Dairy helps district grow
Economic growth in Horowhenua outpaced the wider region and nation as a whole, the Horowhenua District Council said.
Strategic and corporate services manager David Clapperton said Horowhenua's economic activity expanded by 3.6 per cent in 2012 - above Manawatu-Whanganui's 2.8 per cent and the 2.1 per cent increase nationwide.
Mr Clapperton said this could partly be attributed to Horowhenua benefiting from an exceptionally good dairy output in 2012, as the sector comprised a larger proportion of the district's economy than the national average.
Dairy farming made the largest contribution to growth in Horowhenua last year, up 56.2 per cent from the previous year, he said.
Agriculture and forestry also grew, up 30.2 per cent.
Mr Clapperton said this year was likely to be more challenging as drought conditions would suppress agricultural output although rising dairy prices would "cushion the blow slightly".
Elevated farm incomes last year also helped boost commercial vehicle sales - up 21 per cent.
The next largest contributor was retail followed by rental hiring and real estate services.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests Horowhenua residents are spending more locally with retail sales up 9.4 per cent, compared to a 6.6 per cent decrease in Manawatu/ Whanganui," Mr Clapperton said.
"Supermarket upgrades may have contributed to this trend, as well as sporadic retail activity in Palmerston North."
The largest fall over the year was administration and support services, down 71.4 per cent.
Mr Clapperton said home building consents recovered slightly from their 2011 lull but were still a quarter of 2007's figures.
"Encouragingly, the district's accommodation sector is still recovering with guest nights in the December quarter rising to their highest December quarter since 2004," he said.
Unemployment in Horowhenua remained a concern, at 9.1 per cent, compared with the national rate of 6.9 per cent.
Mr Clapperton expected local businesses would remain reluctant to hire new staff amid economic uncertainty.
He said a district economic development strategy was planned including a proposed business leaders group. The group would work with the council in developing the strategy.