Growth building strongly

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014

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Canterbury is topping economic indicators for the regions as the rebuild gathers pace.

The latest ASB/Main Report Regional Economic Scoreboard has given Canterbury's economic performance five stars, putting it at the top of the national ranking for the first time.

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

ASB said construction activity continued to accelerate over the last quarter of 2013, helping to boost the wider regional economy and push Canterbury up to five stars out of five.

The value of building consents issued over the December 2013 quarter (both residential and non-residential) was the highest on record at $936m. By comparison, a strong quarter before the earthquakes would have been consents totalling $400-500m, the report stated.

The Canterbury labour market finished 2013 very strongly, with employment up nearly 5 per cent in the last quarter. The various indicators of employment were fairly volatile over 2013, but all point to annual growth in employment of 5-6 per cent, the report showed. Strong numbers of migrants appear to be meeting the demand for workers in the construction sector, with labour costs rising fairly modestly, the report stated.

ASB Economist Christina Leung said there was more growth to come.

"The rebuild requires a lot of resources and we're expecting a huge ramp-up in construction activity in the region."

She said growth would flow across a range of sectors in the region. "There is such a lot of activity still in the pipeline for the Canterbury region, the prospects are looking very bright in terms of growth."

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said Canterbury was right at the beginning of the recovery phase.

"We are going to see Canterbury leading economic activity and economic growth in this country into the foreseeable future."

However, high growth came with its challenges, he said.

People needed to understand "the scale of what we're going into", he said. To sustain growth, business owners would need to think strategically and far enough ahead.

They would also need to work out new ways of doing business in terms of supply chain and securing materials, hiring people, and insuring they have adequate cash and capital to accommodate a growing business, he said.

Economist Robin Clements said building activity was leading growth in Canterbury, but other industries were starting to pick up.

"We're going to be top-ranking in economic surveys for a while."

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Robert Mercer, co-owner of Fiddlesticks and No 4 bar in Merivale, said the hospitality sector had been picking up too, but was becoming more competitive.

"The number of new restaurant and bars is increasing faster than the number of people coming in. It is very competitive, it is an industry of winners and losers," he said.

"Some are doing really well, but others are struggling."

An increase in tourism and corporate spending had boosted Fiddlestick's activity, he said.

However, the bar in Merivale was quieter.

- BusinessDay

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