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Our region last in economic rankings

A new economic report shows Gisborne has the worst regional economy in New Zealand, with the nation’s poorest population to boot — but the Government believes it also highlights opportunities for growth at a time when plans are under way to “change the story” for Gisborne.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s Regional Economic Activity Report, released on Wednesday, showed Gisborne had the nation’s lowest Gross Domestic Product per capita, at $34,602, after employment falls for some of the region’s bigger industries.

“Although forestry employment has been growing in the region, employment in wood manufacturing has been declining,” the report says.

Sheep, beef cattle and grain farming, which account for 5.9 percent of employment in the region, compared with 1.2 percent for the rest of New Zealand, had also been declining.

“Like most parts of New Zealand, employment in sheep farming has been declining in Gisborne. Horticulture, particularly fruit growing, is a relatively important part of the region’s economy, although employment has been falling there as well (falling on average 2.5 percent a year since 2005).”

The report stated the region’s mean household income of $69,900 — $20,000 below the national average, and $700 less than in the 2014 report — was also the nation’s lowest.

Northland’s mean household income is $70,000, while its GDP per capita is $34,825.

“On most measures of living standards, Gisborne is under-performing relative to the rest of New Zealand. Mean and median household incomes are among the lowest in the country.

“Lower incomes are accompanied by below average house prices and weekly rent.”

The report pointed to “untapped” oil and petroleum reserves, tourism opportunities and the 2019 Te Ha commemorations, alongside Gisborne’s forestry, farming and horticulture amenities as “potential growth areas” for the region’s future economy.

Opportunities imn this regionEconomic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the REA Report highlighted “a number” of opportunities in the region to boost economic prospects.

“These include lifting education attainment rates, additional development of its food and forestry industries, investment in the tourism industry and further regional roading projects.

“The Government has a full range of projects in the Business Growth Agenda to help Gisborne benefit from its economic opportunities. We will continue to work with Gisborne’s business and community leaders to build on its strengths and attract new investment to grow jobs and incomes.”

Speaking to The Gisborne Herald yesterday, Mr Joyce said while it might appear “on the surface” not much had changed for Gisborne in the last year, the $130 rise in GDP per capita from $34,472 in 2014 did not tell the whole story.

“There are a number of things that are very positive, particularly around Activate Tairawhiti and the plan that they are working on at the minute, with the help of government officials — and we’re hoping to be in a position of announcing that plan in the March quarter of next year. I think there are some very good initiatives as a part of that.”

The Government was already working on some “very important structural issues” for the region’s economy.

“The other part of it is the growth plan for the region, and that’s what we’re working on with the local economic development agency. That, combined with the initiatives happening across the country for the regions, will have quite a serious impact.

“I think there is a real focus in that plan of attracting more investment and I think it’s important that by having Activate Tairawhiti working with NZTE (NZ Trade and Enterprise), collectively there is a much greater likelihood of those coming to fruition — and that’s significant.

“The other thing that’s really important, and it’s still being worked on, is for the Maori economy to work together with the rest of the region.

“It’s important that the region gets together as a whole, including the Maori economy, and says this is our plan for the Tairawhiti region — that this is the greatest chance for moving the dial for Gisborne and the whole Tairawhiti region.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would also be “very important” for Gisborne and its farming industry.

“There is now, I believe, the prospect of a very strong story for the New Zealand meat industry, going forward from here, as a result of TPP and as a result of the other dynamics that are already driving the prospects for improvement in that industry.”

UNEMPLOYMENT: Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has played down the latest figures, and said unemployment had fallen in Bay of Plenty and Northland. He said labour force participation in New Zealand is still near record highs and our employment rate is sixth highest in the OECD.