South high in economic confidence

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2013

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Southland's economic confidence has dipped but still remains second highest in New Zealand.

The Westpac McDermott Miller Regional Economic Confidence survey, conducted from December 1 to 10, records the number of respondents expecting good, as opposed to bad, economic times in their region over the next year.

Findings show Southland households expecting good economic times fell from 53 per cent in September to 46 per cent in December.

However, the region was still well above the national average of 28 per cent.

Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said that, although economic confidence had slipped, Southland was second highest in the country after Canterbury.

"Unsurprisingly so, given prospects of a record payout for the region's dairy farmers."

Separately, the regional breakdown of the Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index showed Southland consumer confidence also fell - from 117.8 points in September to 110.5 in December - against the national average of 120.1.

The index summarises responses to questions about householders' own financial situation, their expectations for the New Zealand economy as a whole, and their current willingness to buy a major household item.

"While Southlanders are much more upbeat for their local economy than six months ago, this has yet to translate into sustained lift in consumer confidence," Mr Stephens said.

Venture Southland enterprise projects manager Alistair Adam said the economic positivity related to dairy prices.

Canterbury was performing the best under exceptional circumstances, he said. "If you look at it this way, Southland outperformed the rest of the country."

Southland consumer confidence lagged behind economic confidence because Southlanders were pragmatic, he said.

Southland Chamber of Commerce vice-president Carla Forbes said Southlanders were conservative about spending.

Retail had been having a difficult time, which was visible from the empty streets, and that would have affected the result.

However, spending was now picking up and she expected it would get better.

Meanwhile, the latest ExportNZ Survey shows exporters are confident of good growth and increasing orders in overseas markets for 2014. Statistics New Zealand figures showed China had surpassed Australia as New Zealand's top goods export destination on an annual basis.

Mr Adam said tradeable exports from Southland were worth about $5 billion, about 12 per cent of the national total.

Export Southland chairman and South Port chief executive Mark O'Connor said he had been meeting exporters during the past few days and they were more confident because the domestic economy was on an upward curve, which was supporting product demand.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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