Report ranks Taranaki as one of the worst economic performers in the country

A recent report has ranked Taranaki's economic performance as one of the worst in the country after a downturn in the ...

A recent report has ranked Taranaki's economic performance as one of the worst in the country after a downturn in the oil and gas and dairy industries.

A recent report has ranked Taranaki's economic performance over the past year as one of the worst in the country.

Downturns in the dairy and energy industries alongside a decrease in employment, retail trade and construction activity saw Taranaki's economic performance fall down the rankings.

Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle said the region was being challenged by unit prices of the energy and dairy industries being below historic averages.

"By their nature global commodity prices rise and fall," Trundle said.

Trundle said while the dairy and energy industries were experiencing downturns, other businesses were investing in diversification and innovation.

In the last year, Venture Taranaki distributed $1,401,192 in research and development funding grants and $341,444 in capability development vouchers to various businesses around the region.

"The poultry industry is growing strongly and events like the recent Startup Weekend and our own R&D funding support indicate that innovation is thriving in the current market," he said.

Statistics from the ASB/Main Report Regional Economic Scoreboard for the September quarter showed employment rates in Taranaki were down 1.2 percent on the same time last year, with construction activity down two percent and retail trade down eight percent.

Taranaki's economic performance was ranked two out of five stars alongside that of the Marlborough, Nelson, Wellington and West Coast regions.

Taranaki was also one of only two regions around the country to experience a decrease in employment rates over the past year, with Marlborough also seeing a decline.

New Plymouth Budget Service Advisory manager Jocelyn Merwood said there had been a noticeable increase in people seeking advice this year as a result of the decrease in employment, and more people were coming in with complex cases.

"They have debt to a lot of companies and often require working with a budget advisor for a lot longer than if they had come to see us 6 -12 months earlier," Merwood said.

Merwood said a rise in rent prices in New Plymouth, Inglewood and Waitara was another factor in the increase of clients.

"Often people are paying more than 50-75 percent of their income on rent," Merwood said.

"People are getting payday loans, which is of a real concern," she said.

Payday loans were often cash transactions where someone goes to a lender asking for money which will be repaid out of their next few pay checks with interest.

"So people borrowing $300 often end up paying $400 or $500 with the interest," Merwood said.

Trundle said work across all industries indicated 2016 would be a year of limited growth, but 2017-18 would be stronger with a peak in shutdown work.

"The challenge for our employers is attracting and retaining staff over the medium term. Our own Taranaki Jobs website is currently averaging around 130 vacancies, and we know there will be strong skills demand from late next year, exacerbated by our aging demographic," Trundle said.

"We must continue to invest in our people, with training and development to foster the next generation of business leaders, and to ensure employment opportunities for school leavers in vocational trades," he said.

Merwood shared this view, and said she was optimistic about the job market getting better in 2016 and beyond, as were many clients.

"Our economy is looking a little bit rosier," Merwood said.

New Plymouth entrepreneur Philip Brown, who's Hobson St Novotel was due to open in late December, said the Taranaki economy was resilient and expected there would be an upswing over the next two to five years.

"It's not as bad as people say it is," Brown said.

 - Stuff

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