Bay of Plenty top-performing region

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The Bay of Plenty has retained its status as New Zealand's top-performing region in the latest ASB/Main Report Regional Economic Scoreboard.

ASB Chief Economist Nick Tuffley said the Bay of Plenty deserved its five stars as the region continues to outperform the rest of the country thanks to its accelerating housing market and rising kiwifruit exports.

"For the second quarter running Bay of Plenty has topped the Scoreboard," Mr Tuffley said.

"With its close proximity to Auckland and warm weather, the Bay of Plenty is an attractive destination to move to and continues to enjoy a strong housing market. But with low employment growth we're interested to see how long the Bay can keep its five-star status,."

Auckland sits in second place, where it has been for all but one quarter of 2015.

"Auckland's active housing market and population growth has kept the city's strong economy growing."

Tourism an economic driving force

Results of the Scoreboard this quarter also highlight one of New Zealand's major economic driving forces: tourism.

Greater visitor numbers helped drive Otago higher up the Scoreboard, to third place, with guest nights up 13% on the same time last year.

"High tourist numbers bring more spending and industry investment, in turn positively impacting the local economy," Mr Tuffley said.

Nevertheless, employment growth appeared to stall across the Otago region in late 2015, despite an active housing market.

Holding on to fourth place, Waikato's economy remains strong despite the dairy downturn.

While retail sales and employment growth have slowed, driving more people to government benefits, the housing market continues to grow as a result of the Auckland property market's spill-over effect.

In Wellington, the pick-up in house and retail sales contributed to a positive end to 2015 as the region jumped from fifteenth place last quarter to eighth in the latest report.

Outside the main centres, New Zealand is experiencing a housing upturn due, in part, to Auckland property-owners' money working its way through the regions. Record-low interest rates were also helping.

While Canterbury maintains its status as the region with the lowest level of unemployment in the country, the rate of economic growth is now generally decreasing.

Despite this, Canterbury retains its four stars this quarter with tourism remaining a bright spot for the region.

Mr Tuffley said Cantabrians remained upbeat, with guest nights recently topping pre-quake levels, and looking set to rise higher.

Despite the positive effects of a burgeoning housing market and increased tourist numbers, Northland slipped three places to fifth on the Scoreboard.

A challenging year for the West Coast with low retail spending, lower house prices and decreased dairy output due to wet weather has meant the region receives just two stars this quarter.

"Looking ahead, the West Coast is adjusting to weak dairy prices and, as tourist numbers increase and new bike tracks open, tourism is seen as one way of moving forward," Mr Tuffley said.

Coming in at sixteenth place, Taranaki receives two stars this quarter as it feels the effects of low international prices for its main exports of oil and milk.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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