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Regional bounceback in December quarter

The Tairawhiti economy bounced back in the final quarter of last year, with provisional estimates from Infometrics showing annual growth of 7.2 percent compared with 2020.

The Quarterly Economic Monitor for December 2021 puts Tairawhiti economic activity growth above the national average of 5.5 percent.

Trust Tairawhiti economic development general manager Richard Searle said it was positive to see the region performing well but there were still challenges ahead.

“Labour, supply chain and international tourist constraints will likely result in greater uncertainty going forward.”

The primary sector showed growth in some areas, with horticulture commodity prices up 13 percent from pre-pandemic levels and meat prices up around 6 percent. Forestry prices were only up 2 percent and higher costs affecting the primary sector were expected to rise further this year.

Acting regional tourism manager Holly Hatzilamprou said local tourism was faring better than in other regions, with expenditure in the sector up by 10.7 percent in the December quarter, compared with the national average of 3.9 percent.

“A strong focus on domestic tourism has strengthened our position but the ongoing effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt in the first quarter of 2022,” she said.

There was a 3.1 percent increase in consumer spending in the December quarter, taking annual growth to 6.6 percent in 2021. The increased spending has helped support job growth, with a 2.8 percent rise in average filled jobs for Tairawhiti residents.

The drivers of job growth included construction and retail. However, pandemic impacts on summer events saw the arts and recreation sector shrink.

Tairawhiti Jobseeker support recipient numbers are continuing to trend lower, having dropped an average of 4.7 percent last year.

Construction activity was strong with a 72 percent increase in new residential building consents issued by Gisborne District Council, rising from 98 in 2020 to 169 over 2021.

The pace increased in the final quarter of the year, with 48 new residential building consents issued in Tairawhiti in the December 2021 quarter, compared with 35 in the same period in 2020.

Habitat Solutions director Adrienne Hillman said one of the main factors behind the increase was emergency housing.

“Government funding through Kainga Ora and other organisations such as Toitu Tairawhiti has resulted in a boost in the number of residential consents required. From December 2020 to December 2021. I have been involved in obtaining building consents for 16 second-hand or new dwelling relocations for whanau urgently needing somewhere to live.

“I think it's great. In the current housing market, some families would have never dreamt of owning their own home — now they have brand-new houses,” she said.

However, capacity pressures in the industry were limiting the speed of additional construction, with building costs rising nearly 19 percent per annum in the December 2021 quarter.

The average house value in Tairawhiti was up 23.7 percent compared with a year earlier, to $642,891. This growth came in below the national average increase of 27.3 percent, to $1,028,097.

“The figures show a slowdown in the market for Gisborne but home ownership is still significantly out of reach for some in our community,” said Manaaki Tairawhiti housing project manager Angie Tawera.

“Many households will require over 10 times their income to afford the current average house price.”