also gained a star, reflecting the region's strong performance over the last year, the survey said.

While recent growth in Canterbury's economy was driven by construction, the Auckland region was benefiting from a broader expansion in business activity, rising house prices and strong population growth.

The Bay of Plenty region climbed from the bottom half of the rankings to third place in the survey, with exports boosting employment and trade in the region.

Taranaki, fuelled by the strong performance of the dairy sector spilling over into construction and retail activity, took fourth place in the survey.

ASB said the indicators of construction activity in Canterbury pointed to increasing momentum.

The value of all building consents issued over the final quarter of last year in the region was the highest on record at $936 million, according to the survey.

ASB economist Christina Leung said: "By comparison, a strong quarter before the earthquakes would have seen consents totalling $400m to $500m."

The Canterbury labour market also ended the year strongly, with employment rising nearly 5 per cent in the last three months alone.

"The various indicators of employment were fairly volatile over 2013, but all point to annual growth in employment of 5 to 6 per cent," Leung said.

The Canterbury construction boom has been accompanied by growth in retail activity. Canterbury's retail trade grew by 8 per cent to $2.1 billion last year compared with a national average growth of 4 per cent, the survey shows.

New car sales in Canterbury also grew above the national average, rising by 24 per cent over the year compared with national growth of 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Auckland region's economy continued to be affected by strong population growth and its effect on the housing market.

Average house prices rose by more than 15 per cent in Auckland last year, compared with an 11 per cent rise in Canterbury and a 10 per cent increase nationally.

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"House prices are up by more in Auckland than anywhere else," Leung said.

"That's boosting residential construction, and is also helping boost consumer confidence."

- Fairfax Media

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