The Nelson/Marlborough region has been a quiet achiever in economic growth, says ANZ economist Steve Edwards.
The ANZ Regional Trends report shows Nelson-Marlborough achieved the second highest year-on-year growth to March at 3.8 per cent, ahead of Auckland on 2.6 per cent and behind Canterbury's 5.6 per cent.
The top of the south's 3.8 per cent growth is a five-year high.
Mr Edwards said the region had a well-balanced economy.
While there had been patches of growth in Auckland and Canterbury focused on what was happening in the housing market, Nelson and Marlborough had other indicators growing. These included commercial building work, retailing and exports.
Nelson-Marlborough recorded a 3.4 per cent rise in retail sales in the March quarter. Compared with the same period a year earlier, sales in the region have increased 14 per cent. The report said a lift in new car registrations partly explained this strength - registration numbers increased 9 per cent in the three months to April, and were up 18 per cent on the same three months a year earlier.
Employment in the region increased 0.6 per cent in the latest survey of households. While dwarfed by the 1.7 per cent rise measured nationally, the latest increase follows four consecutive quarterly declines in employment in the region. The unemployment rate eased from a 12-year high of 5.2 per cent in December to an 18-month low of 4.1 per cent in March.
The number of commercial building permits issued in Nelson-Marlborough increased 14 per cent in the March quarter, in contrast to a modest decline nationally.
The equivalent series for residential permits was unchanged between December and the latest quarter.
The real estate market had been subdued over recent months, the report said. House sales, house prices and section sales were all 1 per cent lower in the three months to April, and rural real estate sales eased 3 per cent.
The only bright spot came via a reduction in the average length of time it took to sell a house, which quickened to 33 days in - a 3 1/2-year low for the series.
Nationwide there was a 2 per cent rise in economic activity in the first three months this year, which was a reasonably strong rate of increase, said Mr Edwards. The same pace of growth was also measured for both the North and South islands.
''We are seeing signs of a housing boom affecting Auckland and Canterbury spreading to other regions,'' he said.
HOW WE ARE DOING
Year-on-year growth to March
source: ANZ Regional Trends
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