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Five-star economy

The best performing housing, construction and tourism sectors in the country have earned Gisborne’s regional economy “five-star” status, a leading bank says.

The latest ASB Regional Economic Scoreboard report notes Gisborne’s regional economy performance is the third best in the country and the most improved.

“Gisborne grabs this quarter’s bronze medal on the latest scoreboard,” ASB senior rural economist Nathan Penny said.

“The region was also the quarter’s fastest mover, jumping 10 spots. Gisborne topped the nationwide statistics on building consent issuance and annual house price growth.

“The region’s retail sector also fired over the summer months. As a result, we’ve bumped Gisborne up to a five-star rating and anticipate that the good times are likely to roll on over the remainder of the year.”

ASB ranked the Gisborne economy just behind leading region Hawke’s Bay and second-placed Manawatu-Whanganui. Wellington was fourth.

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive Terry Sheldrake said the report reinforced how busy the district was at the moment.

“There is a lot going on right across the region. The construction industry is one of several major contributors, with the new Mitre 10 building.

“It is a great result to see ASB has jumped Gisborne up 10 spots and that we now have a five-star rating.

“I believe that this trend is going to continue for some time. Such an independent result reinforces and acknowledges how busy Gisborne businesses are at this time. Business confidence is on a high.”

Over the March quarter, $17 million in building consents were issued. That was up 48 percent on the same time last year and the biggest percentage increase in New Zealand.

The construction industry is set to add even more to the economy in the coming months with the new Mitre 10 development only consented in April (outside of ASB’s reporting).

The $2m valued consent for the first stage of the project — shell only and site works — was consented on April 1.

Rise in house prices, retail sales, tourism spendSiteworx Civil contracts manager Blair Judd, who is overseeing work on the Mitre 10 development, said everyone in the industry seemed to be busy.

“To a certain degree, I guess the Provincial Growth Fund is pushing it along.

“There are a lot of roading projects, as well as infrastructure going on and the big commercial subdivision going on behind the airport.”

The region’s economic development agency also welcomed the news.

Activate Tairawhiti economic development general manager Steve Breen said the increase in building consents was pleasing.

“We are experiencing a housing shortage, as are other regions, and having a strong construction sector is important for us to be able to respond to this demand ourselves.”

The report said house prices rose 13 percent over the quarter — again the biggest hike in New Zealand, just ahead of a 12.2 percent increase in Hawke’s Bay.

Retail sales rose 7.5 percent — worth $144m over the three-month period.

Tairawhiti city centre vibrancy manager Lana Davy said there was a good feeling among retailers.

“The city centre vibrancy team was out on the streets on Monday and the feeling is good for the beginning of winter. Isolated Paymark figures could show us better where those extra dollars are being spent but CBD retailers are reporting reasonable sales for this time of the year.

“Retailers have reported an increase in winter visitors and people arriving to work for the citrus season. With our annual winter ‘shop local’ promotion on the horizon, too, we expect to see a good amount of money spent in the CBD.

ASB’s report noted the region’s share of the national economy remained at 0.7 percent.

Mr Breen said the regional economic development agency was taking steps to boost that share.

“Over time we would like to increase our overall share of the New Zealand economy and the Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan captures the steps we are taking to make this happen.

“The TEAP is being updated to keep the focus on those transformational regional projects that increase the value of the goods and services we sell, as well as supporting employers to fill the employment opportunities they are creating.”

The ASB report comes just days after the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released data showing the tourism industry had New Zealand’s biggest percentage rise in spending.

The ministry’s latest regional tourism estimates calculated tourists spent $14m over March and April — a rise of 24 percent on the same time last year and a bigger rise than Hawke’s Bay (up 8 percent) and Bay of Plenty (up 17 percent).

BUILDING BOOST: Timber poles being installed at the site of the new Mitre 10 Gisborne complex on Derby Street, as the construction industry experiences a rise in fortunes. Picture by Liam Clayton