Report shows region's strengths

CHLOE WINTER
Last updated 11:00 16/06/2014
hamish macfarlane
EMMA ALLEN/ Fairfax NZ
HAMISH MACFARLANE: Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager.

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Marlborough's primary industries are the backbone of the region's economic growth, according to the Government's latest economic activity report.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce released the Regional Economic Activity report last week, providing a breakdown of each region's economy, including its strengths and weaknesses.

The report described Marlborough as "the centre of New Zealand's wine industry" and highlighted labour-intensive industries, including viticulture and horticulture, as the reason for the economy's growth.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager Hamish Macfarlane said the report was "very interesting".

The report says Marlborough had opportunities to add value to its products in the agriculture and forestry sectors, and further diversify services that support these sectors.

"Other potential growth sectors include tourism, where there is potential to increase international visitor numbers and spend per visitor, and aquaculture, where significant international export opportunities lie," the report says.

Macfarlane agreed with the finding of the report.

"The primary industry contributes 17 per cent of the GDP (gross domestic product), and manufacturing was 16 per cent, so that's effectively one-third of the town's income."

Marlborough's GDP sits on about $2 billion, which is 1 per cent of the national GDP.

"We really are pretty much middle of the road ... [so] I think we've got room for improvement," Macfarlane said.

"While things are average, there is no need to be concerned ... [the economy is] on the increase.

"Wineries will carry on expanding. The airport is happening, the theatre is halfway through and larger plantings of grapes are happening."

The report recognises Marlborough as New Zealand's largest growing grape-growing region. This was evident in the latest figures released from New Zealand Winegrowers, which revealed Marlborough's total grape tonnage this year was 329,572, contributing 76.7 per cent of the country's total grape tonnage.

The report also shows Marlborough outshone many other regions when it came to employment.

"Employment has grown at an average annual rate of 3 per cent over the last decade in Marlborough, much faster than any other region," the report said.

The employment rate is 66.9 per cent, ahead of the national employment rate on 64.5 per cent. However, the number of people moving to Christchurch to seek employment was still increasing.

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Twelve per cent of Marlborough's workforce were employed in businesses that were more than 50 per cent foreign-owned.

The report goes on to say that businesses in the region received about $191,000 in funding from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, through the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce.

Over a two-year period, 114 businesses in Marlborough, Tasman and Nelson received their share for business development.

Macfarlane said this funding continued to help the region keep employment levels high and unemployment levels low.

Marlborough companies also received about $222,000 from Callaghan Innovation towards research and development, he said.

"A lot of it goes on up-skilling people and training providers. One of those is ICE House.

"If everyone gets training and they better themselves, everyone benefits."

The report adds that 89 per cent of Marlborough's total population (45,900) felt satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. Marlborough was a great place to live, Macfarlane said.

"I like living here. You can park your car on the side of the road and cycle and get out and about. We are lucky."

The report estimates Marlborough's population will grow to 64,260 by the year 2031.

- The Marlborough Express

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