City Care lifts region as Upper Hutt battles

Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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South Wairarapa is booming, but Upper Hutt is New Zealand's worst-performing city, according to an economic performance report.

South Wairarapa has proven to be a star performer, climbing 36 places to fourth spot for districts, in the Berl Rankings Report 2013 which measures the economic performance of cities, districts and regions.

The improvement has been put down to strong employment growth.

"The relocation of a large company to [South Wairarapa] has made a big difference to employment growth, with the number of FTEs growing by approximately 20 per cent. This has also positively impacted on GDP," one of the report's authors, economist Ganesh Nana, said.

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said the company was City Care, which the council contracted to provide most of its services.

"The fact that our move to this company has provided more jobs and economic growth for our district is an added bonus to the better service they are providing us.

"Hopefully this growth will act as a drawcard for other businesses to our area. Success breeds success."

But the improvement hasn't been matched in Upper Hutt. While the report puts New Plymouth in top place of the nation's 20 largest cities for the second year running Upper Hutt's bottom placing was unchanged from 2012.

Mr Nana said New Plymouth was benefiting from its resource-based economy, with oil and gas and dairy farming contributing.

The indicators are taken from Statistics NZ, the Household Labour Force Survey, the National Accounts and sub-national population estimates.

The data on which the report is based is for the March 2013 year.

Upper Hutt had "had difficult years for quite a while", Mr Nana said.

"I think it's just part of the ongoing concerns around loss of a manufacturing base and employment base. The reduction in the Trentham army base has contributed and it [the city] is struggling to find replacements."

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy was not surprised by the ranking, but said things had changed since the information was compiled.

"We've put things in place since then, such as incentives for businesses and developers to come into the city.

"I have no doubt whatsoever the next report will show we've climbed from 20th spot."

The big movers were Palmerston North, climbing 14 places to fourth spot, and Christchurch, which climbed 11 places to eighth.

The cities were ranked on economic indicators including population, employment, GDP and business units.

The report attributed Palmerston North's improvement to strong growth in the food product manufacturing and wholesale and distribution sectors.

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The North island was home to seven of the top 10 cities, which the report defined as "the 20 largest settlements".

But eight of the top 10 district or city councils were in the South Island.

Auckland held the top spot among the 14 regional councils for a second year.

Wellington dropped two spots to ninth while Horizons (Manawatu-Whanganui) was at the bottom for the second year. Above it was Hawke's Bay Regional Council, which dropped from 12th.

- The Dominion Post

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