Timaru's economy in good shape

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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Primary produce and manufacturing remain the biggest drivers of Timaru's economy, according to a major economic report.

Business and Economic Research (Berl)'s latest roundup of the regions ranked Timaru as the third-best performing city for 2013. The ranking was based on a mix of factors, including GDP, employment, population growth and "real value-added growth".

According to the report, Timaru's GDP grew by 3.7 per cent last year.

Berl chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana said Timaru's economy seemed well balanced.

"A lot of other economies are overly reliant on one sector, but Timaru has a good crossover between manufacturing, primary produce and health," he said.

Of the 20 local authorities with populations over 40,000 surveyed, only New Plymouth and Auckland performed better overall.

"There are big employers in the Timaru district, but there are enough small-to-medium enterprises to balance that," Nana said.

Berl's report said in 2013 about 21,390 fulltime equivalents (FTEs) were employed in the Timaru district. Between 2012 and last year, employment grew by 1.8 per cent - significantly stronger year-on-year than the national average of 0.2 per cent.

The primary produce sector registered a 5.1 per cent increase in FTEs (2355 in 2012 to 2474 in 2013).

Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry recorded an 11.4 per cent spike in FTEs over the last year (3874 to 4316).

However, Aoraki Development, Business and Tourism chief executive Wendy Smith said manufacturing was "recovering" from a significant drop-off. It still employed fewer people than 10 years ago when 4690 were employed in the sector.

"The changes in technology may have played a factor in the manufacturing industry's decline in FTEs," she said.

As of last year, the biggest employer in the Timaru district was the social services sector, which covers health, education, local and central government, the police and fire service, with 4360 FTEs. The sector has increased in size by an average of 3.6 per cent annually since 2003.

Smith said it was important to note that the food manufacturing sector accounted for 16.5 per cent of the district's GDP.

"Linking this sector with agriculture and the associated road transport sector clearly strengthens Timaru's proposition as a leading agricultural manufacturing town."

Nana said Timaru's challenge would be how it could take advantage of the Christchurch rebuild.

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- The Timaru Herald

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