Bay retains top spot in bank's economic confidence survey

By John Cousins, Anna Whyte

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Owner of Belle Mer Luxury Apartments Mike Gulliver says an increase in guest nights is linked to overseas visitors, which had increased by 15 to 18 per cent. Photo / John Borren
Owner of Belle Mer Luxury Apartments Mike Gulliver says an increase in guest nights is linked to overseas visitors, which had increased by 15 to 18 per cent. Photo / John Borren

Sky-high confidence in the Bay of Plenty economy has injected "a spring into people's step", with business and political leaders relishing the region's top polling against the rest of New Zealand.

"This town has got a head of steam," Harcourts managing director Simon Martin said in response to Westpac Bank's latest regional roundup which saw the Bay score the highest for economic confidence for the third quarter in a row.

Visitor numbers were up and consents for new houses had almost doubled in the past five years. Westpac gave the Bay a "strong" outlook for the next 12 months, with only Auckland and Otago in the same category.

Mr Martin said you only had to look at the numbers of people moving to Tauranga for jobs or to start businesses to see why the region was staying in front.

"Everyone is feeling so positive and enthusiastic about where we are heading."

He said the real estate industry was witnessing a total turnaround from the downturn of 2008-10. Instead of people heading to Australia in droves, they were now coming back.

Chief executive of Eves and Bayleys Ross Stanway was not surprised at the results of the Westpac survey, saying it had been a long time in the making.

"A whole lot of factors have come together in the last 12 months."

Mr Stanway said it was extremely satisfying how the region had bounced back, with kiwifruit and the Port of Tauranga going from strength to strength. There had also been significant contributions from other sectors like manufacturing, health, education, farming, forestry and tourism.

"They are all at a significant level in this region. We are not a one-trick pony - a very significant platform has been established. People have a spring in their step, there are a lot of good things happening," he said.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said there had been a lot of hard work behind the Bay retaining its position in Westpac's roundup.

He said the city relied heavily on the whole of the Bay for its growth and success, with a lot of work at the political level to achieve this result. "We can't rest on our laurels. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes."

Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Ross Paterson said the vibrancy generated by the Bay's economic upturn was allowing people to make their dreams a reality.

He said it was great result and he could not see the situation changing for the next three to five years. "We've always had a magnet to draw people and now they are coming in droves."

Westpac's report showed the number of guest nights in the Bay of Plenty had risen from 847,000 this time last year, to 904,000 for the February quarter.

Owner of Belle Mer Luxury Apartments Mike Gulliver put the increase down to overseas visitors, which had increased by 15 to 18 per cent. They made up 42 per cent of his guests, with the number of New Zealand visitors remaining steady.

"New Zealand is perceived as an increasingly pleasant and safe place, and a very friendly welcoming culture," he said.

Tourism Bay of Plenty assistant marketing and communication manager Abby Parkin said spending by domestic and international visitors was up 12.5 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

However, she warned there were challenges around the corner for the tourism industry in the Bay with its infrastructure, congestion and accommodation.

Unemployment in the area had dropped slightly for the second quarter in a row to 5.7per cent.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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