Nelson dip surprises Westpac economist

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 13:22 25/06/2014

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A sizeable dip in economic confidence in the region came as a surprise to Westpac's chief economist, who says the mood in Nelson was "reasonably upbeat" when he visited last week.

The latest Westpac regional economic confidence survey showed households in the Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast region now sat below the national average in expecting good economic times over the year ahead.

Just 20 per cent of households were positive about the economic year ahead, down sharply from 38 per cent in March. The national average of households expecting good economic times was 32 per cent.

Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said after steadily improving over the last 18 months, economic confidence fell in Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast in June.

The region's unemployment rate remained one of the lowest in the country, but there had been little growth in jobs of late, and indicators of residential building activity had broadly trended sideways, he said.

Stephens was surprised by theresults, and having been in Nelson last week, said they were not reflected in the mood of the city.

"I think Nelson, anecdotally, participated early in the upturn, more in 2012 and 2013, so perhaps the improvement in the New Zealand economy was not such a new thing in Nelson as it had been elsewhere, but I didn't really detect any negative sentiment in Nelson itself.

"But that's my own experience of talking to businesses in Nelson, and slightly separate from the regional confidence survey."

The consumer confidence index showed consumers in the region were also less optimistic about prospects for their finances, as Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast fell from 120 in March to 118.3 in June, still sitting below the national average of 121.2.

That would come as a disappointment to local retailers, as consumers would be less willing to buy major household items, Stephens said.

The Westpac survey showed Nelson was not alone, with most region's consumers not as upbeat about prospects for their local economies. An exception was Wellington where a net 33 per cent expected better times for the region.

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- The Nelson Mail

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