West Coast employment rates booming

19 August 2021
Development West Coast
Prior to the current snap lockdown, the West Coast economy was experiencing growth, driven by rising employment, a buoyant construction industry, booming real estate market, and strong commodity prices.

June quarter economic indicators released

For the year to June 2021 the West Coast’s economy grew by 2.6%, according to the latest provisional data from Infometrics. This lagged behind the national average of 4.2%, which was an abnormally strong result as the previous year includes the lockdown-affected June 2020 quarter.

Development West Coast (DWC) chief executive Heath Milne said the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt in vastly different ways across the region.

Buller’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 10.4% over the year, one of the highest rates in the country. Grey’s GDP rose by 1.7%, while Westland’s fell by 4.2% due to the lack of international visitors.

The West Coast’s GDP in the June 2021 quarter was 6.6% higher than in pre-COVID 2019, highlighting the benefit of the domestic tourism surge.

“Kiwis are far less seasonal than international visitors, providing a welcome boost through the winter months for some areas,” Mr Milne said.

Domestic tourist card spending was up $10m or 40% during the June quarter on the West Coast, compared to pre-COVID 2019.

The surge in domestic spending has been concentrated in Buller District, and to a lesser extent Grey. Based on the ongoing challenges in Glacier Country, Westland remains the worst hit district in the country with a 28.2% decrease in total visitor spending over the past year.

Employment on the West Coast has grown strongly over the past year, with a 2% regional increase compared to the national decline of 0.1%. Westland had the biggest increase in the country at 5.5%.

“Our employment growth has been broad based, led by agriculture, health care, manufacturing and public administration, which more than offset declines in tourism-related industries,” Mr Milne said.

Through Kānoa, the government has injected significant funding into projects across the region.

“This investment is undoubtably contributing to the growth we are seeing in the construction and infrastructure sectors.”

Building consenting has been very strong across the West Coast, with $42m worth of non-residential buildings consented over the year to June 2021, and 53 dwellings consented in the quarter. Non-residential consents were spread throughout the region, while Buller accounted for just over half of June quarter residential consents.

The West Coast is leading the country in house sales growth, with a 65.9% increase in the number of houses sold over the past year. Buller had the second highest rate in New Zealand at 112.6%.

“Over the past year our primary sector has been a real success story. Commodity prices have been strong, which is helping offset some of the losses from international tourism,” said Mr Milne.

The improved dairy payout is expected to deliver an additional $31m to the region’s dairy farmers for the 2020/21 season.

“While we have seen positive signs in certain sectors of our economy, West Coast businesses have faced significant challenges over the past year with the loss of international visitors and increasing costs, including supply chain, labour costs and the addition of new requirements,” Mr Milne said.

“The latest setback with the shift to Level 4 lockdown will put additional stress on our business community, particularly the hospitality industry which has been going through a very rough time, especially in South Westland.

“This is a very trying time. If you need any assistance or clarification on how to access COVID-19 support, or would like to talk with one of DWC’s Capability and Growth Advisors, we are here to help.”