Boom time for region as economy takes off

By Hayley Gastmeier -
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Masterton District Council economic development manager Kieran McAnulty.
Masterton District Council economic development manager Kieran McAnulty.

Wairarapa is booming, and our long-term economic future is looking even rosier.

That's the view of local political and business leaders, and the numbers are backing it up.

Tourism and construction seem to be the main drivers, with a number of major building projects either on the go or about to kick off.

National growth for New Zealand GDP was 3.6 per cent last year and growth for the Wellington Region was 3 per cent, according to statistics by Infometrics.

All three Wairarapa districts did better than the regional figure, with Masterton seeing growth of 3.9 per cent, Carterton 3.4, and South Wairarapa coming out on top with an annual GDP growth last year of 5.6 per cent.

Wairarapa developer David Borman said the region was "definitely" booming.

"Wairarapa is very busy. There's a shortage of housing stock [on the market] and there's also becoming a shortage of tradespeople.

"Work is picking up, there's a lot of good quality commercial work about to start and more planned for the near future."

He said Wairarapa was "looking good" long-term, both commercially and residentially.

"I can see the Wairarapa being busy for the next four or five years."

Mr Borman said the "Wairarapa lifestyle" contributed to the region's success, as did the work being done by the district councils.

"The three councils are very proactive in promoting the Wairarapa and helping create work... for the area."

South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples suspected the "good news" for her district was probably down to three contributing factors.

"One is that as a district, as part of the Wairarapa, we've probably got the biggest tourism slice of the pie."

She said due to the diverse use of land, the district "probably had the highest percentage of high production land".

"That's dairy farms and the vineyards and while I appreciate dairy is in a bit of doldrums at the moment those figures will be retrospective."

Mrs Staples said because of its proximity to Wellington, South Wairarapa attracted "quite a few entrepreneurial-type people, who are running their own businesses - I'm sure that will be contributing as well".

Masterton District Council economic development manager Kieran McAnulty said the Masterton district had seen sustained economic growth since 2012, with an average annual increase of 2.85 per cent.

He said this was "impressive" in its own right, but more so when put into context of relative growth elsewhere.

"If you look at the Wellington Region for example, they have had an average growth of only 1.475, Masterton is of course in the Wellington region, so Masterton in many ways is keeping that average higher than it would have been."

The data showed Masterton's economic growth for 2012, 2013 and 2015 to be over 3 per cent.

Mr McAnulty said there had been one anomaly in the four-year period, that being in 2014 when Masterton saw growth of just 0.8 per cent.

"However in 2012 it was 3.5, in 2013 it was 3.2 and last year it was 3.9, and the highest GDP growth the Wellington region has seen since 2008 is 3.3."

Mr McAnulty said the growth had come from specific industries, such as beekeeping, education and services in health.

"And in conjunction to that I should highlight the fact that for the first time in probably a couple of decades we have seen sustained population growth."

He suspected this was connected to the council's My Masterton campaign, which specifically focused on economic development through attracting new people and businesses to the region.

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said it was "no surprise" the region, which was "humming", had seen significant GDP growth.

"It will be from tourists, we had a good summer so lots of tourists coming over the hill and from Hawke's Bay and Palmerston North, and you can see the southern drift happening.

"People from Auckland [are] moving to all the towns in Wairarapa. And as a result of that you see the construction businesses all around the towns."

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