Economic impact of COVID-19
The latest provisional data from Infometrics shows that the West Coast’s economy declined by 1.5% over the year to December 2020, compared to a national decline of 2.6%.
DWC chief executive Heath Milne says the economic impact of COVID-19 has been felt in vastly different ways across the region.
“Buller District’s GDP grew by 3.4% based on the strength of its primary industries, while the Grey District saw a decline of 3.4%. The Westland District, which has been hard hit by the loss of international visitors, experienced a decline of 3.6%.”
The West Coast’s house values have appreciated at their strongest rate in over a decade, with growth of 12.5% in the year to December 2020. This brings the Region’s average house value up to $250,024.
“The data suggest that the lifestyle appeal of the West Coast has come into strong focus since the COVID-19 lockdown,” says Mr Milne.
West Coast house sale volumes were at a record high of 576 in the 2020 year, a 15.2% annual increase.
This high level of interest in West Coast housing is yet to substantially affect construction, with new dwelling consents easing 17.3% over the year to December 2020. Non-residential consents ticked up 18.2%, undoubtedly aided by a number of Provincial Growth Fund projects around the region.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the number of Jobseeker Support recipients has grown strongly over the past year, with a 24.9% increase in the West Coast, behind the national increase of 35.9%. The increase has been most pronounced in Westland and Grey Districts. The number of filled jobs in the region had recovered by November 2020, but the spread across districts and industries is patchy.
“The West Coast has done well to attract domestic visitors post-COVID, with domestic visitor spending 46% higher in the December 2020 quarter compared to December 2019,” says Mr Milne.
“However, this has been unevenly spread, with the strongest increase in Buller, and little increase in Westland on the back of the struggles in the Glacier Country.”
Agriculture and food processing accounted for 16% of the West Coast’s employment in the year to March 2020.
According to Infometrics, these industries are expected to buoy the West Coast’s economy, particularly while international borders are closed. Returns for New Zealand’s food exports have been relatively resilient through COVID-19, and rising prices for dairy products are forecast to deliver a 1.2% increase in the dairy pay out to West Coast farmers in the 2020/21 season.
“While we are faring better than much of the country on a number of economic indicators, we must acknowledge the challenges currently facing the Glacier Country area,” says Mr Milne. “After assessing the likely impact of a continued border closure for the next year, a request has been sent to government for specific support to help those communities survive.”
“And as a region we have other significant challenges/opportunities on the horizon.
“The Climate Change Commission has issued a draft report to Government for consultation on 31 January. This report gives advice to Government on the steps required to achieve New Zealand’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
“Everyone in New Zealand will be impacted by the recommended actions in the report, both businesses and individuals, so it’s important that everyone has their say. The Commission has now extended its submission deadline to March 28, after which the final advice will be presented to Government.”
You can make a submission online with the following link: