Auckland retained the top spot as the country's strongest economic region in the December quarter, thanks in part to the Rugby World Cup, according to the ASB/Main Report's latest regional scoreboard.

Tasman and Nelson both edged closer to the top of the table, reaching second and third place respectively, reflecting a boost to population following the arrival of quake-affected Cantabrians, the report said.

Canterbury looked to be regaining its feet despite the challenges presented by ongoing earthquakes, with housing market activity in particular picking up over the second half of 2011 - a trend that was expected to continue into this year once reconstruction gets under way.

The scoreboard takes the latest quarterly regional statistics and ranks the economic performance of New Zealand's 16 regional economic areas.


Auckland stayed at the top of the rankings for the 10th consecutive quarter, reflecting a strong showing across a broad range of measures, including employment growth, housing market and guest nights.

The hosting of Rugby World Cup games, particularly in the knock-out stages, provided an extra boost to activity in the region.

Waikato remained in the top half of the rankings, with the region also receiving a boost to activity from the hosting of Rugby World Cup games. This was especially reflected in the relatively robust increase in retail sales and guest nights.

The effects of increased dairy sector earnings were yet to flow through into the Waikato economy.

Bay of Plenty fell sharply in the economic rankings - reflecting the effects of the Psa outbreak on the kiwifruit producing region, and the fall-out from the Rena shipwreck on its tourism industry.

Hawkes Bay remained in the bottom half of the rankings. This reflects weaker housing market and retail sales, relative to the nationwide average.

Weaker employment in the wider Gisborne-Hawkes Bay region weighed on the region's prospects.

The high NZ dollar is one headwind facing the wine export sector in the region.


Despite encouraging developments in its labour market, consumer confidence in Taranaki was the weakest of the regions.

Employment in the Wellington region was flat over 2011 and the unemployment rate had risen to above the nationwide average, likely reflecting public sector cutbacks.

Nelson climbed one place in the rankings, up from 4th to 3rd. Population growth continued to be quite strong in the region, likely due to the relocation of quake-affected Cantabrians.

The report said this relocation had been underpinning the improving economic fortunes of the top of the South Island, where the number of jobs grew by 12 per cent last year.

Otago was another region that benefited from an influx of displaced Cantabrians, which has lead to a surge in population and employment in the region.

How the regions are faring:

Northland... *

Auckland... ****

Waikato... **

Bay of Plenty... *

Gisborne... **

Hawkes Bay... *

Taranaki... **

Manawatu-Wanganui... **

Wellington... **

Tasman... ***

Nelson... ***

Marlborough... **

West Coast... *

Canterbury... **

Otago... ***

Southland... **

5 stars = hot, 1 star = not