Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Tauranga's economy is booming

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It is time for Tauranga "to focus on our weaknesses", says Mayor Stuart Crosby following a new economic report that shows the city outperformed the rest of the country on 10 out of 11 indicators and continues to boom.

The data from Infometrics and commissioned by Priority One reveals Tauranga's economy grew by 3.5 per cent over the year to March 2016 and was broad-based across all indicators of spending and investment.

The statistics showed the unemployment rate fell to 5 per cent - the lowest since 2009 while Jobseeker support dropped 9 per cent. Net migration more than doubled to 1126 people in a year and retail spending increased by 6 per cent compared to 2.8 per cent in New Zealand.

Read more: What's on in Tauranga this Queen's Birthday weekend

On the housing front, highlights included a 45 per cent increase in building consents in 12 months and 34 per cent more house sales to March 2016 while prices jumped 23.7 per cent to $536,305.

The only indicator to stay the same as the national average was guest nights, which increased 5.7 per cent over the same time frames while traffic flow in the city soared by 7.9 per cent.

Mayor Crosby said the report provided more evidence that Tauranga "is on a strong growth path at the moment".

But there was room for improvement, he said.

"Now we need to focus on our weaknesses to alleviate some of them and not just concentrate on the strengths."

That included an inability to deliver transport options quickly enough and to make sure the job supply covered all the skill sets "so everyone can get a job, I'd like to see nobody unemployed".

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty was set up for the future.

"We are attracting good businesses to the sub-region and we are growing the businesses that are already here. As jobs grow, people living here will have better choices in terms of employment and there will be higher value jobs paying higher salaries."

But the two key areas of concern were the increase in traffic flow and the increase in house prices, "both of which go hand in hand with population growth and job growth".

Work and Income Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said any upturn in the labour market was great.

"Often young people or those with manual skills are the first people who get affected when it's a downturn, so it's particularly good for them when it's strong."

In Tauranga over the past year about 800 people came off Jobseeker which was good reduction, he said.

Bayfair centre manager Steve Ellingford said it was currently experiencing record customer visitation numbers, with more than 6 million people passing through the centre annually.

The continued growth of the local economy was a great source of confidence for retailers, he said.

The Infometrics report also showed 6946 cars were registered in Tauranga up 7.1 per cent while commercial vehicle registrations jumped 14.9 per cent.

Farmer Autovillage managing director Mike Farmer said commercial vehicle sales were strong as it was a lot cheaper to run a late model fleet than to try chug along with an older fleet which could cost more in fuel and maintenance costs.

In his view, the motoring industry would be relatively stable for 2016 and he did not expect any major increases on last year.

Ross Stanway, chief executive of Eves and Bayleys Real Estate said both the house price and volume increase was well above the national average and had been tracking that way for sometime.

"More people are coming here to reside and the encouraging thing is that is reflected in the increase in job numbers and the employment rate suggests many of them are coming for jobs and careers. They are purchasing houses which is driving house prices up and the volumes, it is as simple as that."

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said Tauranga was on a roll and has some real staying power.

"Most businesses are flat out, and many are struggling to meet demand. Tauranga seems to have been well and truly discovered - and has all the advantages for business location and attraction of people who want to come and live and work here."

It only looks good from here on, he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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