Fewer Cantabrians fleeing the region

QUAKE REFUGEES: Last year Christchurch family Alexandra Loosli and her children Halo, 3, and Lukas, 19 months, moved to Dunedin to get away from the quakes.
QUAKE REFUGEES: Last year Christchurch family Alexandra Loosli and her children Halo, 3, and Lukas, 19 months, moved to Dunedin to get away from the quakes.

There are signs Canterbury's economy may be on the mend, with a recovery in some sectors, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's latest report shows.

The report said that although a broad-based recovery had not yet begun, job losses in the region had stopped and the outflow of people was slowing.

The Household Labour Force Survey shows 28,200 Canterbury jobs were lost in the year to last December.

The institute estimated economic activity in Canterbury shrank by 4 per cent last year.

A net 3800 people from the region had moved overseas since the September 2010 earthquake, while 5400 taxpayers had moved from Canterbury to other parts of New Zealand.

About 3000 people moved to Auckland, about 2000 to Otago and more than 1500 to Wellington.

Nelson and Waikato have each received about 500 Cantabrians.

Institute principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub said he suspected many people had moved to Auckland because that was where the jobs were. It also appeared people had moved overseas for job-related reasons.

Migration to other regions was slowing and there were some encouraging signs of recovery in economic activity.

"Things seem to be stabilising now after that very rapid pullback in the economy in the aftermath of the earthquake,'' Eaqub said.

International trading remained resilient and the construction sector was picking up, indicated by a rise in ready-mix concrete production for infrastructure work and residential and non-residential building.

The NZIER quarterly survey of business opinion showed domestic trading activity had rebounded from the weakness after the quakes.

Activity in the services, manufacturing and building sectors had also rebounded.

Investment intentions remain high in Canterbury for buildings, plant and machinery, which reflected replacing capital lost during the quakes and the capital needed to rebuild.

Exports through Lyttelton Port and Christchurch International Airport remained strong.

It was encouraging to see that stabilisation, but the region was moving into the next phase of figuring out how to regain lost activity and lost jobs, Eaqub said.

Retailing had shown a surprising renewed weakness that could reflect a "patchy" recovery.

Figures on the impact of the quakes on Canterbury were still "a mosaic of bits of information", he said.

ANZ's latest consumer confidence survey, released yesterday, showed consumer confidence increased in other regions in April.

However, in Canterbury it had declined.

"We thought a year on, things should be sort of knitting together and you'd start to get some kind of recovery coming through, and a fairly consistent one, but it seems like there is still a lot of volatility and we're not sure why that is," Eaqub said.

There were so many external influences in addition to the quakes that the uncertainty factor was high, and that made it difficult to interpret the data.

"The scale of the disaster has been massive and there aren't any good examples to understand how the economy should behave in the aftermath," he said.

The Press