Biggest city still top dog

22:41, Nov 28 2012

Auckland remains top dog in ASB's regional economic rankings for the September quarter, thanks to strong population growth driving retail spending and the local housing market.

The Tasman region, including Richmond, Motueka and Murchison, came in second out of 16 regions on strong retail sales and a rebound in consumer confidence.

ASB said the top of the South Island was faring well, "reflecting the lingering effects of the movement of quake-affected Cantabrians to these regions".

But Canterbury was also performing well and moving up the rankings, as the rebuild cranked into action.

"The value of building consents is running at nearly double last year's pace, with residential activity expanding slightly faster than non-residential."

But other economic indicators for the region, such as employment, were slow to respond, the bank said. 


"Anecdotes suggest that difficulty finding the right kind of labour is holding back employment growth, which was decent enough in the third quarter but surprisingly weak in the second quarter. 

"Along with bumpy employment growth, retail spending and consumer confidence are improving only modestly."

Wellington edged up into third place in the rankings, on the back of a surge in residential construction - with the value of consents issued in the September quarter 50 per cent higher than a year ago. But non-residential construction in the capital region remained weak, down 20 per cent on a year ago. 

Auckland recorded growth in retail sales, house prices, construction and car sales for the year ended September 30, after its population grew 1.6 per cent to roughly 1.5 million  in the year to June 30. 

Despite the growth, employment in the country's biggest city declined over the year by 2 per cent.

Waikato lingered in the bottom half of the table, with strong retail sales growth unable to offset weak employment and housing activity.

Hawke's Bay slipped to the bottom of the ranking, with a sharp fall in retail sales and the region's export sectors likely affected by the strong kiwi dollar.

Taranaki crept up into the top half of the scoreboard, thanks in part to strong employment growth. 
Southland fell in the middle of the pack, with mixed economic indicators - including weak retail sales but strong new car sales. 

ASB analyses quarterly economic data such as retail and construction figures, consumer confidence surveys and information on house sales to come up with its rankings.