West Coast leads NZ in GDP growth

16 May 2022
Development West Coast
The West Coast regional economy grew 5.3% in the March 2022 quarter, leaving annual growth up 9.3% in the 12 months to March 2022, according to data released by Infometrics.

The West Coast’s annual GDP growth rate of 9.3% was the highest in the country, above the national rate of 5.2%. The Buller district economy grew an impressive 14.7% and was the second fastest growing territorial authority in the country.

Development West Coast (DWC) Chief Executive Heath Milne said based on the latest data, the region's GDP rose by $201.5m in the past year to $2,368m.

“The Coast has performed surprisingly well in its recovery from the pandemic, considering our exposure to international tourism,” Mr Milne said.

“However, the impact has been uneven across the region with South Westland remaining hard hit from the loss of international visitors. There is some light ahead though with borders reopening.

Mr Milne said like the rest of the country the West Coast was being impacted by supply chain issues, rising inflation, higher interest rates and absenteeism from Omicron.

Employment in the region grew 0.9% over the 12 months to March 2022, driven by strong growth of 2.1% in Buller. Grey District grew by a moderate 0.7%, and Westland declined 0.1%, almost arresting the post-COVID decline.

Over the past year there has been 278 new filled jobs on the West Coast. Job numbers jumped from 14,559 in March 2021 to 14,837 in March 2022, according to Statistics New Zealand.

A recent report from TradeMe showed job listings on the West Coast have risen by 29% in the first three months of this year – the second highest growth rate in the country.

“However, many businesses are struggling to fill both skilled and unskilled positions,” says Mr Milne.

“We highly recommend businesses tap into resources, such as DWC’s Upskill programme and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, to help recruit, train and upskill employees to ensure they have the right skills needed in the workplace.”

Unemployment remained unchanged at 4.0% in the year to March 2022, slightly above the national rate of 3.4%.

However, there has been a drop in Jobseeker recipients - with 81 less Coasters receiving Jobseeker benefits. According to the Ministry of Social Development, Jobseeker recipient numbers fell from 1,536 in March 2021 to 1,455 in March 2022,

Tourism expenditure grew 4.2% over the past 12 months, recovering from the lows of the March 2021 year. This was driven by Buller (9.8%) and Grey (10.6%) districts, which have been able to pivot more easily to domestic tourism.

Tourism expenditure in Westland district was down 1.9%, having struggled to attract enough domestic visitors to replace its large international market since our borders closed.

Residential construction is growing strongly, with consents up 78% over the past year – the highest growth rate in the country.

“It appears Coasters have taken advantage of the low interest rates we’ve had until recently - leading to strong building intentions,” Mr Milne said.

Annual non-residential consents were valued at $65m, 127% more than the value for the previous 12 months – the highest growth rate in the country.

“Through Kānoa, the government has injected significant funding into projects across the region. This investment, and major projects like the Buller health centre, are undoubtably contributing to the growth we are seeing in the construction and infrastructure sectors.”

Average house values have grown more modestly, sitting 9.1% pa higher in the March quarter. However, this has come down from much stronger growth of 35% pa in the September quarter.

The West Coast region's dairy payout for the 2021/2022 season is expected to be approximately $453 million, $73 million higher than last season, assuming that production levels from last season are maintained.